It Girls Through the Decades

4 mins read

It Girls encapsulate the spirit of their time by embodying and reflecting cultural trends, values, and aspirations. These confident women have been making strides for years, influencing others to embrace their femininity and power. Let’s take a look at these It Girls from the 1900s to now.

The 1900s

In between the Victorian Era and the Roaring Twenties, the early twentieth century was marked by innovation. The It Girl of this era embodied the progressive spirit of the time. She exuded confidence, charisma, and an enticing personality. 

The first It Girl, Evelyn Nesbit, met the stereotype of a Gibson girl, who is described as a woman pursuing higher education, romance, marriage, physical well-being, and independence. This idea of a new type of woman opened up a variety of opportunities. 

Nesbit came from poverty and started modeling at 14 to support her family in Pennsylvania. After moving to New York at 15, she broke into high society. Pursuing careers as a model, chorus girl, and actress, Nesbit made her mark as a symbol of female independence by contradicting traditional gender roles. 

On the more scandalous side, she was famously involved in a love triangle where her husband shot the man she allegedly had an affair with.

The 1920s

The Roaring Twenties were a time of rapid economic growth and social change. With the rise of consumerism and mass entertainment, people were spending money more than ever before. The It Girl of this era encapsulated the luxurious spirit and style of the time. Women possessed liberated attitudes and wardrobes full of glitzy fashion statements.

Clara Bow, the It Girl of the Twenties, was a popular actress and singer, who encapsulated the flapper stereotype. As a star actress in Hollywood, Bow landed roles in some of the era’s most popular films. She made her big break in the movie IT in 1927. Bow’s magnetism and confident performances in the movie inspired her nickname, “It Girl” and popularized the term.

Unfortunately, Bow was confined to playing the sex symbol in her hit movies. She was a co-star in the movie Wings, which made history by winning the first-ever Best Picture at the Oscars.

Taylor Swift has recently announced that she plans to name a song on her new album, The Tortured Poets Department, “Clara Bow.”

The 1940s

The 1940s proved to be a challenging time for Americans. World War II resulted in many women taking non-traditional roles in the workforce, and the It Girls of this time not only exuded beauty and style but power and authority. This era saw an emergence of women who made contributions to society beyond the traditional roles from earlier decades. 

Gloria Vanderbilt, heir to the Vanderbilt fortune, lived in the public eye from birth as she was the center of a heavily-publicized custody battle between her mom and aunt. 

She eventually started modeling in New York and fell in love with the glitz and glam. 

Vanderbilt entered the fashion industry as a businesswoman, making high-end denim jeans and building a brand beyond her inherited wealth. This was the first time denim became part of the fashion world. Vanderbilt displayed the independence and confidence of this era with her business skills and power.

The 1960s

The 1960s saw the rise of counter-culture. Many youth rebelled against their parents’ traditional ideals, and the civil rights and feminist movements were in full swing. The It Girl of this era was free and used fashion and her appearance to protest social norms.

The famous It Girl of the 1960s was from London. Lesley Lawson, famously known as Twiggy, had an androgynous look with short hair, big eyes, and a petite figure. She made bold choices in fashion with patterns, colors, and shapes. This stand-out appearance went against the traditional conservative clothing of the ’50s.

Twiggy’s fame started after she was named “The Face of ‘66” in The Daily Express magazine. She appeared in more magazines and even starred in some Hollywood movies. She was most known for The Boy Friend (1971), and The Blues Brothers (1980).

Her influence quickly spread to women worldwide. She brought a youthful energy to the fashion world which has been carried through to the present with the ability to make bold fashion choices.

The 1980s

The ‘80s were all about pizazz and glamour. This era drew many similarities to the Roaring Twenties with its focus on materialism, wealth, and status, and a heavy influence of pop culture media through television and magazines. The It Girl of this era had a great impact on trends in fashion.

The quintessential It Girl of the ‘80s was Madonna. She was an influential figure in pop music and had a unique style. Madonna’s career took off in 1983 when she released her self-titled hit album. She gained an audience for her mix of pop and dance-style music.

Madonna’s iconic music videos “Like a Virgin” and “Material Girl” made a large push for female empowerment and embracing one’s sexuality. Her ability to challenge societal norms with music made her one of the most iconic It Girls of the twentieth century.

The 2000s

The 2000s marked the emergence of many influential It Girls such as Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian; these women proved their ability to succeed in multiple different industries such as music, film, and fashion. An It Girl in the 2000s had a strong social media presence and influence on fashion.

Paris Hilton was one of the most influential It Girls of the time. As an heiress to the Hilton fortune, she was in the spotlight from a very young age. As a teenager, she was surrounded by celebrities in New York City and was often bombarded with paparazzi. These paparazzi photos would popularize Hilton and others in magazines like Teen Vogue.

Her bold style embodied the Y2K fashion of the era. Hilton has spoken out about her substance abuse and private life issues during her glamourized “party girl” era.


In the last few years, the influence of It Girls has grown due to social media platforms such as TikTok. TikTok influencers showcase their lifestyle on their platform leaving followers attracted to their aesthetic. People like Kendell Jenner, Gigi Hadid, and Alix Earle broadcast their lives online and amass millions their followers.

This past year, Sofia Richie was seen as an It Girl. Daughter of music legend Lionel Richie, she had always been in the spotlight. However, this past year, her marriage to record executive Elliot Grainge took the media by storm. The couple’s celeb wedding in Italy boosted Richie’s online presence with attention from publications like Vogue.

Richie promotes the “clean girl” aesthetic online, taking on the less-is-more approach. She showcases skin and hair care products on her TikTok account, influencing her followers to buy them.

Sofia is a senior at M-A. This is her first year in journalism. She is excited to write about a plethora of topics that relate to the M-A community. Sofia is a part of the M-A dance team, and likes spend time with her dogs.

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