Some of these socialites were famous just for being beautiful, while others became leading career women. Whatever the reason for their popularity, one thing's for sure: these It Girls of the past influenced society as we know it.
Nothing says socialite like being the inspiration behind one of the most famous handbags in history. That's right: Jane Birkin is the reason Hermès designed the popular Birkin Bag, which sells for thousands.
The England-born gal became a total fashion icon of the late '60s and '70s. And there's hardly a thing Jane didn't get involved in: the triple-threat starred in movies, produced albums, and rocked the nightclubs of Europe during her It Girl reign of the flower power era.
Next up is the late millionaire Gloria Vanderbilt. Born into fortune, this Vanderbilt made headlines since she was just a toddler thanks to a controversial custody battle between her mom and aunt. But Gloria later came back into the spotlight for entirely different reasons.
Using her inherited wealth, Vanderbilt dove into the fashion industry. But even as she became a fashion icon and dated the likes of Frank Sinatra, Gloria had a pessimistic view on fame. "[It's like] an insidious disease, no matter how well known you become it's never enough, it never satisfies," she once said.
At just 19 years old, Pattie Boyd was on the cover of a book filled with portraits of London's most fashionable women. But she really rose to fame and became a style icon alongside husband and late Beatles member George Harrison. Boyd became one of the influential women of the decade.
And her socialite status was only increased by the complicated love triangle she had with Harrison and Eric Clapton, whom she eventually left her husband for. These affairs inspired three of the greatest love songs in history: George's Something and Clapton's Layla and Wonderful Tonight.
Some might say that the Gabor siblings were the original Kardashians. The three sisters were all prominent figures in the United States' socialite scene of the 20th century. Each of the Gabor gals attended high-end events and became fashion influencers.
Eva, the youngest of the bunch, also had a successful acting career. Best known for her time as Lisa Douglas in the TV sitcom Green Acres, she eventually made her way into film and even Broadway. Gabor's influence also got her opportunities in the clothing and beauty industry.
Born Dame Lesley Lawson, Twiggy became an absolute cultural icon of the swinging '60s. Back in the day, the supermodel changed the world of fashion with her less than ordinary look as she graced the covers of Elle, Vogue, and endless big names in the industry.
While Twiggy's rise in popularity influences even the looks of today, she actually didn't think too highly of her appearance in the 60s. "I was this funny, skinny little thing with eyelashes and long legs," she revealed. "I thought the world had gone mad."
Brenda Diana Duff Frazier
This late socialite first caught the tabloid's attention when news broke of her $4 million trust fund... at about five years old. Brenda went on to develop a party girl reputation, constantly leading in the headlines with her scandalous ways in New York City during the '30s and '40s.
"She was a kind of proto-influencer, where she was famous for being famous and then it kind of snowballed into something else," said Kristen Richardson, author of The Season: A Social History of the Debutante. "She became like the Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton of her time."
Ever tie a scarf around a handbag just to add a little something? Then you can thank Barbara "Babe" Paley for that. This glam socialite was born in 1915 and became famous for her unique style that often mixed high and low fashion. In 1958, she was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.
"I never saw her not grab anyone's attention," recalled late designer Bill Blass. Considering that Babe's iconic style and graceful photographs still inspire the designers of today, it's safe to say this pre-social media influencer has left a print on modern culture.
Many of us are familiar with former First Lady Jackie Kennedy, but what about her sister, Lee Radziwill? The New York City-bred gal was one of the It Girls of the 60s, along with Jackie, and was on the guestlist for all of the important social events of the decade.
But Radziwill's influence spanned way beyond the 60s: as an elderly style icon, she continued to attend social and fashion events in NYC, Hollywood, and elsewhere. Shortly before her passing, BAZAAR asked Lee who she most admired in the world. Her answer? "Myself."
"At 16, I became a photo model. I simply did what seemed easiest to me. After all, I had to take care of myself and my mother," Christa Päffgen recalled. "I did it to feed ourselves." But what was a survival mechanism eventually turned into a lifestyle as Christa, known as Nico, became one of the great socialites of the 1900s.
The German model and singer was one of the famous muses who inspired Andy Warhol's pop artwork. It's hard to know what the fashion and music worlds would look like without the influence of this total cultural icon and the entourage who surrounded her.
This late socialite was named TIME's Woman of the Year in 1936, so it's only natural that she has a spot on this list. The publication called Simpson the most talked about and written-about person in the world. And it had everything to do with Simpson's love affair with a member of the British royal family.
And not just any member: Edward, the Prince of Wales, who voluntarily renounced the throne in order to be with the American socialite who stole his heart. While Wallis was already a prominent figure in high-class U.S. gatherings, her marriage to Edward solidified her influence.
Zsa Zsa Gabor
"Zsa Zsa Gabor proves that even before the Internet, you could do the kind of things the Kardashians do today," said pop culture expert Bob Thompson. The Hungarian-born starlet, along with her sisters, became an icon in the 40s and 50s. Her formula for socialite success?
"She did all the same things that today's celebrities that are in the same category are doing, except she didn't have all the channels that they do," said branding expert Karen Post. "But it's the same formula: She had lots of relationships, she had a good share of scandals and controversy, she was beautiful to look at."
Not all socialites are found in the ballrooms and fancy parties of New York City. Some of the women who influenced our world today were found in dirty nightclubs and behind the stage at rock concerts, known for their cool-girl style and tabloid-worthy love affairs.
Such is the case with Sable Starr, nicknamed the "Queen of the Groupie Scene" when she was just a teenager. Associating with the biggest names in the 1970s music industry, Starr became one of the leading female icons of the decade and is still written about today.
Before becoming a Kennedy, Carolyn was already known for her fashion talents. The stylish celeb worked her way from a saleswoman at a Massachusetts' Calvin Klein to the director of the brand's show productions. Talk about talent. Her socialite status was cemented when she began dating a Kennedy.
Carolyn and John F. Kennedy Jr. got together in 1994 and rapidly became a '90s It Couple. The media was obsessed with their love life and Bessette's sophisticated fashion and graceful presence. Sadly, this socialite passed away in a plane crash along with her husband and sister. But her contributions to modern culture will never be forgotten.
Patricia Kennedy Lawford
"Pat is the one with a head for business. She could really run this town if she put her mind to it," said Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., father of the late former President and of Patricia. And run the town she did: Patricia climbed the latter of the socialite elite.
Patricia was obviously born into a well-known family, and she eventually became a producer for I Love To Eat, an NBC cooking show - a huge feat for a woman at that time. Her marriage to actor Peter Lawford only took her higher in the social ranks of the wealthy elites.
Like many It Girls of the past, Barbara Hutton made her entrance into the high ranks of society with a debut at the Ritz-Carlton. The event reportedly included four orchestras, 10,000 roses, and 2,000 bottles of champagne. The ordeal captured plenty of media attention, having taken place in 1930 during the Great Depression.
Dubbed the "Poor Little Rich Girl," Barbara had a difficult life. But her wealth, which she inherited from tycoon Frank Winfield Woolworth, provided an entry into socialite circles and ultimately made Hutton one of the most memorable icons of her generation.
A red-haired, green-eyed beauty, Magda completed the Gabor sister trio along with Eva and Zsa Zsa. The charming Hungarian-born siblings made themselves a household name after moving to the United States and rising through the ranks of America's social elite.
Like her sisters, Magda had multiple marriages to high-profile men between 1937 until 1975. That, plus her style and budding career, kept her in headlines and made her a huge influence in modern culture. Keep reading for more socialites of the past who shaped our world today.
"I love the make-believe," socialite and actress Dina Merrill once told the Chicago Tribune. "And I still do. I love the part about it where you can be somebody else, and not be you all the time. It's interesting to lead other people's lives." But something tells us her life might've been the most intriguing...
Pictured above with one of her former husbands, Dina was born an heiress of the Post Cereals empire and went on to become a socialite. But Merrill rebelled from the rest of her family and made a name for herself outside of the family empire by working as an actress beginning in the 1940s.
Veruschka von Lehndorff
Dubbed "the most beautiful woman in the world" by critically-acclaimed photographer Richard Avedon, it's hardly surprising to find Veruschka von Lehndorff on this list of influential socialites of the past. Born to a Count and a Countess in formerly East Prussia, she later became a total fashion icon.
This stunning socialite was featured on various covers of Vogue, was a Life magazine cover star in 1967, and worked with the likes of artist Salvador Dali and photographer Peter Beard. The fashion industry was never the same when Veruschka left it in 1975 due to disagreements with Vogue's new editor-in-chief.
Next up is Edie Sedgwick, the world's first superstar. We're not kidding: this socialite defined and popularized the term along with legendary artist Andy Warhol, pictured alongside Edie Sedgwick below. Novelist Truman Capote once described Edie as "A charming, well-born debutante from Boston."
But her story was much more complex than that. Andy Warhol became starstruck by Edie Sedgwick the moment he met her, and she became his pop-art and underground film muse. The two became a total power duo, with Sedgwick dubbed an It Girl of the '60s. The party wasn't complete if these two icons weren't there.
For some, being a socialite is in their blood. Such is the case with Marisa Berenson. The now 74-year-old was born to American diplomat Robert Lawrence and socialite of Italian, Swiss, French, and Egyptian descent Maria-Luisa Yvonne "Gogo" Radha de Wendt Schiaparelli.
Marisa's It Girl reign was one for the books. She rose to fame in the '60s, appearing on the covers of Vogue and Time. French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent nicknamed her "the girl of the Seventies." The media referred to Berenson as "The Queen of the Scene" for her socialite appearances at social events, from clubs to dinner parties.
Next on our list of influential socialites of the past is this charming beauty, Talitha Getty. Rumor has it that practically any man who crossed her path fell for the Dutch It Girl. But one very lucky - and wealthy - man was the one who ultimately put a ring on it.
Talitha married oil heir John Paul Getty, Jr. And while the union didn't last forever, it saw the couple as a total socialite power duo for quite some time. In the 1970s, Mrs. Talitha Getty was the epitome of style and her fashion was revered by many.
Janet Lee Bouvier
Meet Janet Lee Bouvier: a Manhattan-bred socialite raised to be the queen of the scene. As a young woman, Janet attended Barnard Colleges and was a hunter champion at the National Horse Show a whopping three times. But it was who she married that really put her in the spotlight.
Janet's first husband was John Vernou Bouvier III, a socialite and Wall Street broker. Together, they welcomed two girls: Caroline and Jacqueline, who went on to become socialites in their own right, and the latter famously married President John F. Kennedy.
Whether she liked it or not, Doris Duke was born for the limelight. The icon of the '40s and '50s was often referred to as "the richest girl in the world." It's not hard to see why: Duke was heiress to a billion-dollar tobacco business. And once she grew up, the world couldn't get enough of her.
The socialite's love of luxury and stylish clothes caught the attention of American society and influenced endless women. But Doris's lasting impact on our culture goes beyond fashion. Late into her life, Duke was involved in philanthropic projects and most of her fortune went to charity efforts when she passed.
This 1920s socialite was a member of the wealthy and powerful Guggenheim family in NYC and thus was introduced to the social elite early on. But Peggy eventually took her charms elsewhere: she moved to Paris, France, and became a part of the bohemian arts community.
Over time, Guggenheim became a style figure and respected art collector. In fact, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, a modern art museum featuring the socialite's collection, is reportedly one of the city's most popular places for visitors to Italy.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
It's hard to think of the 1960s in America without the graceful Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis coming to mind. Daughter of another socialite who earned a spot on this list, Jackie became America's sweetheart as a popular First Lady to late President John F. Kennedy.
Onassis became a total fashion icon worldwide. But those close to her say there was much more than chic style to the famous woman. "I think people had a sense of her style but probably didn't understand how well-read and interesting she was," said Jackie's daughter, Caroline Kennedy, after her mother's passing.
It's hardly surprising that a sister of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy would end up on this list. After all, those who were (and are) members of the Kennedy family or married into it have long been at the center of attention of tabloids and the press.
Labeled the "debutante of 1938," Kathleen became a popular socialite during her time in London when her father was serving as the U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. It was there that a romance with her future husband Lord Hartington began, which made her an even bigger socialite icon.
The famous Nan Kempner was born in San Francisco, the only child to a rich family. But it was later in life, when Nan moved to New York City with her husband Thomas Lenox Kempner, that she became a total fashion and culture icon in the city that never sleeps.
A collector of couture clothes, Mrs. Kempner could be seen at every fashion event and was a permanent figure at runway season. Her style was so revered that she was asked to be a contributing editor for Vogue, a fashion editor for Harper's Bazaar, and a consultant for Tiffany & Co.
Without Eleanor Lambert, New York City might've never become the fashion capital that it is considered to be now. Born in Indiana, Eleanor initially wanted to be a sculptor but soon realized she didn't have the talents for that. So, the young woman moved to NYC and delved into fashion.
There, she became one of the biggest socialites of the century. Let's put it this way: Eleanor founded New York Fashion Week, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the Met Gala, and the International Best Dressed List. Need we say more about this socialite's lasting influence?
Ever heard of the Singer sewing machine? Well, this next socialite was the heiress to that empire. Born into the life of the rich and the famous, Daisy became a style and jewelry icon who influenced the likes of fashion designers Chanel and Schiaparelli.
But there was much more to her reputation: while Fellowes as a socialite whose appearance at a party meant plenty, she was also disliked by many. This It Girl developed a reputation for being a man-eater and ending other people's marriages. Still, her influence in fashion remains indisputable.
From the time Madeleine Astor entered the New York socialite scene at the turn of the century, she made a name for herself as one of the It Girls of the era. And for good reason. She spent her late adolescencese and early adulthood life dining with the city's richest bachelors.
But Madeleine was most known for something far more tragic. She had an exclusive first-class ticket aboard the RMS Titanic, which ultimately plummeted into the icy depths of the Atlantic. She luckily survived and continued on with her regular New York Times appearances and fabulous gala events with the city's elite.