The expression it girl originated in British upper-class society around the turn of the 20th century. It gained further attention in 1927 with the popularity of the Paramount Studios film It, starring Clara Bow. In the earlier usage, a woman was especially perceived as an "it girl" if she had achieved a high level of popularity without flaunting her sexuality. Today, the term is used more to apply simply to fame and beauty. The Oxford English Dictionary distinguishes between the chiefly American usage of "a glamorous, vivacious, or sexually attractive actress, model, etc.", and the chiefly British usage of "a young, rich woman who has achieved celebrity because of her socialite lifestyle".
The terms "it boy" or "it man" are sometimes used to describe a male exhibiting similar traits.
An early literary usage of it in this sense is found in a 1904 short story by Rudyard Kipling, which contains the line "'Tisn't beauty, so to speak, nor good talk necessarily. It's just It. Some women'll stay in a man's memory if they once walk down a street."
Elinor Glyn, the notorious British novelist who wrote the book titled It and its subsequent screenplay, 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.— Elinor Glyn (1927)
Glyn first rose to fame as the author of the scandalous 1907 bestseller Three Weeks. She is widely credited with the invention of the "it girl" concept: although the slang predates her book and film, she was responsible for the term's impact on the culture of the 1920s.
In 1927, the Paramount Studios film was planned as a special showcase for its popular star Clara Bow, and her performance introduced the term "it" to the cultural lexicon. The film 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 some qualities later portrayed by Madonna's latter day "Material Girl" incarnation. By contrast, Bow's rival in the script is equally young and comely, as well as rich and well-bred, yet is portrayed as not possessing "it". Clara Bow later said she wasn't sure what "it" meant, although she identified Lana Turner and later Marilyn Monroe as "it girls".
The fashion component of the "it girl" originated with Glyn's elder sister, couturier Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, known professionally as "Lucile". Lucile managed exclusive salons in London, Paris and New York, was the first designer to present her collections on a stage complete with the theatrical accoutrements of lights and music (inspiring the modern runway or catwalk show), and was famous for making sexuality an aspect of fashion through her provocative lingerie and lingerie-inspired clothes. She also specialised in dressing trendsetting stage and film performers, ranging from the stars of the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway to silent screen icons such as Mary Pickford and Irene Castle.
As early as 1917, Lucile herself used the term "it" in relation to style in her fashion column for Harper's Bazaar: "... I saw a very ladylike and well-bred friend of mine in her newest Parisian frock ... she felt she was 'it' and perfectly happy."
Modern "it girls"
In the late 1970s the term started to distance itself from Bow, as magazines used it to describe Diana Ross. Since the 1980s, the term "it girl" has been used slightly differently, referring to a wealthy, normally unemployed, young woman who is pictured in tabloids going to many parties often in the company of other celebrities, receiving media coverage in spite of no real personal achievements or TV hosting / presenting. 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".
In 2023, Matthew Schneier for The Cut, defined the New York "it girl" as being: "Famous for being out, famous for being young, famous for being fun, famous for being famous." Schneier added that an "it girl" does not define itself that way, but that "magazine writers, newspaper columnists, photographers" do. The prominence of an "it girl" is often temporary; some of the rising "it girls" will either become fully-fledged celebrities, commonly initially via appearances on reality TV shows or series; lacking such an accelerant, their popularity will normally fade. Schneier claimed that achieving obscurity is required to be considered one: "An undeniable celebrity is not an “It” girl."
Editors at The Cut also included a list of over 150 ‘"It" girls. Called 'It' Girl Inflation, the article praised the Internet for increasing supply and demand, or democratizing, the 'It' Girl. Notable New York "it" girls included Tinsley Mortimer, Olivia Palermo, Fabiola Beracasa Beckman, Amanda Hearst, Leigh Lezark, Vashtie Kola, Cat Marnell, Audrey Gelman, Tavi Gevinson, Petra Collins, Jemima Kirke, Barbie Ferreira, Sahara Lin, Chloe Wise, Lexie Smith, Emily Ratajkowski, Hari Nef, Salem Mitchell, Julia Fox, and Eve Jobs.
- Evelyn Nesbit (1884 or 1885–1967), American artists' model, photographic model, chorus girl, and silent film actress, whose rise to fame around 1900 has been called "the birth of the 'It Girl'".
- Brenda Dean Paul (1907–1959), British silent film actress and socialite.
- Edie Sedgwick (1943–1971), American actress, model, and Andy Warhol's muse, was dubbed "the it girl".
- Jane Holzer (b. 1940), American art collector, former model, actress and Warhol superstar.
- Ali MacGraw (b. 1939), American actress and activist, her first job was as Diana Vreeland's assistant in the early 60s.
- Lady Mary-Gaye Curzon (b. 1947), British socialite and heiress
- Marisa Berenson (b. 1947), American actress, model and granddaughter of fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli.
- Diane von Fürstenberg (b. 1947) Belgian fashion designer, her and husband Prince Egon von Fürstenberg were known as an "it couple".
- Grace Jones (b. 1948) American-Jamaican singer, model and actress. "It girl" of the Studio 54 disco scene.
- Bianca Jagger (b. 1945) Nicaraguan actress and activist, wife of Mick Jagger, and "it girl" of the Studio 54 disco scene.
- Dianne Brill is a fashion designer, model, author, and former club kid. Andy Warhol deemed her the "Queen of the Night".
- Cornelia Guest (b. 1963) is a New York socialite, author and actress, considered an "it girl" of the 80s club scene.
- Cookie Mueller (b. 1949–1989) American actress and author who starred in multiple John Waters films.
- Lisa Edelstein (b. 1966) American actress, and part of the 80s club scene. She was dubbed New York City's “Queen of the Night” by Maureen Dowd in 1986.
- Tina Chow (b. 1950–1992) American model and jewelry designer.
- Tamara Beckwith (b. 1970), English socialite and television personality, was widely described as an "it girl" in the 1990s.
- Aerin Lauder (b.1970) American socialite, businesswoman and billionaire heiress. Considered an "it girl" by Vanity Fair.
- Tara Palmer-Tomkinson (1971–2017), English socialite and television personality, was considered to be the foremost of the 1990s "it girls" in the United Kingdom.
- Chloë Sevigny (b. 1974), American actress and model, was described as an "it girl" by Jay McInerney in The New Yorker in 1994, because of her status as a fashion impresario.
- Tinsley Mortimer (b. 1975) American socialite and television personality.
- Charlotte Ronson (b. 1977) English fashion designer and socialite, based in the U.S.
- Fan Bingbing (b. 1981), Chinese actress.
- Nicky Hilton (b. 1983) American socialite, member of the Hilton family by birth and of the Rothschild family through marriage.
- Alexa Chung (b. 1983) English model and television personality. Described as the "21st century it girl."
- Mischa Barton (b. 1986) British-American actress. Entratainment Weekly, as well as other tabloids, labelled her as an "It Girl" in the early 2000s.
- Olivia Palermo (b. 1986), American socialite and television personality.
- Sara Schätzl (b. 1987), German writer and actress, was labelled an "it girl" by the German tabloid press in the late 2000s.
- Cory Kennedy (b. 1990) American Internet celebrity and model, described as "the Internet's First It Girl."
- HoYeon Jung (b. 1994), South Korean actress and model.
- Jisoo (b. 1995), Jennie (b. 1996), Rosé (b 1997), and Lisa (b. 1997), members of South Korean girl group Blackpink.
- Olivia Rodrigo (b. 2003), American singer.
- Aespa, South Korean girl group.
- Le Sserafim, South Korean girl group.
- Stephanie Hsu (b. 1990), American actress.
- Zendaya (b. 1996), American actress.
- IVE, South Korean girl group.
- Irene Kim (b. 1987), American model.
Film and theater
- Glyn's 1927 film script was adapted into a musical called The It Girl, which opened off-Broadway in 2001 at the York Theatre Company, starring Jean Louisa Kelly.
- It Girls is a 2002 feature documentary film directed by Robin Melanie Leacock, which chronicles the activities of a group of socialites in Manhattan, New York, U.S., during New York Fashion Week.
The term "it boy" (sometimes "it man") has been used to describe a male exhibiting similar qualities to an "it girl". In 1950, Bow identified Robert Mitchum as an it boy. In 1995, Entertainment Weekly referred to Leonardo DiCaprio as "Hollywood's 'It' Boy" because of his "blazing talent and dashing baby-faced looks – a combination of the mystic and the mischievous – that have the praise faucets gushing buckets".
South Korean boy-band BTS was called an "It boy" band by Billboard in 2017. In 2018, Vanity Fair referred to Timothée Chalamet as an 'It' Boy". In 2019, Jimin was first called "it boy" for his role in the world of fashion by the Spanish website Flooxer Now and described as such by other media.
Later, in 2020, Jimin was named "Global 'It' boy", dubbed so by Naver. In 2021, Teen Vogue referred to Yeonjun, as "K-pop's fourth-generation 'It' boy" due to his participation in New York Fashion Week.
- Gibson Girl
- 15 minutes of fame
- Famous for being famous
- International Debutante Ball
- It bag
- Sex symbol
- Sexual capital
- Allegra Coleman (fictional "it girl")
- "It girl". Dictionary.com unabridged. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
- Etherington-Smith, Meredith & Pilcher, Jeremy. (1986). The 'It' Girls, 241.
- "It girl". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
- Kipling, Rudyard (1904). "Mrs Bathurst". Traffics and Discoveries. London: Macmillan. p. 352.
- Wilson, Alastair; Wilson, Commander Alastair (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 in the film script for It (USA, 1927)
- Barber, Nicholas (28 December 2014). "Clara Bow: The original 'It Girl'". BBC. Archived from the original on 2022-07-09. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
- private showing. (1927-01-01) Variety
- Waterloo Daily Courier, 21 September 1950
- Stenn, David (1988). Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild. Doubleday. p. 272. ISBN 0-385-24125-9.
- Evans, Caroline. (2013). The Mechanical Smile, pp 34–36, 39–41
- Bigham, Randy Bryan. (2012). Lucile: Her Life by Design pp 23–31.
- Duff-Gordon, Lady (Lucile). (1917). "The Last Word in Fashions". Harper's Bazaar, 63, October 1917
- Bigham, Randy Bryan. (2012). Lucile - Her Life by Design, 31, 275.
- Schneier, Matthew (April 24, 2023). "What Was (and Is) the 'It' Girl? An investigation". The Cut. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- Donaldson, W. (2002) Brewer's Rogues, Villains and Eccentrics.
- "You're an It Girl! You're an It Girl! Everyone's an It Girl!". The Cut. 2023-04-24. Retrieved 2023-05-13.
- Uruburu, Paula (May 1, 2008). American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the 'It' Girl, and the Crime of the Century (First; hardcover ed.). Riverhead Books. ISBN 978-1594489938.
- Chabbott, Sophia (October 13, 2016). "The "It Girls" of Every Decade". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on January 10, 2018. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- Taylor, DJ (24 August 2019). "Man-eating, drug-taking, scandal-making: The It Girl through the ages". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 July 2023.
- Spitz, Marc (2015-04-06). "Edie Sedgwick, eternal It Girl: 50 years after "Poor Little Rich Girl," she remains an icon". Salon. Retrieved 2022-07-17.
- "A Century of the New York 'It' Girl 151 women who captured the city's attention". The Cut. April 24, 2023. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- "Jane Holzer Doesn't Think Much About Her Year in the Spotlight". The Cut. April 24, 2023. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- "Ali MacGraw Does Not Care for the Term 'It' Girl". The Cut. June 5, 2017. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
- "For Meredith Garretson, Channeling Ali MacGraw's Incomparable Style in 'The Offer' Was Second Nature". InStyle. May 19, 2022. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
- Rainey, Sarah (11 October 2013). "Lady Mary-Gaye Curzon: Beautiful debutante whom Cressida Bonas calls Mum". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 May 2023.
- de Bertadano, Helena (October 3, 2011). "Marisa Berenson: the It-girl who grew up". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
- McCormack, Rachel (October 5, 2021). "Glass interviews former '70s It girl and actor Marisa Berenson". Glass. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
- "Diane von Furstenberg, fashion's 'It girl,' honored for lifetime achievement". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. June 17, 2005. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
- Rodriguez, Leah (September 15, 2014). "See Bianca Jagger's Style, an Original 'It' Girl". The Cut. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- "Lessons from a 1980s New York party girl and Warhol muse". Dazed. 12 January 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-01-12.
- Mechling, Lauren (September 30, 2022). "Cornelia Guest Looks Back at Her Life in Parties". W. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
- Ferri, Jessica (April 21, 2022). "Tales of a late, great It Girl: Cookie Mueller's stories live on in a new reissue". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
- Dowd, Maureen (1986-11-09). "LISA IN WONDERLAND". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-02-24.
- "She Played 'Lisa E.' for Two and a Half Years". The Cut. April 24, 2023. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- Mutti, Giulia (October 28, 2015). "The Influential Legacy of Tina Chow". Another Magazine. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
- Keogh, Kat (26 June 2011). "Kat Keogh: Tamara Beckwith – now an over-the-ill IT girl". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
- Jackson, Marie; Harris, Dominic (9 February 2017). "Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and co: Whatever happened to the 'It girl'?". BBC News. Retrieved 8 April 2021.
- Thompson, Michael (September 2000). "The 'It' Girls". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on November 3, 2022. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- Moore, Booth (January 23, 2001). "A New York 'It Girl' Goes Hollywood". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on April 25, 2023. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
- "'It' Girls". New York Magazine. March 27, 2003. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- McInerney, Jay (7 November 1994). "Chloe's Scene". The New Yorker. New York City: Condé Nast. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
- Handler, Rachel (April 24, 2023). "Chloë Sevigny, 'It' Girl to End All 'It' Girls". The Cut. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- "'It' Girl Inflation You're an "It" girl! You're an "It" girl! Everyone's an "It" girl!". The Cut. April 24, 2023. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- McCarthy, Lauren (June 12, 2019). "Tinsley Mortimer Flirts With Her It Girl Past and Bats Her Lashes at Her Future". W. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
- Mavrody, Nika (November 13, 2013). "We Ask Charlotte Ronson: How Does It Feel to Be Called an 'It Girl'?". The Fashion Spot. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
- Sun, Rebecca (2013-05-08). "Fan Bingbing: The Chic Life of a Cannes 'It' Girl". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2022-08-02.
- Schoeneman, Deborah (October 9, 2000). "How to Be the 'It' Girl". Observer. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
- Tabach-Bank, Lauren (April 13, 2021). "Nicky Hilton on Instagram, Motherhood, and the Perfect Pair of Shoes". Interview. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
- Rosenbloom, Stephanie (November 26, 2010). "The Making of Fashion's Latest 'It' Girl". The New York Times. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- Sproull, Patrick (September 14, 2022). "Whatever happened to the It Girl?". The Face. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- Gore, Sidney (February 11, 2022). "Tumblr Girls, It Girls, and Girlbosses: The Evolution of the Influencer". W. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- Kendall, Zoë (February 10, 2023). "7 of Alexa Chung's most iconic outfits". i-D. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- "The Rise and Fall of Mischa Barton: A Timeline". E! Online. 2017-03-30. Retrieved 2023-08-27.
- "Mischa Barton", Wikipedia, 2023-08-19, retrieved 2023-08-27
- Salemme, Nadia (24 June 2019). "Mischa Barton talks returning to TV, joining The Hills and reclaiming her It girl status".
- Darmon, Aynslee. "It-Girls Of The 2000s: Where Are They Now?". etcanada.com. Retrieved 2023-08-27.
- Wilmer, Isaiah (May 4, 2007). "The Number-One Girl". New York Magazine. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- Dorfer, Tobias (31 January 2012). "It-Girl Sara Schätzl aus München Öffentlich bis zum Zusammenbruch". Süddeutsche Zeitung. Archived from the original on 3 July 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
- Schneider, Martin. "Sara Schätzl: Warnung vor dem Roten Teppich". Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
- Hubler, Shawn (February 25, 2007). "The secret life of Cory Kennedy". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on April 9, 2019. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- "Cat Marnell Is the Lifestyle Guru We Deserve". The Cut. November 13, 2020. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
- Blasberg, Dere (January 5, 2017). "How "It Girl" Petra Collins Went from Ballet to Behind the Camera". Vanity Fair. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
- "Park Shin-hye is Elle's new it girl". kpopherald.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 2023-07-05.
- Williams, K.-Ci (2021-10-12). "Jung Ho-yeon Says Squid Game 'Changed Me for the Better'". Vulture. Retrieved 2022-04-08.
- "#ELLECoverStar: K-Pop Star And Dior's Newest Brand Ambassador, Kim Jisoo - Elle India". Retrieved 2023-06-02.
- "Who is Jennie Kim, The K-Pop It Girl Who Fans Call the 'Human Chanel'? - Jennie Kim Blackp". L'Officiel USA. Retrieved 2023-06-02.
- Payos, Alyanna Raissa J. (2 Dec 2022). "Style File: Blackpink's Rosé". Vogue Hong Kong. Archived from the original on 2022-11-30. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
- "K-pop It-girl Lisa @lalalalisa_m of @Blackpinkofficial is rumoured to be launching her own fashion line. In December of last year, Lisa's management company YG Entertainment registered a new trademark filing for "Manobal Lalisa" and "Manobal" as merchandising labels. If approved, the trademark would reserve the right to produce clothing and underwear. Stay tuned for more details!". Vogue Hong Kong. February 12, 2020.
- McColgin, Carol (2022-04-13). "3 Rising Stylists Who Work With Olivia Rodrigo, Ariana DeBose and Hoyeon". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2022-08-02.
- Bell, Crystal (2021-10-08). "aespa Is Primed to Conquer the Digital Age". Paper. Retrieved 2023-05-25.
- Han, Sarah (2022-11-17). "How Le Sserafim is Taking on Bolder Beauty Looks with "Antifragile"". Allure. Retrieved 2023-02-22.
- "5 reasons why Stephanie Hsu is Hollywood's new 'It' girl". South China Morning Post. 2023-03-28. Retrieved 2023-06-02.
- "Zendaya: The New Generation of the "It Girl"". Strike Magazines. Retrieved 2023-07-25.
- "The Making of an "It" Girl: Inside Zendaya's Euphoric Rise to the Top". E! Online. 2021-02-25. Retrieved 2023-07-25.
- "9 Thrilling Moments From KCON 2023 L.A.: Stray Kids, RIIZE, Taemin & More". www.grammy.com. Retrieved 2023-09-04.
- "Meet Irene Kim, the fashion 'It' girl rumoured to be dating BTS' J-Hope". South China Morning Post. 2022-08-16. Retrieved 2023-09-04.
- "It Girl Musical". Archived from the original on 2005-10-14.
- "Hollywood's 'It' Boy". EW.com. March 24, 1995. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
- "'It' Boys". New York Magazine. March 28, 2003. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
- Herman, Tamar (2017-09-21). "BTS' 'Pied Piper' Is Filled With Tough Love Towards Fan Culture". Billboard. Retrieved 2022-12-06.
- Harwood, Erika; Amchin, Jordan (2018-10-15). "Timothée Chalamet's Blazing Beautiful Boy Press Tour". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on July 7, 2022. Retrieved 2022-10-02.
- 방탄소년단 지민(BTS JIMIN), 세계 패션 산업에서도 인기 입증!. apsk.co.kr (in Korean). December 2, 2019. Retrieved 2022-08-27.
- 미국 MTV, 방탄소년단 지민은 실트황제. n.news.naver.com (in Korean). April 22, 2020. Retrieved 2022-08-27.
- "TXT's Yeonjun Is Making His NYFW Debut". teenvogue.com. February 16, 2021. Retrieved 2022-08-27.
- Sometimes written as "it" girl or 'it' girl.
- Bigham, Randy Bryan. (2012). Lucile: Her Life by Design
- Brown, Leah Marie. (2015, 2016, 2017). The It Girls series. Book one: Faking It ISBN 1-616-50813-2; Book two: Finding It ISBN 1616508140; Book three: Working It ISBN 1616508159; Book four: Owning It ISBN 1516101227
- Etherington-Smith, Meredith; Pilcher, Jeremy (1986). The "It" Girls: Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, the couturière 'Lucile' and Elinor Glyn, romantic novelist. London: Hamish Hamilton.
- Evans, Caroline (2013). The Mechanical Smile: modernism and the first fashion shows in France and America, 1900–1929. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300189537.
- Marwick, Arthur (2004). It: a history of human beauty. London: Hambledon and London. ISBN 1852854480.
- Morella, Joseph; Epstein, Edward Z. (1976). The "It" Girl: The Incredible Story of Clara Bow. New York: Delacorte Press. ISBN 0-440-14068-4.
- Stenn, David (1988). Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-24125-9.