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Billie Eilish in British Vogue: What the Cover Means

  • May 04, 2021

Ms. Eilish seems similarly inclined to present her metamorphosis as a shrewdly brazen, self-determined update. Some fans are cheering. “She looks just as awesome now as she did in oversized clothing,” Karin Ann Trabelssie, a 19-year-old student from Jelina, in Slovakia, said via text. Like Ms. Eilish, she once evaded scrutiny, hiding a frame she described as curvy under baggy shirts and trousers. Exultant at her idol’s new image, she wrote, “I very rarely see anyone with a similar body type to me do something like this. It’s empowering.”

Others feel betrayed. “Before: unique, different, a class of her own,” Stewin @jetztissesraus posted, on Twitter. “After: mainstream, exchangeable, slick and polished. Why?”

That question was bound to arise. In an earlier phase of her career, Ms. Eilish could claim the distinction of being a one-off. A stylist, she insisted, had no place in her life. “I could easily just be like, you know what, you’re going to pick out my clothes, someone else will come up with my video treatments, someone else will direct them and I won’t have anything to do with them,” she said in a profile in The New York Times. “But I’m not that kind of person and I’m not that kind of artist.”

Yet for Vogue, she placed her trust and vaunted image entirely in a team, one that, as it happens, was led by Dena Giannini, the magazine’s style director, with input from top rung designers including Alessandro Michele of Gucci. Her transformation would seem to suggest that Ms. Eilish is content these days to abandon her formerly maverick stance in favor of a fetish-tinctured bombshell look that seemed hackneyed when Madonna was a girl. If her reinvention poses a risk, it is that of becoming just another cliché.

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