Monday, 5 February 2018

Figuring Out "It Girl" Chic

Clearly I have no idea what chic "it girls" are wearing on the slopes these days. Based on the post I saw on Instagram recently, which actually made me chuckle... just a little... and compared to what I wore skiing on our recent trip to the Laurentians, I am way out of the loop. Not glam enough, with not enough fur trim or shine in my skiing ensemble. But, you know, I'm too old to care about that.

I'm not saying I'm too old to care about how I look. Perish the thought. Just that I've decided that I'm too old to worry about it all the time. Like when I'm skiing. Or doing anything when my appearance is the least of my concerns. Enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, getting fit, taking a break from wearing makeup or worrying about my hair, just having fun... these are my priorities when I'm skiing. Or cycling or camping. 


woman in purple ski hat and vest and sunglasses.
All layered up and make-up free


Let me clarify. When I say I'm "too old," I mean I've reached a time in my life where I've given myself permission to do, or not do, stuff. Like how I've decided I'm too old to worry about finishing books I'm not enjoying, so I don't. I had an epiphany about this whole "caring too much what others think" thing when I turned sixty, inspired by this article by Dominique Browning. 

So, you see, I don't care what I look like when I'm doing things where it doesn't matter to me how I look. Like skiing.  But the rest of the time, I do care how I look, and I care about what I wear. I want to look polished and pulled together, fashionable, but still feel comfortable, like "me." 

And after chuckling about the "it girl" skiing post on IG the other day, I started thinking about what the whole "it girl" label actually means. Which lead me to think of women who would qualify as "it" in my books. Women whose style I admire, who, to me, epitomize chic. And who don't make a big to do about what they're wearing. They are the essence of what the fashion media might call "effortless chic." 

Women like Aerin Lauder, for instance. I love her easy style. I guess this is her version of après-ski chic. 

woman in boots, leather trousers, and heavy camel sweater
source
Or women like the late Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, who had such classic, and seemingly effortless style. I've always loved her look. 

woman in black coat and boots walking with a man pushing a bike.
source
And Alexa Chung, the perennial "it girl" of the last few years. But who I think is adorable and has a real flair for fashion. I've listened to her British Vogue podcasts on the business of fashion, and find her really engaging as a broadcaster. 

girl in a white appliqued sweater, black cross-body bag, and hair in an up-do
source
And then there are the "it" women I know personally. Like Erika Houle, who I met through my friend Liz. Erika has great personal style. She lives in Montreal now, but I follow her fashion escapades on Instagram. She reminds me of Alexa Chung. Same great smile. Same style insouciance, kind of casually tossed together, yet totally crafted. I like that. 

girl in beige trench coat, jeans, and white sneakers
Photo courtesy of Erika Houle
And my friend Krista who I've written about before on the blog. She's a principal now, but we taught together for years. We still laugh about her job interview when her ability and enthusiasm blew us away, and I refrained from commenting on her fabulous shoes until after the decision to hire her had been made. Ha. Didn't stop the rumours that one had to have great shoes to work in our English department. Krista has an innate sense of style, and she's a consummate wardrobe planner and list maker. Sigh. I love that about her. 

I'd also add my friend Frances, who writes the blog Materfamilas Writes, to my personal list of "it" women. Frances has her own sense of style: classic, kind of cool academic or what she calls "bluestocking," which is fitting since she's a retired university prof. Her look is trendy, and quirky all at the same time. She recently posted an outfit on Instagram (pleated wool skirt, sweater, tweed stockings, brogues) which I called "Bloomsbury chic." Hope she doesn't mind my repeating that. 

I could go on and on, but I won't, about all the other "it women" I know. Some are older than me, some much younger, but let's not call them "girls" okay? 

Of course the whole concept of the "it girl" began with Clara Bow in the 1927 silent film It based on the book by Elinor Glyn. According to some "it" started even earlier than that with Rudyard Kipling's short story "Mrs. Bathurst." You can read a history of the phenomena in this Guardian article if you're interested. Nevertheless, the term "it girl" came to mean having a certain indefinable attractiveness, not simply beauty, but something "of the mind" as Glyn defined it. Still, I'm not sure that's what people mean these days when they call someone an "it girl." Do they mean sexy, well-dressed, rich and famous, just famous, or infamous, or what? 

To me, "it" means women who have a style that isn't just about fashion or beauty, who dress to please themselves, who favour unselfconscious, seemingly effortless looks. These are the women whose personal style I admire. 

So where am I going with all of this? Maybe just to say that in the past few years, I've realized that I don't really care about what others think about how I look. But I do care about how I feel about how I look. Most of the time. And I feel very comfortable deciding which situations require care and attention to hair and make-up and outfits, and which situations make no demands on me at all, except maybe to throw on a toque and have a good time. I couldn't do that when I was much younger. I didn't have the confidence. I'd frequently feel that somehow I had got it all wrong, and was too dressed up or not dressed up enough, or whatever. I'm too old for all that palaver now. 

And these "it" women whose style I admire, well, most of these women look as if they think they're too old to worry about all of that palaver too. Or maybe not too old, but too confident, too secure in their own sense of who they are and how they want to look. 

skiers snowplowing down a hill, 1940's
Chic on the slopes back in the day. source
So you see, even if I haven't figured out what "it girl" chic means, I think I know an "it woman" when I see her. 

But as usual, I'm just thinking out loud. About fashion. Yeah, I know, it was ever thus.




Now, my lovely bloggy friends, it's your turn. What do you think about what I've been thinking about?





Linking up this week with: Visible Monday#IwillwearwhatIlike,  Thursday Favourite ThingsPassion 4 FashionFun Fashion FridayFabulous FridaySaturday Share Link-Up 

29 comments:

  1. Sue,I like your style and your posts.The way you plan and shop and write about your mental processings in between-I find the process effortless (although we get a great post about it-but it only proves your competence in both departments)
    How it goes (the "it-siness" :-))? First comes conscious or unconscious inspiration-reading,hearing,watching,walking,looking in your closet-you never know where it could strike,than processing all the data and execution at the end-so,I think you've got the talent (and than there are nuances and different speeds of processing ) and it just seems effortless,or not.As a lot of things one could learn a lot or develop the art of it-but it is different kind of being well dressed
    It is especially noted when "influencers" have limitless access,even the best could fail
    The media and the press can get it all wrong sometimes-the style is HOW YOU wears,maybe simplest of the simple things,but they glorify as an"it girl"someone with a lot of "it stuff" mixed all together
    I love CB-K and her style very much,simple (not in the "cost "category :-)) and beautiful (her looks didn't harm as well)
    I was lucky to admire Frances in real life. For three days in Zagreb,from a carry-on,she looked great all the time (and quite contrary to the "bluestocking chic"),from the first moment,walks,lunch,concert....and it was effortless,"bien dans sa peau".I even remember her outfits-it would be a great post!
    It is refreshing to enjoy sports or leisure,walking,swimming.....whatever...with the accent on "enjoying"-being comfortable enough-it has something with the "being confident enough"or " being old enough". And here you dress for yourself and it looks good,too,nevertheless
    Dottoressa

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    1. You're right, "bluestocking" only describes one of many moods of Frances' style. But it was so apt for that particular outfit, I couldn't resist including it. I like your description better..." bien dans sa peau."

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  2. I think we tend to see a few new It girls on YouTube. Self made It stars. I have a problem with It girls in that they seem to have the money and entourage in the first place often to become the It. Maby ,like you, can style but will never get to be an It, unless by buying it as Catherine's post this week points out.

    http://www.muttonstyle.com

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    1. So to add I'd rather look at your styling as I can relate, then an It girl. Keep it up Susan. Your one of my It girls

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    2. Gee, thanks., Anna. I'm flattered.

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  3. Yes, spot-on, dear Sue. Whereas Twiggy & The Shrimp etc etc may have impressed me when I was younger ... MUCH younger! ... we get to an stage in life where our confidence is enough and we don't need any influencing. You look lovely in your ski gear, BTW. Hugs, x.

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  4. Aerin Lauder is new to me , looks great & she even matches the decor . That would be hard to achieve on an everyday basis . Alexa Chung , not sure , very girly , I’ve seen her look not good more often than good . Though she is very much an ‘ It ‘ . CBK yes , always understated chic . I think I would include Kate Moss , very much her own mistress , though I think she would scare me in real life . I wouldn’t care to be constantly scruitinised so I wouldn’t want to join the it women . I think I may have reached the other stage now , the invisible one - but I don’t mind :)
    Wendy in York

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    1. Alexa Chung does sometimes look like she's just hauled on whatever was lying on the floor. But listening to her podcasts, there was a series I listened to on my exercise bike, won me over. I agree about Kate Moss... she might be a bit scary. There are others, of course, but many are style icons I've already talked about or who are a no brainer. Plus, so many are lionized for great style when someone else has dressed them. Like at award shows. What's with all that praise? Let's see them on the way to the grocery store. Oh wait... that's what National Inquirer used to do back in the day.
      I don't know about being invisible, missy, you looked darned good the day I saw you:)

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  5. At this stage in my life (62), I have been developing a new uniform. Comfort, classic styling, good quality material, proper fit, and most importantly for me: not standing out, are criteria that I find difficult to meet.
    Our age demographic is ignored for the most part.
    However, I feel liberated from having to conform to the IT girls of my daughter’s generation. Botox, microbladed eyebrows, semi permanent eyelashes, gel nails, hair extensions etc., etc. Where does it stop?



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    1. The high maintenance stuff gets me too. So much upkeep. Where do they find the time?

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  6. Beyond tickled, completely chuffed, ever to be thought of as an "It" woman! Thank you for this, although I' m very skepticaI I could ever live up to the label . . . I do agree that the balance between caring and not caring about our looks is key in the effect an It Woman manages -- there's something communicated about the respect we have for ourselves that shows in presentation but also the high level of engagement we have with the world that ensures we can forget about our surfaces and focus further out -- or further in, for that matter. All of that, I think, somehow gets gathered up and contributes to an aura that enhances the outfit more than makeup or more expensive shoes ever could.
    What a fun post, thinking about It Women from our perspective at a certain age!

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    1. Oh dear! Rereading this it sounds as if I'm already believing in myself as It Woman -- such is the power of your influence, Sue.
      In truth, I mean that "we" of the effect to be all of us, quite inclusively. It's in no way a We that wraps me up with Alexa Chung and Aerin Lauder -- hahahaha!!! But I do think that if we are interested at all in analysing or developing a personal style, it won't have much conviction or hold much sway unless it gets beyond a superficial self. . . The insouciance or apparent effortlessness has to at least partly come from being distracted from looks by something more engaging, elsewhere. . . (whether that's inward or outward, that elsewhere)

      Not sure I've made that any clearer. But believe me, I didn't mean to imply, "Ah, we It Women!" Again, hahahaha

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    2. Frances, you are so funny. I laughed when I read the second part of your comment. Like any of us would think that you'd be saying, "Oh yes... we 'it women.'"
      But you're right about that extra something coming from beyond the outfit or the shoes. That's why I can never understand why so many "best dressed lists" are drawn from stylized looks, like at award shows etc. As if any of those women look like that on their own.
      I always remember that pink dress that Gwyneth Paltrow wore to the Oscars when she won for Shakespeare in Love (I think) with her hair scraped back so severely. That shot was in all the best dressed lists and I thought how much nicer she looked with her hair loose, in a camel coat, and a pair of jeans.

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  7. The tiresome thing about being an It girl or even having the concept is that it is very narrow. I have realised over the past couple of years that I am totally bored by the conventional Western view of what makes a woman attractive or worthy or note-worthy and, most of all, an insistence on thin. Still. What I look for now, I have realised, is the healthy landscape of reasonableness. I heard on the radio today that they have invented a lady-version of Doritos - quieter, smaller. IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY. If there was ever a time to reject societal moralising about women, it is now. I genuinely have no It girl/It woman role model. But I would recommend listening to the podcast Fortunately with two funny, clever BBC radio journalists. Stand by for a blog post...

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    1. Ha. I heard that about the lady Doritos. Good god... have we made no progress?! I'm going to check out that podcast..thanks.

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  8. I think that part of maturity is knowing what matters to you and what does not. If your energy is finite, on what are you going to expend it? I don't know the celebrities but having met Frances, I would guess, that her look is based on the richness, texture, colour and energy of her life. It's "understated" flair. There is no "cookie cutter" for "it" style, it's an attitude and a vulnerability. It's about going out there and being who we are.

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    1. I think that's what I was trying to say.... truly individual style is informed by who the woman is beyond the jeans... or whatever.

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  9. Love that you have Frances as an It Woman! She's my kind of It Woman!

    This post triggered a really interesting (to me at least ha!) thought. I don't really think about anyone as an It Girl any more because I seem to have started to approach life as though either people have traits and skills that I don't want, or that I will never have so I shouldn't waste my time trying, or that I do want so I had better get going and try for because why not?

    The sense of the ineffable unknowable that I used to crave I don't feel so much any more.

    Why is that?

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    1. I don't know. I'm somehow still craving it. Craving the comfortable in my own skin feeling. I lost it a bit when I retired. The last few years of teaching I was very secure in my own skin: senior teacher, well respected by my peers (at least I think I was), confident in expressing my views on the bigger issues in education, at ease with and loving my time with the kids. Then when I retired I had to make myself up as I went along. So to speak. Hey. That should be a whole blog post... I think.

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    2. I lost it when I retired too - it's only recently that I feel like I have put together a new life that gives me the key pieces of what I needed from the old one and more besides. I've also just gotten more realistic about what I really am ever going to be able to do, and what not;).

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  10. I'd like to nominate Mardel of the blog Resting Motion as an It Woman. Her outfit posts are infrequent but delightful: full of quirkiness and fun and whimsy, reflective of her evolving personality (I think), with just enough nod to current fashion to seem of the moment. Thanks for an interesting post.
    Davie

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    1. Thanks, Davie. Mardel's blog is new to me. Quirky and fun are right up my alley. I will definitely check this out.

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    2. Happy to share! Her outfit post of 8/29/17 is fairly representative of her style at its happiest.
      Davie

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  11. I always think of the "it girl" as having been given that title by fashion and luxury item's marketing departments so they can sell clothes. She never wears the same thing twice and looks as though she's dressed by a stylist and may have more money than sense. That said, there are stylish women with good taste, who may or may not have money, and always have an easy way of putting things together... like Aerin Lauder. They don't try too hard, yet they can be the most exquisite woman in the room, wearing a simple, chic ballgown. These are the women who make me want to be more like them. To have that easy style and innate sense of dressing... Perhaps in another life. xoxox, Brenda

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    1. Ah.. but the original "it" girls were supposed to have something undefinable that made them attractive and compelling. I agree, though that the word has lost its cache, and become something used by "influencers" to sell stuff. I still think that "it" is like you say that compelling easy style that some people have.

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  12. I agree that I had not thought about an "it girl" in a long time. I think I'm more interested in finding a post 60 style that is personal and interesting, but not based on instant fashion. For instance, I love jeans, but at 5'2" the current cropped look makes me look like a stump. I think I'm tending to simple tops and pants/heans with interesting jewelry since I inherited a lot of nice stuff. But then I wonder if wearing that looks ostentatious....

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    1. I find that as I move into my sixties I can admire someone's style without coveting it. Like Alexa Chung. I couldn't pull off her outfits, but I apprecieate their aesthetic value. Cropped pants aren't for everyone, are they? Some styles make me look like a long-legged teenager/giraffe who had a growth spurt. It's the twiggy ankles and big feet that do it. Good for us to recognize those styles that we can't do, though, I think.
      P.S Nice jewellry with jeans would look great, in my opinion:)

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  13. Now I can see the layers you wore in that first picturei! I love fashion too and I like to adapt it to my style. I take advantage of a lot of the internet resources (like yours) that help me make wardrobe decisions that are stylish, comfortable, and "effortless". Without the blogs I follow I would be lost in the stores with so much to look at and so many styles,

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All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.