Anatomy of the "It Girl"
What defines an "It Girl"? How healthy is our obsession with these pretty young things? Do they contribute anything of value to the fashion industry? Is our fixation with them a 21st Century novelty or an essential fixture of the fashion world? After all, before the likes of Cara Delevingne and Alexa Chung graced the covers of our magazines and served as front row staples, we idolized Marilyn Monroe, Jane Birkin and countless other women too. On the surface, it girls of past and present have always epitomized the beauty standards, sex appeal and fashion fads of their respective times. The 1960s had mod Twiggy and sultry Brigitte Bardot, Kate Moss and Chloe Sevigny defined 1990s heroin chic and the current fashion darlings are too numerous to keep track of. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, these women are almost always young, quintessentially beautiful, thin and white, and for the most part, our fixations with them are fleeting. These women are propped up in the most covetable couture, claimed by designers as their muses of the moment, and paraded around fashion week in promotion of the latest trends. In essence, they're walking advertisements, and for good reason–they strike a chord with followers because they represent all that glitters in the fashion world.
I think it's safe to say it girls have been a staple of the fashion industry ever since we started to value the cultural contributions of actresses, musicians and artists, but their influence has become increasingly visible with the rise of social media. Self-run blogs and popular apps like Instagram have also amplified the voices of aspiring bloggers, models and other women who aren't as visible in the traditional media circuits as movie stars or pop artists. The adoption of social media has allowed these individuals to cultivate their own platforms, resumes and images by selectively choosing what to reveal to their followers. Although it girls have massive potential to expose fashion brands to target audiences, which is especially beneficial for new and emerging designers, and provide their subscribers first hand access to fashion events, their main concern is naturally (and understandably) the promotion of their own product–whether that be their latest book, YouTube channel or shoe collaboration.
Although it's easy to dismiss these women and our fascination with their Instagram feeds and Snapstories as superficial, there has been greater emphasis on substance in addition to style. In the past, a pretty face and decent acting chops was enough to launch any newcomer into the it girl stratosphere, but today the stage is much more crowded and much more competitive. Nowadays, to gain coveted it girl status, everyone seems to occupy themselves with being a model-DJ-actress-singer/songwriter on top of boasting of a covetable sense of style. Today's it girl roster draws from A-Listers like Taylor Swift, Kendall Jenner and Zendaya, but there's also an growing cohort of independent bloggers like Chiara Ferragni and Nicole Warne who have become red carpet frequenters and important influencers in the fashion world in their own right. More and more, these women are carving out their places in the world of high fashion; to the extent that fashion week would lose its pomp and circumstance without these women present to document and review the runway shows and influence new street style trends. There has also been greater emphasis placed on individuals who bring something different to the table. The success of teen blogger Tavi Gevinson is inextricably linked to the authoress' defiant feminist musings and Karlie Kloss only cemented her status as a 21st Century supermodel after her charity work and promotion of girls in STEM reached the mainstream. Perhaps our shift in focus to it girls who build worthy platforms is indicative of a change in the mentality of the modern consumer. After all, it makes sense that we would crave the honesty, respectability and unique visions these women symbolize after decades of worshipping women without a cause.
Even though the shift in focus towards it girls that represent a distinct voice or vision has become more commonplace, there are still a lot of missing links. There is an obvious lack of diversity in beauty, ethnicity, race, age and body image amongst the girls we laud as it girls, which is a greater reflection of standards within the fashion industry and consumer preferences. However, it's undeniable that social media has been crucial in cementing the successes of these emerging it girls, which is highly indicative of the public's power to promote certain individuals, trends and brands over others. In other words, we should pay closer attention to who we follow and what we "like" because our online preferences yield significant material results.
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