The feminine urge to reclaim the bow


Reclaiming the bow: the feminist symbol of the 21st century

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Image by Pexels via Pixabay

By Grace Bannister

I can certainly speak for myself when I express my joy at the return of the bow. For me, it was a childhood style staple! I have fond memories of picking out coloured ribbons with my mum, then tying my hair with what I thought then (and still do today), the perfect preppy finish to an outfit.

I must be honest though, I was somewhat surprised to see their return. Before 2023, I think most people would probably agree with me when I say that bows were considered somewhat of a uniform for a specific demographic, namely primary school-aged Jojo Siwa fanatics! However, the bow has now come to represent not only class and elegance, but must also be recognised as part of a wider ‘coquette’ aesthetic, with artists such as Gracie Abrams and Lana Del Ray often sporting a bow on stage. And social media cannot get enough!

A scroll through TikTok will quickly inform you of ‘the top ten ways to style bows in your hair’. In short, the bow trend has taken over social media as well as the real world - which not all trends are able to do!

But this trend has surpassed just the realms of fashion: creators on Tiktok have begun putting bows on inanimate objects to ‘girlify’ them - female STEM students have been seen to insert bows digitally on their maths papers or unsolved physics equations. A mix of sincerity and irony, the bow has appeared on Christmas trees, tattoos, and even on dogs.

While some have likened the trend to the moustache trend of the 2010s, where small black moustaches appeared on everything from tattoos to stationary, I think this trend goes beyond a silly fad.

2023 has been described as the “year of the girl” by some creators on TikTok and I personally think the ‘bow trend’ can be seen as part of a wider ‘girlhood’ movement. 2023 embraced girlhood with open arms, from the release of the Barbie movie to the popularity of Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour. The trend has been amplified online, especially on Tiktok – deputy features editor Charlotte Legrand recently explored a feminist approach to trends like ‘girl math’ and ‘girl dinner’.

I’d like to think of this bow trend as a sign of not only girlhood, but as a reclamation of womanhood and femininity more generally. Popular feminine items like bows have typically been labelled as immature and unprofessional. In fact, an article I wrote earlier this year on Lois P Frankel’s Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office advised women against wearing feminine outfits and accessories in order to be taken seriously within the workplace. It is therefore refreshing to see an embracing of all things girly, and I think it's empowering for young girls to learn that they don’t need to suppress their femininity in order to be taken seriously.

So, with that being said, I hope that the bow trend is here to stay. But if not, I that promoting female empowerment is something here to stay.