Oversized clothing: liberating or damaging?

Let’s unpack the effects of fashions latest baggiest trend

It’s a love-hate relationship between my baggy clothes and me. I loved them before they became the it-silhouette of the season and I’m sure I’ll love them long after they disappear. But, in bittersweet fashion, I hate them for making me forget what size I am underneath all this extra-large material.

As oversized looks are flooding the runways, brands such as Loewe, Jacquemus, and Balenciaga have become the trend’s biggest advocates, with #Oversized gaining more than 900 million views on Gen Z’s favourite style-inspo app, TikTok. According to data analysed by experts at Boohoo, searches for ‘baggy jeans’ on Google have surged by 52% worldwide since 2022.

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LOEWE Fall Winter 2023, image courtesy of LOEWE’s Instagram.

From oversized padded-shoulder blazers to distressed baggy jeans, the extra space between the washed denim and my body leaves plenty of room for comfort and, perhaps, too much room for body dysmorphia.

“The rise in popularity of oversized clothes could be a rabbit hole for hiding your insecurities. When you become comfortable only wearing oversized clothes, you may become reluctant to shift towards more fitted or exposed pieces,” says Gracie Brown, 20, a Fashion Journalism and Content Creation student at London College of Fashion. “It sounds silly but you might meet a new person or make a new friend and only have them see you in an oversized hoodie and baggy jeans, so suddenly wearing something tighter or shorter can feel quite exposing and could lead to some feelings of insecurity.”

The fashion industry has long been a cause of poor body image, yet the oversized trend has found a way to (nearly) dismiss the male gaze – defined as the way the world perceives women through the lens of heterosexual desire possibly a reason it has grown so popular amongst women. “It’s difficult and complex to talk about women’s appearance and style in conjunction with the male gaze,” says 22-year-old freelance journalist Aswan Magumbe. “No matter what we wear, we’re somehow always sexualised, objectified, ridiculed or diminished, and more often than not for the benefit of men.”

Influenced by her parents’ style in the 90’s, Magumbe is an avid wearer of oversized clothing. Black A-list celebrities such as Jay Z, Aaliyah, and Pharrell Williams dominated the oversized fashion scene, now taken over by the likes of Rihanna, Tracee Ellis Ross, and A$AP Rocky. The style so prominent in black culture has now been adapted to what Magumbe calls “an era of genderless fashion.” And whilst such celebrities have personified the look, for many, oversized has been viewed as not just a style, but a plaster. “Nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath,” Billie Eilish said in Calvin Klein’s 2019 campaign, ‘I Speak The Truth in #MyCalvins’.

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Rhianna for Vogue Italia, Image courtesy of Rhianna’s Instagram @badgalri

Despite oversized clothing “[blurring] the lines between men and women’s fashion,” according to 21-year-old student Chaabota Kasongo, it’s unfortunate, yet sadly unsurprising that men feel entitled to comment on women’s participation of the trend. Fashion Marketing student Mia Law, 20, recalls a time a male counterpart did exactly that with comments such as, “Why don’t you wear tight clothes?” and “You have a nice body, you should show it off.”

On the contrary, choosing oversize items is a liberating experience for some. Twenty-two-year-old student Yasmin Chbary says: “Oversized clothing makes us virtually shapeless which I see as liberating; you aren’t subject to judgment or stereotyping because of your body shape or size as you’re covered by excess fabric, although some may see this as the opposite of empowering because we aren’t championing different body types but rather masking them with clothing.”

With the objectification of women seeming never-ending, it can be hard to know how to dress. What I do know though, is that the trend of baggy bottoms and ginormous jumpers has made comfort and style synonymous. Trend or not, the option of oversized has situated itself within fashion. Personally, I hope this is one trend here to stay.

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