Everything old is new again and that couldn’t be more true for women’s neckties (aka pussybows). It has been a relevant garment accessory for centuries, been a symbol of demureness, femininity, and power and it has been called a host of different names including neck bow, floppy bow, bowtie, neck scarf, necktie, and pussy bow to name a few.
The necktie popularity is often attributed to Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent and rightfully so as you will see below, but there is more history to this garment transformer.
Women and men from the 18th and 19th century were sporting a necktie accessory. The men’s ascot and cravat from the period is a very similar look to the modern day women’s necktie.
Neckclothitania was a pamphlet published in 1818 and illustrated some of the popular ways of tying men’s neckwear. Women’s fashion consisted of a variety of neck bow looks.
In the 1830’s, Louis Antoine Godey created the publication, Godey’s Lady’s Book, which he designed to include a host of information around ladies fashion. It was an outlet for introducing Parisian fashion to American women. The images below are from the 1863 editions. You can already see the variety in design of the necktie from short to long.
The Gibson Girls from the illustrations of Charles Dana Gibson, grew the “Gibson Girl,” which was the epitome of an ideal American woman. She was slender, but curvy, athletic, yet feminine, educated, talented, and had an abundance of hair coiffed on her head.
Neck bows were often a fashion element for the Gibson Girl and brands followed suit by naming their neckties after the popular identity.
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel who got the nickname of “Coco” from her days as a singer in nightclubs was best known as a milliner who later moved into fashion design, creating new silhouettes for women in the 1920’s and beyond. She was one of the designers that popularized neckties and through the decades, you can always see her donning a necktie herself or incorporating them in her designs. Coco Chanel was making her mark in the fashion world and neckties were along for the ride.
Late 1930’s and 40’s fashion took a step back due to the war but the 50’s saw a new era of design for the neckties. Much of the trend until this time showcased neckties as a separate accessory tied around the neck of a collared shirt. However, collarless blouses with built-in pussybows have become a popular fashion piece from here on forward.
Late 50’s and 60’s Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel gave new meaning to neckties. Pussybows take on a bit of a new meaning as designers like Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) introduce le smoking suit. This was a radical design for the time, fitting women to pantsuits, similar to a man’s tuxedo. Until now, the necktie was a softening accessory and a popular garment piece for women in secretarial jobs. However, they started giving a more powerful message when paired with the pant suit.
The 70’s and 80’s became a symbol of women empowerment from the way women dress on a casual daily basis to women in the workplace. It was more a male look adopted for the feminate style. Pussybows continue to be paired with women’s power suits in the eighties as they emulate a man’s tie. As women started to take on more prominent positions in the workforce, their attire was meant to help them blend in with their male counterparts.
Though in the early 2000’s fashion had taken a different turn to bigger clothes, brighter colors influenced by music, art and the growing X generation the classics were somewhat forgotten, but here’s the thing.. classics never die. In 2015, designers brought pussybows back to the runway.
Yves Saint Laurent, who has been designing ensembles with pussybows for decades, again brings attention to their staple le smoking suit with an accompanying pussybow.
In the 2015 ready-to-wear runway collection for Chloe and Gucci collections included a modern styling of the pussybow.
The pussybow blouse, dress or the bow on its own have now been a fashion trend for several consecutive years.. Pussybows, bow blouses, neckties – whatever you want to call them, are now a statement fashion piece.