It Girl

Edie Sedgwick by Celia Bell

It girl‘ is a term for a young woman who possesses the quality ‘It,’ absolute attraction.’ The early usage of the concept is seen in a story by Rudyard Kipling: ‘It isn’t beauty, so to speak, nor good talk necessarily. It’s just ‘It.” British writer Elinor Glyn lectured: ‘With ‘It’ you win all men if you are a woman and all women if you are a man. ‘It’ can be a quality of the mind as well as a physical attraction.’

The expression reached global attention in 1927, with the film ‘It,’ starring Clara Bow. While ‘it girls’ of today are commonly young females in the worlds of fashion or show-business, the original concept focused on personality. Kipling’s ‘Mrs. Bathurst’ was a middle-aged widow, and Glyn significantly kept both Benito Mussolini and the doorman at the Ambassador hotel on her ‘It men’ list.

Also according to the film, ‘Self-confidence and indifference whether you are pleasing or not and something in you that gives the impression that you are not at all cold.’ Glyn stated that ‘Personality plus,’ was the rock-bottom definition and that ‘conceit’ destroyed ‘It.’ However, the movie also plays with the notion that ‘It’ is a quality which eschews definitions and categories, consequently the girl portrayed by Bow is an amalgam of an ingenue and a femme fatale, with a touch of ‘material girl.’ By contrast, her rival is equally young and comely, and rich, blonde and well-bred to boot, but she simply hasn’t got ‘It.’

The movie was planned as a special showcase for the popular Paramount Studios star Clara Bow, and her spectacular performance introduced the term ‘It’ to the cultural lexicon. Bow said she wasn’t sure what ‘It’ meant, although she identified Lana Turner, and later Marilyn Monroe, as It girls, and Robert Mitchum as an It man. Since 1927, the term has been extended beyond the world of film, to whoever in society, fashion or the performing arts was in vogue at the time, and eventually to mere ‘media celebrities.’ Andy Warhol’s muse, Edie Sedgwick, was dubbed the ‘It Girl.’

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