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  • Writer's pictureVariant Magazine

Early European “It Girls”—that aren’t Jane Birkin 

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Katie Johnson, Head of Styling

1. Anita Pallenburg photos

Dating not one, but two members of The Rolling Stones was step one of becoming an It Girl. German-Italian actress and model Anita Pallenburg also had her own coolness about her that was independent from the rockstar men she dated. She had a bohemian-meets-rocker-groupie style that she smoothly flaunted. In the ’60s and ’70s, Pallenburg rocked power suits, chunky belts, big coats and scarves, disco tops, and platform boots.

2. Penelope Tree photos

Sussex-based model of the ’60s Penelope Tree was first scouted by Vogue’s Diana Vreeland. At age 17, her unique eyes were soon featured in Vogue. Back when magazines more often had the letters “MO” (Model’s Own) on pages, Tree was often doing her own makeup and wearing her own shoes or other forms of attire. She enjoyed giving herself her iconic ’60s eye makeup looks that exaggerated her eyes with light colored eyeshadow and dark liner. In a 2020 interview with British Vogue, Tree mentioned how she enjoyed her eclectic style “shocking people on the street” and “ma[king] people laugh.”

3. Monica Vitti photos

1960s Italian actress and writer Monica Vitti is called the “Queen of Italian Cinema” in honor of her successful and significant career. Her aloof performance and style caught eyes at the perfect time in European filmmaking. Vitti’s classic style included staple elements like fur, polka dots, blouses, sleek scarves, and large, round sunglasses.

4. Jean Shrimpton photos

Before there was ever Kate Moss, there was Ms. Jean Shrimpton. Shrimpton stood out during the peak of the Swinging Sixties era in London. An English model and actress, she is said to be among the first supermodels and the person who popularized the miniskirt. Known for her long, fringed hair, arched brows and long, wispy lashes, she was dubbed “the face of the Swinging Sixties movement,” according to Vogue.

5. Barbara Hulanicki photos

Biba, a boutique in London that was all things “Swinging London,” was created by Polish fashion designer Barbara Hulanicki and her husband. Their store attracted other Swinging London “it girls” like Twiggy and stars like Mike Jagger and The Rolling Stones. After studying Paris fashion houses in her younger years, she realized how similar and dated all the clothing options were. With this new, progressive era with more money and nothing to spend it on, Barbara decided to bring something new to the fashion and to the world of interior design as well.

6. Marianne Faithfull

From her full bangs, statement glasses and the classic “neckerchief,” distinctive sounding singer (partially because of her drug abuse times of the 70s that lead to a raspy voice) and actress, Marianne Faithfull served the British Invasion look during the Swinging London that put her as yet another English “It Girl.” Also, adding that she cheated on Mick Jagger with yet another The Rolling Stones member, Keith Richards to add to her hot, rocker chick characteristics.

7. Twiggy

Dame Lesley Lawson, widely known as “Twiggy,” made an appearance on US Vogue in 1967 that ultimately led to the start of her career. Since then, she has been acting, singing and even been recognized as the leader of the Mod Squad — hedonistic and androgynous dressed girls of the 60s. This post-war Britain look the Mod Squad brought would be the start of leaving behind the muted housewife looks from previous generations and pave the way for women to express themselves unapologetically.

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