“It Girl” books are happening this autumn, though the term has been around since roughly the beginning of the 20th century. The satisfying label first gained worldwide attention with the release of the silent film It starring Clara Bow (as Betty Lou) in 1927. From Warhol Superstars to teen idols of the disco and MTV generation, and today’s mish-mash of desperate to be sultry female pop stars, socialites and party girls that suddenly became actual celebrities themselves (“celebutantes”), and the resurgence of the teen queens, It Girls have always enthralled and baffled a curious public. It’s more televised than ever with worldwide recognition at your fingertips, and that X-factor is a terribly enviable no-skill talent that seems most were either born with, and others pursued from the inside out in light of those that already had their names pre-etched in lights. Remember when viewers of The Hills acted as if Lauren Conrad invented the cat-eye look? It’s was that It Girl thing.
In being an It Girl, some are locals, the other half international, and from 2000, many of them Internet approved. While it is a title and a lifestyle that attracts young girls of all kinds, to be an It Girl is to have it all and look as if you’ve gained it so without even trying. I always found that particular asterisk of being an It Girl an oxymoron as one cannot have it all and have both feet on the ground. One foot is likely always a step ahead or behind because I would think you would always have to be on some kind of look out towards foes and burgeoning opportunities. Does anyone really get to the top by just looking approachable and waiting for chances to be transmitted to their inbox or newsfeeds?
While literature and being an It Girl were never as joined to the hip as say peanut butter and jelly, this fall, the It Girls are looking to guide their fans through the written word. While this has occurred in the past with the silver spoon gleeful memoir of Paris Hilton, and guide to life manual by the Kardashian sisters, neither were examples of literary genius or societal reporting. The small crop of books out right now are from women with actual editorial backgrounds and certified ground to speak on their influence considering their humbling beginnings and genuine fanbases.
Leandra Medine is an awkward girl’s dream. She began her blog The Man Repeller as a hobby initially, but also as a way to celebrates the hilarious reality that while some fashion trends, embellishments, and ensembles men will just never understand, women will adore ’til the end of time. An unabashed person of wit and quirk, Medine became an icon for the other girls who were more about vintage threads and a great floppy hat than just uncomfortable stilettos and hip-hop chic. Medine celebrates her road to happy-to-be-outre success in her essay collection named after her blog The Man Repeller: Seeking Love. Finding Overalls. Her memories are laden with sincerely funny recollections of how she first became aware she was drawn to the eccentric and Girls-like episodes with dating. Like the big sister to Tavi Gevinson, another fashion blogger that rose to notoriety due to her fondness of “grandma chic” (a tag I’m sure she hated) and high knowledge of fashion history, Medine’s popularity was refreshing because of her unconventional but relatable beauty, and even better, her charming way of mixing humor and honesty for an industry that stuck on being so polished and exclusive. I understood her appeal. In many ways that mattered, she was the real-life Carrie Bradshaw, built on comedic and light-hearted perspectives as her savior.
Alexa Chung on the other hand, that super leggy, very thin model and TV host via the U.K., her appeal was more interesting to understand as far as why. What is the big deal with Alexa Chung? Did she genuinely obtain a fanbase or was it the media, with her many hard-earned connections to fashion and music, that help propel her to young girls as the new doyenne of style stars? A great thing about Chung is that she acknowledges that much of the aspects associated with her right now (designer clothes; great parties; a A-list lifestyle) were not at her “disposal” growing up, so her come-up is a mix of determination and good ol’ luck. Her mixed ethnicity of being Caucasian and Chinese also makes her a face that represents the new reality of a mixed-heritage future of out future offspring.
The thing about mainstream fashion is that they’re very systematic in their choosing of icons. Chung isn’t the only lithe, pale girl on the landscape dressed in Hi (Alice + Olivia; Marni; Burberry) Lo (Urban Outfitters; Zara, thrift shops) outfits, gracing covers regularly, and dousing in accolades for some for some kind of, in their eyes, unattainable forte for style, which includes Kate Bosworth and Cara Delevigne. For every Balmain jumpsuit Rihanna wears that immediately gets the “Submit” treatment on blogs, there are five girls in Hollywood that are ostensibly alike. Chung, to even her surprise, has been deemed a fashion icon, by voyeuristic teenagers and early-20-somethings to Karl Lagerfeld. I even remember a girl at my last retail job asking to take home the life-size poster of Chung on Teen Vogue magazine to hang in her Brooklyn bedroom. I was like, “Damn! What this Alexa Chung girl got that apparently no one else has!” Again, the enigmatic quality of being a style icon to the masses had me semi-floored, and this was pre-Instagram, but during the let’s-go-spend-3-hours-on Tumblr-as-soon-as-we-get-home phase.
With credits to her entertainment resume that includes being a contributing editor for British Vogue, her first foray into books, was given the correct title of It, a word that’s trailed her career for some time. In breezing through It, I was seeking again to comprehend the cult of Alexa. What am I not getting? I saw that she listed the public figures that were iconic to her (Winona Ryder’s character in Heathers; the obvious choice of Kate Moss; the unexpectant coolness of Jeremy Irons’ hair) and she was sharing tidbits of her life, with a focus on fashion, style, and personal intrigue. I did quickly come across her quick remedy of a DIY exfoliator of vaseline and brown sugar, which I plan to execute ASAP. I did like, akin to Medine and Gevinson, her charming quality of displaying a funky demeanor sprinkled with minor brickbats to the notion that being yourself is something to be ashamed of or downplay.
It is delightfully packaged and is geared appropriately to the fan girls of Chung, and might even draw some new followers as Brits are forever more fascinating in their way of life than Americans. When you’re of the latter, everything foreign can be wonderfully worthy of immersion, especially regarding anything of the arts, leisure, sartorial, and delicacies.
So while I understood how Medine became “it”, can I still conjure how Chung is a part of this members only cabal? Hmmmm, somewhat. I think to a degree, I’m used to “style icons” being very dramatic, like of the Grace Jones, Gwen Stefani kind (I name them because they’re on my shortlist). Chung, I’ve always found to be reachable in your aesthetic, which disconnected me from her title at first. Didn’t I see that same outfit on a girl two weeks ago? Who hasn’t worn a cardigan with jeans and a trenchcoat at least once since second-grade? But I also realized that getting dressed and looking put-together, with a possible touch of idiosyncratic detail whether it be the color scheme or something as small as an added brooch, always makes someone an archetype of you wearing the clothes, not the clothes wearing you. Getting dressed and loving fashion and having style doesn’t always have to be a circus act or an appeasing affair for incoming on-lookers. Occasionally, the attainable is as refreshing as the unique. To quote Bill Blass, “Style is merely a matter of instinct”. Bravo.