During this past summer, while I was on a soul search for a meaningful article I could read for my favorite *New York Times Summer Reading Contest, I came across a piece titled: Billie Eilish: Gen Z’s Outrageous Fashion Model. Normally, I’m not a big fan of modern pop music or fashion, and I especially didn’t see how reading this article would help me in my endeavor. Perhaps I was searching for something that would be more raw, thrilling, poignant, beautiful, deep, inspiring …
Basically, I was looking for a mythological masterpiece written by angels and delivered by a deep voice comparable to that of Alan Rickman’s. Or in other words, nonexistent.
But, like any reader who prides themselves in knowing about everything happening in the world (AKA being curious and nosy), I decided to stray off my original task and open the Times article link. It couldn’t hurt right? I also couldn’t deny the fact that the headline was catchy.
What I didn’t realize was that, in contrary to my original reservations about another generic feature story on a pop star, I was instead blasted with an insightful, gooey-goodness on the redefinition of beauty, clothing, and freedom.
Many times, the definition of being true to oneself is merged with the definition to fit in with society, and that ideology is reflected on clothing as much as it is reflected upon anything else. Whether it’s short crop-tops, ripped jeans, a tidbit of mascara (don’t mind me, I am “fashion-clueless”), or some other trendy shoes, wearing something deemed “socially-acceptable” often comes with the sacrifice of one’s own preferences and desires. This topic, although prevalent today in some sense, is not discussed often –– many people either feel obligated to buy the trendy clothes on social media or wear a t-shirt and jeans in hopes of blending in, and seem content doing so.
That’s why this article on Billie Eilish’s fashion breach of the social norm spurred such an emotional reaction from me, something I did not even fathom expecting. It’s because I remember my gleeful ten year old self rummaging through the rows and rows of clothes at my local Target, lavishing myself with my favorite leopard leggings and porcupine t-shirts. I remember my fifth-grade wardrobe, which in contrary to today’s norms, consisted of the usual colorful collection of Cat & Jack Target t-shirts, multi-patterned leggings, and mismatched rainbow socks. All of these which did not at all conform to the normal norms of “coolness.”
It had me thinking: perhaps if more people strived to put this message out there or take on the mindset of young children, i.e. you can be free to be yourself and not care about other judgements, the world would be a better place.
In the end, this article prompted me to write one of the best reactions I have ever written to an article that truly inspired me:
“I remember my gleeful ten year old self rummaging through the rows and rows of clothes at my local Target, lavishing myself with my favorite leopard leggings and porcupine t-shirts. My fifth-grade wardrobe consisted of the usual colorful collection of Cat & Jack Target t-shirts, multi-patterned leggings, and mismatched rainbow socks. Every monday, I wore my favorite turquoise ostrich t-shirt, the ostrich’s crooked smile paired with four simple words: “Hey girl, be you.”
In a world where we are so pressured to fit in, I find it refreshing that an idolized celebrity like Billie Eilish still finds it meaningful to share her own unique fashion statement with the world. Her openness and originality is something that I truly admire. As said by fashion stylist Rachel Gilman, “It’s dye your roots green and wear the baggiest clothes in the room. It’s good for girls to see that they can succeed without wearing a push-up bra if that isn’t their vibe.”
With Brandy Melville crop tops, Lululemon leggings, and Nike Airs brainwashing the closets of modern teenage girls, it’s crucial to remember that we are unique. We don’t have to be molded into some predefined beauty diva to feel accepted. Even my clearly non-existent fashion sense urges me to say that despite four years of ketchup stains and endless journeys to the laundry machine, my turquoise ostrich t-shirt still hangs proudly in my wardrobe, waiting for the next happy Monday to arrive.”
From this, I have concluded that one: never judge an article by the title. You never know what lies within its contents. And two: If you haven’t realized yet, there will always be societal norms and judgemental people. It doesn’t matter if other people make fun of you. It’s what you make out of yourself that truly counts.
*These are based on my personal experiences. I’m not in any way affiliated with any of the news organizations mentioned in this article, nor am I officially endorsing anyone, but I do love the New York Times Contests!