"It girl" is a term for a young woman who possesses the indefinable quality "It", absolute attraction without flaunting her sexuality. The early usage of the concept "it" in this meaning may be seen in a 1904 short story by Rudyard Kipling: "It isn't beauty, so to speak, nor good talk necessarily. It's just 'It'." The expression reached global attention in 1927, with the film It, starring Clara Bow. Elinor Glyn, who wrote the story for the film, 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 It Girl is said to be the invention of Glyn's elder sister, the renown couturier Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, known professionally simply as "Lucile". She was the first fashion designer to dress stars from Mary Pickford to Sarah Bernhardt, both on and off stage and screen. In Paris, her fashions were popular among the haute bohemia; even Mata Hari was said to don her "It Girl" style.
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.
Since the 1990s, It girl or It-girl more commonly refers to an attractive young woman who receives intense media coverage unrelated or disproportional to personal achievements. The reign of an "It girl" is usually temporary; some of the rising It girls will either become fully-fledged celebrities or their popularity will fade. The term "It boy", much less frequently used, is the male equivalent. This term is unrelated to the abbreviation IT.
Kipling, Glyn and Clara Bow
The invention of the concept "It" is often attributed to Elinor Glyn, who wrote the original magazine story which inspired the film It. However, Rudyard Kipling, in the short story "Mrs. Bathurst", had introduced "It" as early as 1904.
In the introduction to the film, Glyn described the term thus:
"It" is that quality possessed by some which draws all others with its magnetic force. With "It" you win all men if you are a woman and all women if you are a man.
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.
Modern "It girls"
The writer William Donaldson observed that, having initially been coined in the 1920s, the term was applied in the 1990s to describe "a young woman of noticeable 'sex appeal' who occupied herself by shoe shopping and party-going."
- Wilson, Alastair; Notes edited by Commander Alastair Wilson, R.N. (19 October 2010). "Mrs Bathurst". KiplingSociety.co.uk. Retrieved 5 March 2014. "... she had that indefinable quality which Kipling was the first to call 'It' – sex-appeal without flaunting her sexuality."
- Introduction script from the movie It (USA, 1927)
- Chalmers, Sarah (4 May 2012). "They're no ordinary knickers". The Lady. The Lady Magazine Ltd. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
- March, 1927, Photoplay Magazine
- J. Morella, E. Epstein. "The 'It' Girl". p.84. Delacorte Press. 1976. ISBN 0-440-04127-9
- Rudyard Kipling's short story: Mrs. Bathurst
- "‘Elstree Calling,’ British Reply to ‘Hollywood Revue’ Is Disappointing An Experiment". The New York Times. March 9, 1930.
- April 17, 1932, Galveston Daily News
- August 25, 1955, San Antonio Light
- The Southtown Economist, February 4, 1927
- January 1(private showing), 1927, Variety
- Waterloo Daily Courier, September 21, 1950
- September 21, 1950, Waterloo Daily Courier
- Stenn, David (1988). Clara Bow:Runnin' Wild. Doubleday. p. 272. ISBN 0-385-24125-9.
- Mills, Laura; Vasilyeva, Nataliya (14 June 2012). "Ksenia Sobchak: Russian It Girl’s path from parties to protests". Toronto Star. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- It Girl Musical
- LiveJournal: Discover global communities of friends who share your unique passions and interests
- Brewer's Rogues, Villains and Eccentrics, 2002
- "It-Girl Sara Schätzl aus München Öffentlich bis zum Zusammenbruch". Süddeutsche Zeitung. 31 January 2012. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
- Schneider, Martin. "Sara Schätzl: Warnung vor dem Roten Teppich". Retrieved 2 July 2013.
- Clara Bow, the original It girl