Left; Instagram/anita_pallenberg, right; Instagram/biancajaggerfiles

If we were to consider the term ‘It Girl’ and its presence within contemporary society, we would most likely come up blank. In fact, the last time I can recall the use of the phrase was when Alexa Chung released a collection of her personal musings within her book It. Chung embodied British fashion at the height of her career: the subject of a gut-wrenching love poem from Arctic Monkeys’ frontman Alex Turner and the undisputed doyenne of Glastonbury-chic, her wax jackets and knee socks catapulted her to ‘It Girl’ status. It’s a fundamentally reductive term, especially when judged against a contemporary backdrop, as women are characterised by their sex appeal and - as an added bonus - their personalities. It became appealing to the British upper-class in particular at the turn of the 20th century, with the 1927 film It, starring Clara Bow, basing itself on the very concept. Alas today, as the influence of this type of figure has slowly dwindled in favour of a different type of unrealistic standard propelled by social media, our ‘It Girls’ are no more.

"Their outfits feel so ageless, partially because they can be so easily recreated in the current age of fashion: a palimpsest of decades, patterns and silhouettes."

There was a time, however, that the ‘It Girl’ was more than a superficial label, designed to place the media’s latest obsession on an untouchable pedestal. Trace the phrase back to its origin, and you’ll discover one very notable name: Anita Pallenberg. Famed for her relationships with not one but two Rolling Stones members, Pallenberg became the first ‘It Girl’ who truly captivated the fashion and rock crazed youth of the 60s and 70s. A notorious name solely for her relationships she was not: in fact, Pallenberg used the fame that came with being the subject of the Stones’ ballad ‘Coming Down Again’ as a way to further her already-burgeoning film and fashion careers, becoming the paradigm of a woman both unashamed of capitalising from her sexuality, and ready to craft a persona that would influence fashion, rock ‘n’ roll and the art underground for decades to come.

Anita Pallenberg and Keith Richardsinstagram/anita_pallenberg

Pallenberg was born in Rome in 1942, and spent a significant amount of time amongst Fellini’s Dolce Vita crowd, forming the roots of her love of cinema. She then travelled to New York and was involved with Andy Warhol’s Factory, setting the precedent for her exploration of (and subsequent profiting from) the ways that visual culture coincided with celebrity culture. Embarking upon a fashion and textile degree from Central Saint Martins in 1994, and despite choosing not to work in the cut-throat fashion industry, Pallenberg had already established herself as the queen of rock-chic, mastering the combination of the gritty with the bohemian. Her love of flares, contrasting shapes and clashing florals gave her bohemianism an eclectic twist.

Pallenberg and Brian Jones, 1967instagram/anita_pallenberg

Pallenberg’s playful fringe pairs perfectly with her exuberant style: her Cannes Film Festival look is the height of elegance with its exaggerated silhouette, deliberately masking her overt femininity and desire to dress with a feeling of reckless abandonment. On the other hand, the characteristic 60s floral mini skirt displays another side to her: the Pallenberg that was the muse of the most famous rock ‘n’ roll band in British history, who wasn’t afraid of clashing dainty items with overwhelming, statement furs. It’s a carefree and lively look, and cements Pallenberg’s position as the 60s ‘It Girl’, and how could she not be? Her ability to wear anything from flowing flared trousers to tiny skirts - and everything in between - classifies her as both imitable and still somehow on another plane.

Cannes Film Festival 1967instagram/anita_pallenberg

Yet, Pallenberg undeniably met her match in the early 70s, as the craze and hysteria soon fell upon a different Stones muse: Bianca Jagger. The queen of rock-chic was replaced by the queen of Studio 54 and disco-chic, and the bohemian was replaced by the angrodynous pantsuit. The wife of Mick Jagger was catapulted to international recognition for being a jet-setting party-goer, but Jagger refused to adhere to these curtailing labels. Instead, she swiftly displayed that an ‘It Girl’ can indeed be multifaceted - contrary to media depictions - by later founding the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, as well as serving as a Council of Europe goodwill ambassador.

Jagger at a premier, 1974instagram/biancajaggerfile

Jagger oozes a sartorial elegance that seeped into the heart of many, especially that of the fashion-lover. When coupled with her typically 1940s-style waved hair, Jagger looked like a pristine ode to the opulence of past decades, while simultaneously foreshadowing modern trends such as the co-ord or the cropped (faux) fur jacket (which you can spot at any Winter Ball without a doubt). It’s a contrasting image to that of the free-spirited Pallenberg: it’s polished, resolute and contains a silent power.

Bardney pop festival, 1972instagram/biancajaggerfile


Mountain View

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The captivating aspect of Jagger’s style will always be, for me, her ability to wear a pantsuit or blazer like no other, and it’s certainly an enduring image. Jagger has spoken of her desire to shun certain aspects of her female body, and of how the suit was the best way to disguise these traits. It’s hard to believe that Jagger was considered revolutionary - especially after wearing the now-legendary white suit to marry Mick Jagger - for diverting from classic feminine silhouettes in favour of the masculine. Thankfully, we exist at a point in time where the gendered is outdated: fashion is its own genderless entity. Maybe we can think of Jagger as a forerunner of this approach: her androgyny became so deeply rooted in her style, and it was a style that captured the hearts of not only one very countercultural frontman, but of audiences across the globe.

At Studio 54, 1978instagram/biancajaggerfile

While the term ‘It Girl’ has morphed into a vacuous label, the enduring influence of style icons like Anita Pallenberg and Bianca Jagger cannot be overlooked. Their outfits feel so ageless, partially because they can be so easily recreated in the current age of fashion: a palimpsest of decades, patterns and silhouettes. Fashion may no longer have any rules, but it seems as though Pallenberg and Jagger were already adopting this carefree attitude to dressing, far before it was an accepted mode. This extraordinary pair really did set the wheels of the liberal fashion world that we know now in motion.