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. And we aren't just talking about how they graced Margaret Thatcher's neck on a daily basis.
In an earlier blog post, we made the argument that a woman’s necktie is a wardrobe staple and not just a trend. If there was still a reason to question its importance to your wardrobe, just take a stroll down memory lane with us.
After you check out the long history of this garment accessory, there will be no question you will want one (or two - ‘wink’) in your closet!
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.
It is believed the woman’s necktie got the name of pussybow or pussy-cat bow in the early 20th century (covered later in post) for its similarities to the ribbons that were often tied around cats’ necks when hosting a house gathering. Below is a postcard from 1887 showing this cat-bow craze.
Educator, Carlotta Stewart in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, c. 1900
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. Just look how fierce she looks!
A magazine from Butterick Publishing Company, The Delineator covered the latest in American women's fashion. As seen below, the necktie was often photographed for a golf or tennis look of the times.
Yves Saint Laurent popularized the tuxedo for women with the introduction of le smokingsuit in the 1960's, but decades earlier, women played with the fashion trend and paired it with neckties - of course!
The below image is illustrated by Humberto in 1926. From Authentic French Fashions of the Twenties, ed. JoAnne Olian.
Coco Chanel was making her mark in the fashion world and neckties were along for the ride. Below is model Lee Miller in New York, wearing Chanel with a scarf that is simulating a necktie look. Photographed in 1928 by Vogue and Vanity Fair’s chief photographer Edward Steichen.
It is believed the women's necktie, which was traditionally named the neck bow got its new name of pussy-cat bow or pussybow during this period. An excerpt from the (below) pattern description written up in the St. Petersburg Times in 1934 reads as follows:
...change the neckline to suit your mood. Wear it with a contrasting scarf such as that in the large illustration - or with an intriguingly feminine pussy-cat bow, tied high under your chin!
A large necktie bow graces the cover of VOGUE magazine
Fashion took a bit of a back seat for the war, and women took on more masculine roles, but neckties are still decorating necks, as evidenced by these VOGUE covers.
Sewing patterns can be found by the handful incorporating a necktie within one or many of the designs.
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 become a popular fashion piece from here on forward. Below, actress and comedian, Lucille Ball is photographed wearing one while posing with her family, husband Desi Arnaz and children Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr.
Yves Saint Laurent and the house models of Maison Dior Christian Dior, Spring 1957 Couture / Vogue fashion
Creator's Studio Collection, 1957
Coco Chanel again wearing neckties along with her trademark fashion pieces.
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 took on a more power message when paired with the pant suit.
Below (left) is a tweed Chanel skirt suit with a hanging necktie and to the right is the new emasculated image of a woman in YSL's le smoking suit and necktie. YSL incorporates the necktie for decades to follow.
After Annie Hall hits the big screen in 1977, Diane Keaton, who was already a style icon, creates a new fashion look that is replicated across the industry. See the below ad from JC Penny which reads, "Sometimes guys can give you the nicest looks!" No comment on that ad speak...
At the same time and nearly the polar opposite of the Annie Hall style, The Woman’s Dress for Success Book becomes a best-seller. Written by John T. Malloy, he advised women who wanted to move up in business to wear tie-neck blouses with boxy navy-blue or gray skirt suits. According to this book, pants were deemed inappropriate for the office.
The gorgeous It Girl and style icon, Bianca Jagger was repeatedly rockin the power suit and neckties in the seventies.
1980's - Unofficially, The Decade of the Pussybow
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.
Below is a video clip from the amazing documentary series, MAKERS: Women Who Make America where Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard and Linda Alvarado, President and CEO of Alvarado Construction describe how they incorporated neckties into their work attire.
Stories of women moving up in the workforce were now plots for the big screen and naturally, pussybows were an on-screen costume necessity.
9 to 5
This movie classic from 1980, which also produced a Grammy-nominated song by Dolly Parton not only had Jane Fonda's character wearing a pussybow in nearly every scene, but it showcased three women that were taking power into their own hands.
Another popular power movie for women from 1988 is Working Girl. Melanie Griffith's character spends the movie putting in the hours to work her way out of her secretarial position. And at the end of the movie, she is rewarded with a promotion and an office - while she dons a pussybow blouse.
Also in the eighties, suits and ties made their way to the female flight attendant uniform. Below is a picture of the United Airlines staff modeling their uniform.
The ultimate symbol of status, Princess Diana wore a pussybow blouse during her engagement photoshoot to Prince Charles in 1981.
Chanel ad from the Eighties, complete with shoulder pads and a necktie.
And then there is Margaret Thatcher. The first woman to serve as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1979-1990), Margaret's wardrobe revolved around the pussybow blouse. She said, "I often wear bows; they are rather softening, they are rather pretty."
Jane Tynan, a lecturer in fashion history at Central St Martin’s School of Art in London, says, "Thatcher was very aware of her image and used clothing as a tool of power. But a trend setter she was not. Instead, the former Prime Minster adopted the signature “power-dressing” style of the 1980s. With ‘power dressing’ she could tap into the image of a career woman, but her reputation as a fierce leader then drove her to wear clothes that might ‘soften’ her image, which was why she wore pussy bow blouses. A symbol of the past reflecting a more conservative femininity, the pussy bow blouse clashed with the aggressive power suits."
Diana Ross Simplicity Patterns
No pussybow in this picture, but we had to include this amazing clothing campaign by Donna Karan that took place in 1992 and showcased a woman being sworn in as President. It would be great to see more ads like this today!
Courtesy of the Designer/Peter Lindbergh/Rosemary Mcgrotha, icon focus models
The a-m-a-z-i-n-g television series, Sex and the City ran from 1998-2004 and in our opinion, could still be running today and we would tune in for every episode! Carrie Bradshaw aka SJP is seen here rocking a pussybow blouse and necktie, similar to the Annie Hall look.
Another popular television series, Mad Men, runs from 2007 to 2015. With the show taking place in the 50's and 60's, the costumes became inspiration for current day fashion trends. Banana Republic (image from 2010 campaign below) was one of the brands to capitalize on the show's popularity and the resurgence of the fashion trends from decades earlier. From this, pussybow blouses made a comeback.
Pussybow blouses are back. Maybe it was Meryl Streep’s performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady which was released in 2011 or the continuation of the trend from Mad Men, but pussybow blouses are back in the spotlight.
Leandra Medine of Man Repeller covers the pussybow fashion trend.
The pussybow blouse is once again in the spotlight with the royal family of England. The Princess of Cambridge's official portrait by artist Paul Emsley, which was heavily criticized for aging the princess beyond her years, is unveiled in 2013. In it, Kate Middleton is wearing a pussybow blouse.
Ellen DeGeneres hosts the 86th Academy Awards in 2014, which was her second time hosting the awards. She delivered her opening monologue in a pussybow blouse.
In 2015, designers bring 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, lead designer Clare Waight Keller dedicated her show to International Women's Day and included a modern styling of the pussybow.
Gucci 2015 Ready-to-wear
Haider Ackermann 2015 Ready-to-wear
The term “pussy” dominates the news after the surfacing of an old audio clip of Presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Don't think we need to say more here...
Pussybow blouses get dragged into the conversation when Melania Trump wears a Gucci pussybow blouse to a presidential debate just days later.
In response, Hillary Clinton supporters wear pussybows. Emma Stone pictured below.
While pussybow blouses entered the political conversation, they were still seen as an on-trend fashion piece throughout the year. See the Duchess of Cambridge wearing a few different pussybow dresses in late 2016 and 2017.
Andieanderin launch a collection of neckties designed after influential women from history and today, all meant to make the woman or girl wearing them stand out from the crowd.
Gucci, the Italian brand's designer, Alessandro Michelei continues to be the designer leading the charge in pussybows on the red carpet.
The pussybow blouse, dress or the bow on its own have now been a fashion trend for several consecutive years and of course, we at andieanderin don't see the trend ending anytime soon. See Amal Clooney, Keri Russell, and Tracee Ellis Ross donning the trend below.
Women represent almost 50 percent of the workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The conversation of equal pay and equal treatment is gaining attention.
Pussybows, bow blouses, neckties - whatever you want to call them, are now a statement fashion piece.