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Runways, Royalty, and Revolutions; Bows Are Not ‘Just’ a Fashion Trend

by Jess Clark

Bows, everyone is talking about them. They’ve been everywhere for months now and the question on everyone’s lips, will they stay trendy?

While much debated, we’re arguing yes. They are a classic part of history, specifically fashion history, that have been adorned for centuries.

Having undergone somewhat of a renaissance in recent times, femininity is being reclaimed in fashion. 

Apps, notably TikTok and Pinterest, feature trends whereby delicate pink bows even go beyond fashion, being tied in hair, around items champagne flutes, and on bread. Seemingly all for the sake of aesthetic, the root is arguably the ‘girlhood’ perspective that took over social media in 2023 and beyond.

With a resurgence of people wearing bows, comes fear that the statement is just a fad - even being likened to early 2010 obsessions with moustaches and owls, or even 2020’s fascination with mushrooms. This has caused a heavily debated statement that bows will go out of style in 2024.  

Contradicting these worries, TikTok creator, Caroline Lord, showcases runway shows of past decades where bows have taken center stage, arguing that items will never go out of trend if they are a significant part of your style, which is a sentiment that many wholeheartedly believe in.

As the earlier “coquette” and “balletcore” aesthetics ran rampant, there has been a much greater emphasis on femininity for women in the past couple of years, with trends such as “girl dinners,” hype around feminine centered self care, and even men being satirically labelled “baby girl.”

Music, as with most TikTok trends, are prevalent too. With ‘Margaret’ by Lana Del Rey, of her latest album ‘Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd,’ soundtracking the bow content. 

In the album cover Del Rey can be pictured wearing a large bow in her hair, and has been pictured wearing bows in photo shoots throughout her career. It’s known that Del Rey takes inspiration from ‘60s and ‘70s icons such as Nancy Sinatra, Julee Cruise, and including the recent focus of Sofia Coppola’s latest contribution to film: Priscilla Presley. 

Wider girlhood trends that spawned as a result of the empowering messaging in the Barbie movie may have also had an impact; Margot Robbie as Barbie, both on screen and red carpets, is seen wearing bows as a part of some outfits. Most notably, a huge hair bow matched her classic pink gingham outfit that she wears in Barbieland. 

In November 2022, Margot wore a large black bow in her hair to a BAFTA event and at the Critics’ Choice Awards in 2018, she sported a top-knot secured with a bow. For both looks, Robbie was under her infamous contract with Chanel, a brand known for their classic aesthetic, with it’s namesake, “Coco” regularly included them in her collections and furthering the impact of bows imagery in fashion. In fact, the trend she sported took popularity nearly 3 decades ago with the famous Chanel Fall/Winter 1995 show that featured models wearing black bows in their hair.

Back to Barbie, its become known for its prevalent themes and imagery of empowered women. Much to Jo Koy’s lack of understanding, it wasn’t simply about a doll but rather tackling the patriarchal expectations that have been placed on her as a feminist symbol, and herself challenging this reputation around the doll, whilst wearing delicate, feminine bows.

It demonstrates the delicate parts of girlhood, and how this compliments the strength and the power women can yield when challenging the wider patriarchal standards.

For years, women have had this pressure to be masculine or else not be truly a feminist but it seems we are finally being able to reclaim our girlhood. To dress ‘girlie’ does not mean to lack strength or self-worth, but rather the opposite. 

Similarly, when we looked at the fashion in the upcoming Mean Girls reboot, Reneé Rapp had discussed making her character, Regina George, queer. And whilst this both works and is a much needed perspective for the ‘plastic,’ it doesn’t mean her fashion needs to become less feminine as a result. Regina George, just like real people, can dress in baby pink and wear mini skirts without making her any less gay. 

With these portrayals of independent women, Bows are seen as a wider part of that femininity. Elizabeth Kassab argues that bows being included in outfits shows an acceptance and embracing of gender, as with any accessory, a bow may be the element to elevate a “simple look.”

As for the runway, the shows of late 23 had bows being seen on catwalks around the world. Across both the autumn/winter 2023 and spring/summer 2024, bows dominated collections from Simone Rocha, Sandy Liang, Balmain, Selkie, Miu Miu, Sinead Gorey, Commes des Garcons, Max Mara, Moschino and lots more. 

Brands showcased ribbon accessories everywhere but were most prevalent in hair and on jumpers and blouses.

Simone Rocha being the key player leading the bow revolution, they were included to the max in their AW23 shows. They became so linked to the brand that Instagram stories suddenly became dominated by selfies with a ‘Simone Rocha Ribbons’ filter.

Celebrities also led the ribbon revolution, with Olivia Rodrigo wearing a 1994 Chanel dress to the Met Gala afterparty, Julia Fox rocking bows on more occasions than we could count, and Sydney Sweeney wearing a Miu Miu dress covered in bows to the 2023 Met Gala.

Gracie Abrams also gained a reputation amongst her fans for wearing bows on tour which inspired her fans to do the same.

Refinery 29 set out the historical precedent of the symbolism of bows historically; worn as cockades during the French Revolution and used as a way to show defiance towards Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

Diana, the Princess of Wales, was also a fan of bows, as Kristen Bateman in Harpers Bazaar discusses.

Another Coppola focal point, Marie Antoinette’s hairdresser allegedly spent 20,000 francs on hair ribbons for the French Queen too. 

The message is clear; bows are here to stay for a while, as they have been for centuries before.

Edited by Emily Duff

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