The Everlasting History of the Pussy Bow

The pussy bow has made a resurgence.

After what seems like a 20-year departure from the ultra-feminine style, the pussy bow has popped back up on the red carpet and in everyday looks, with women wearing dainty, silken bows or a big, dramatic ribbon fastened at the neck. 

The beginning of this ubiquitous style isn’t as concrete as other items — like denim, for example — but it certainly has a long thread in fashion history, one that has ebbed and flowed and dates back centuries. 

Mid-1600s

Men’s and women’s styles borrow from each other constantly, and the modern pussy bow is reminiscent of men’s ornamental cravats popularized in the mid-1600s. Fashion became more opulent with the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, and men started wearing coats that were nipped at the waist and accented by dramatic lace sleeves and cravats.

1820s

Wide-brimmed hats adorned with faux flowers, ribbons, and feathers were a staple during this period, and for several decades that followed. Women wore luscious, highly detailed dresses balanced out by hats and bonnets fastened with silk gauze tied into a ribbon below the chin. Though this style is not what you’d consider a pussy bow, it feels like an entrance to it. 

1920s

Coco Chanel started as a milliner in Paris in 1910 and later began designing simple and functional garments for the modern woman. She was most often seen adorned with strands of pearls or with a pussy bow, and her designs were similarly practical yet elegant. 

1930s

Oversized pussy bows or furs added a touch of femininity to garment styles that had sharp, angular detailing. According to Vogue, the pussy bow might have gotten its name from a phase in the late 1800s, when people would tie a bow around their cat’s neck before company came over. 

1960s–1970s

The ’60s were a revolutionary period, with women entering the workforce at greater numbers than before. Workwear for women hadn’t really been defined, so women started taking cues from their male counterparts. In 1967, Yves Saint Laurent released the controversial women’s tuxedo, Le Smoking, worn with a bow tie. In the years that followed, women wearing masculine styles became more widely accepted. 

1980s

Margaret Thatcher was the first female prime minister of Britain, serving from 1979 to 1990, and was known as the “Iron Lady.” She often wore suits with a pussy-bow blouse — staple workwear for women in the ’80s.  

Present Day

Runways and red carpets have abounded with celebrities wearing the pussy bow style, and it’s likely no designer is more enamored with the pussy bow than designer and creative director of Gucci Alessandro Michele, whose blouse designs often capitalize on the iconic style. It’s safe to say the pussy bow will never go out of style, even if it drops away for a few years.

Intrigued? 

Seattle designer andieanderin produces beautiful neckties inspired by female powerhouses. Here are a few of our favorites:

Stone Stories

Inspired by artist and landscape architect Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam
Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. $68

High Flier

An Italian leather tie representing aviator Amelia Earhart, who shot to stardom during a nonstop trans-Atlantic flight in 1932. $75

Grand Slammers

Tennis legends Serena Williams and Althea Gibson take shape in this beauty. Gibson was the first African American woman to win a Grand Slam with her French Open win in 1956, and Williams holds the most Grand Slam singles titles of all time, for men and women. $60

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is an assistant editor at 425 magazine. Email her.
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