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What this Teen Vogue writer learned from dressing like Bella Hadid for a week

Bella Hadid’s style is iconic. But Teen Vogue reporter Aiyana Ishmael may have one-upped her when Ishmael took on the question “is it a fit, or is she just thin?” and created six plus-size versions of Hadid’s street style looks. 

The article went viral, and Ishmael has received tons of responses from readers

“I had people DMing me saying this is so important to them,” Ishmael says. “They just never felt really seen in like fashion magazines.”


Interview Highlights 

On Hadid’s style and Ishmael’s attitude ahead of the project

“I personally have always been obsessed with Bella Hadid’s style because quite frankly, it’s so unique and quirky. I feel like she wears a lot of funky. interesting and vintage pieces that not a lot of people can wear. And also, of course, the fact that she’s very thin. So sometimes a lot of her outfits, like the midriff, is an accessory to the outfit. And so her style was always something that interested me and also scared me. It’s completely different from my own personal style. And so I was just thinking back to how when I first got interested in fashion magazines, we saw so many stories about like ‘I dressed like a celebrity for a week. Here’s how it went.’ But I felt like we never really saw that in a plus-size form. So I was like, let’s try to do this now. “

On Ishmael’s relationship to her body

“I think it’s definitely something I’m still learning. I tell everyone I feel like I’m so old, but I’m 24. I’m still figuring out how to own my entire body. I’ve grown up plus-size my entire life. And so it’s something I’ve struggled with personally. But I think being a journalist and having this outlet,  being a fashion journalist specifically, I’m able to explore my style and explore how I see myself and how I see my body, especially within clothes. And so I think it’s really cool and exciting that I was able to do this story and also kind of help myself because I had a lot of people reach out and be like, ‘I’m so excited to see a body like mine on Teen Vogue.’” 

Aiyana Ishmael recreating one of Bella Hadid’s outfits. (Courtesy of Louisiana Mei Gelpi for Teen Vogue)

On the white micro-shorts and mini-UGGs look

“This [look] is so iconic of her. I think sometimes clothes can be so fun and she chooses to wear things that feel so silly and so out of place that I personally think it’s a joy to see. The day she did it, news outlets were talking about it. It was the most-talked about thing on the Internet when she put that outfit on. And so I think she knows like just how to really put on clothes and make people say something about it.

“I chose to go for a little bit of a warmer vibe because it was 30 degrees when I wore this outfit. But the jacket was something funny that I found. All of my coworkers, we love ‘Euphoria,’ and so I thought it would be a cute play to use a ‘Euphoria’ sweatshirt. The actual jacket is a shearling UGG sweater too. So we were repping on the top and on our feet. And then, of course, the infamous UGG boots. They’re sold out, and in like a week, relaunching a variation of that same boot. But they said how Bella, like, singlehandedly helped them sell out that entire shoe. And so I’m wearing a very similar outfit. My pants were the biggest difference. I chose something from Amazon and they were more spandex Bella’s pants look more like underwear. We could not find anything remotely similar in my size.” 

On the ‘schoolgirlcore’ look

“The outfit was very difficult to find, though. I noted in the article that the cargo skirt is pretty different from what Bella was actually wearing. And that was something that was impossible to find. A lot of the cargo or beige mid-length skirts in my size I was finding weren’t really the same kind of sense or style that Bella had on. And so it took a minute to find something. And then the Cider skirt that I found was the closest I could find to a cargo skirt in my size. 

“I normally don’t wear tight clothes. Like everyone knows me, I’m the girl that’s in a flowy dress. I’m in baggy pants and maybe a tighter shirt. But I don’t normally wear like, things that I feel are super tight on my body because I’ve always been very big on wanting to present myself a certain way. And so it was a little intimidating to wear it. But once I had it on, I was like, This actually looks really good on me. And then seeing back the pictures, I was like, It doesn’t look bad. And so I think it was really cool to like, see myself in a different light.”

On how Bella’s clothes maybe aren’t the secret to the success of her outfits, it’s the confidence

“A lot of the time, it’s not about what you’re wearing. It’s about how you feel and what you’re wearing. Obviously, that was something I tried to portray when I recreated it. But it’s the confidence. You could have on the craziest outfit. But if you’re walking around believing that you are the best-dressed person in the world, people are going to like second guess themselves and be like, ‘Well, I don’t like this outfit, but I mean, maybe I don’t know what I don’t like.’ I think it’s really important to have that confidence.” 

On look six, ‘always on the go’

“That’s the look that [Hadid] is wearing all-black. I obviously made it a different variation because I couldn’t find a super oversize cardigan that was in black, like [Bella] had it. I found a navy blue one by Madewell and then I’m wearing an Eloquii black turtleneck and Eloquii black ripped jeans and some blue and black snakeskin boots from Eloquii as well. And that, hands down, was one of my favorite looks to recreate. 

“I ended up, wearing a variation of that same look, like two days after that to work as well because it felt like not exactly what I would normally put on, but it’s so close to my style that I was excited to explore deeper. I had people  DMing me and being like, ‘Oh look six, that is your look. Like, that’s something you need to wear forever.’ And that’s how I feel now too. It was really cool to see that parts of her style could like now be something that I implement to my own.”

On the response to the article, and if the article has changed her

“On the journalism aspect, this was my first super viral article, it performed so well on the site. Lizzo QRT’d me. Bella replied to it. It was a crazy experience to have this story blow up the way it did. I was hoping it was going to just do well.

“I had people DMing me saying this is so important to them because they just never felt really seen in like fashion magazines and so on. The aspect of me just doing it, I think it was just cool to step out of my comfort zone with a lot of the outfits I wouldn’t have normally worn. And so to have that experience really did kind of change me.” 

On where she goes from here

“Clearly this is a path that people feel like hasn’t been explored. And I think we’re at Teen Vogue, that’s really a great place to do it. So I think we’re going to look towards who’s the next person that we’re always talking about their style. But we have to question like, is it really good? Or people are just like obsessed with it because they’re a supermodel and they have a perfect body.” 

If the project might inspire change in the industry

“I’m hoping it does. I’m hoping it creates more conversation and makes people more unafraid to do what they’d been told they couldn’t do. There are a lot of girls commenting on the TikTok I made being like, I’m buying what you wore because it looks so good on you. I feel like I can rock it now. And then also, just like the negative side of it, there are people that were, quote tweeting my tweet and being like, ‘It doesn’t look good on you because you’re larger.’ Like that’s okay. And no, that’s not okay. 

“I think clothes are supposed to be fun and everyone should be allowed to wear what makes them feel good. And there isn’t a requirement or a weight limit to an outfit. And so I’m hoping there are a lot of are a lot more conversations and self-reflection about why you believe clothes should only fit on certain bodies.” 

Gabrielle Healy produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Catherine Welch. Healy also adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bella Hadid departs at Balenciaga on July 06, 2022 in Paris, France. (Jacopo M. Raule/Getty Images For Balenciaga)
Bella Hadid departs at Balenciaga on July 06, 2022 in Paris, France. (Jacopo M. Raule/Getty Images For Balenciaga)