Like the rest of the internet, yesterday I woke up to Billie Eilish’s British Vogue cover gracing every second post.
While at first I was just happy to receive more blonde-hair content, my eyes pricked with tears when I saw what she was wearing.
As Twitter opinions began flooding in, validly asking if this “oversexualisation” was for the male gaze and why male pop stars don’t feel the need to move into “I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman” territory, from a representation perspective, Billie’s cover made me (and my F cups) feel empowered.
the "girl to woman" transition in hollywood and the music industry always involves hypersexualization, and people should consider what that means and why men rarely, if ever, have to make this kind of transition to be taken seriously as artists.
— Wendi Muse (@MuseWendi) May 2, 2021
As a straight-sized, white and cis-gendered woman, I try to avoid taking up too much space in the body positivity movement, as its origins began in the grassroots work by marginalised plus-size women of colour.
I don’t have many issues walking into a high street store and eventually being able to find something that will suit my shape (narrow hips and heavy up top). In terms of media representation I look to Euphoria’s Sydney Sweeney and Sex Education’s Aimee Lou Wood to find cute outfits. Hell, even one of the world’s most famous women, Marilyn Monroe had a bigger bust.
Regardless of this representation, one thing I’ve struggled with since my teenage DD cups morphed into my current F cups and as a person working within the fashion industry is my boobs being seen as “tacky”.
Even when trying to engage with fashion trends, I know that by wearing a low cut top, my body is automatically compartmentalised. The Madonna/ Whore complex is rife in society, meaning that I’m either seen as a “womanly” nurturer just bursting to give life, or I’m two tits on a meat sack, more boob than brains.
This is something that Billie herself touched on in the Vogue article.
“Suddenly you’re a hypocrite if you want to show your skin, and you’re easy and you’re a slut and you’re a whore. If I am, then I’m proud. Me and all the girls are hoes, and fuck it, y’know? Let’s turn it around and be empowered in that. Showing your body and showing your skin – or not – should not take any respect away from you.”
Just a few years ago, the same magazine who put a curvy Billie Eilish on the cover, also held a Twitter poll, asking users “Is the cleavage over?” in response to Kathleen Baird Murray’s article Desperately Seeking Cleavage. As if they’re an accessory we can remove at the end of the day, instead of kilograms worth of heavy tissue that strain your back.
After days of backlash and BuzzFeed think pieces, the fashion bible came out to say that they didn’t mean it that way. They were just asking which style of top is popular this season.
Regardless, the discourse stung as bigger busted women were reminded: “You’ll never be ‘Vogue’ fashionable”.
Naomi Campbell is fashionable. Gigi Hadid is fashionable. Kate Moss walking down the runway with her nipples out is fashionable. Not an F cup grotesquely bulging in front of everyone’s faces.
Even Posh Spice knew this fashion secret. The English pop star got breast implants in the late ’90s before removing them as soon as she made her foray into high fashion.
Of course, plus-size women have been at the forefront of changing the fashion discourse lately. Paloma Elsesser’s Vogue cover in January was a game-changer, and talented, curvy women of colour like Beyoncé have graced the fashion magazine numerous times (although any hint of bosom has been hidden behind couture garments and chic accessories.)
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But June’s British Vogue cover is one of the first high fashion moments where a straight-sized celebrity with big breasts is a focal point.
I’m sure some people are wondering why I should let a magazine dictate how I feel, even at my big age of 24. But seeing a young woman in a sexy, supportive lingerie set (no frump or granny flowers in sight) on the front cover of *the* fashion bible means something to me.
Maybe the response from this cover will urge fashion designers to create garments with more than a size A-C cup in mind.
Maybe I won’t have to get my work shirts specially made so the buttons don’t gape in the front.
Maybe, instead of wearing a turtleneck, I won’t feel like I’m “too much” when I choose to don a low cut, boob-accentuating dress to my next fashion event.
So, thanks Billie.
BRB, going to buy a corset.