If social movements have anything to do with it, we think so.
Neckties have been around for centuries, worn by both men and women. The design and material has changed through the years, but to this day, a necktie is a necessity in a man’s wardrobe, yet nowhere on the list of closet necessities for women — and that is an exhaustive list! The women’s necktie has peaked its head time and time again, but has never become the staple it is for men.
If we turn to the pant suit, which is often synonymous with a necktie, it has been taking up space in the man’s closet for decades. It transcended gender in the 60s when Yves St. Laurent and Coco Chanel made a beautiful argument for why a woman should also be sporting the matching power pant and jacket. (Not everyone, however was accepting of this new fashion statement.) Along with the introduction of the power woman suit, came a chic silk necktie (or pussy bow as they were coined). In the decades since, the pant suit has morphed to be the shoulder padded business woman in the 80s to a stylish and practical wardrobe staple that Argent and J.Crew are popularizing today. But where did the necktie go?
from left: YSL dressing Catherine Deneuve in suit and tie, Coco Chanel in her signature bow, modern day suit by Argent and J.Crew, defunct of any necktie
For men, a necktie is part of the pant suit uniform, with some reporting owning anywhere between 10 to hundreds of neckties themselves, but for women, they have largely gone the route of a bare buttoned collar. (as evidenced above)
How is it that men are adding more flair to their necks than women?
On the heels of the women’s movement from the 70s and 80s, women were starting to work their way up the corporate ranks, finding themselves in senior positions that were traditionally only held by a man. This didn’t happen in droves however, and the women that secured more prominent positions were usually surrounded by an all boys club.
Current CEO of Quibi and former Hewlett Packard CEO, Meg Whitman reflects on her business attire in Makers documentary, Women Who Make America Part 3:
“We used to dress in suits with a skirt and a jacket, with button down shirts and a little bow tie because that was sort of our interpretation of the man’s tie….It was our attempt to fit into what was then a male world.”
The 80s were a turning point for women’s neckties as well as the reintroduction of the pussy bow blouse, which is a slinky necktie permanently affixed to a blouse. It is the latter trend that is a current staple in most clothing stores and designer collections today. But again, can’t stress it enough — where did the stand alone necktie go?
Fast forward to 2016, 2017 and 2018 where social movements presented an argument for bringing back the women’s necktie (or pussy bow as it was largely referenced during this time). There was the “pussy” audio tape that surfaced in late 2016, which we can only speculate, but is believed to have influenced Melania Trump’s pink Gucci pussy bow blouse at the presidential debate just days later. There was then the subsequent calling from Hillary Clinton supporters to wear a pussy bow in support of the female presidential candidate.
2017 saw more politicalization of the pussy bow. They continued to be a staple in Melania’s closet and a costume designer dressed his onscreen actors in bows to make an anti-Trump statement.
2018 surfaced another social movement in which the pussy bow was called upon to show support. This time, for Sara Danius, literary scholar and head of the Swedish Academy, who awards Nobel Prizes in literature. She was wrongfully ousted by the Academy after she became engulfed in a #metoo scandal. It was her signature ‘work uniform’ that spurred a rallying cry on social channels to post a pic in a pussy bow supporting Danius.
So here we are, in 2019, sitting on centuries and most recently decades where versions of a women’s necktie has been worn for fashion or to make a larger statement. We didn’t even touch on the Annie Hall years :)
Already in the new year, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is creating a fashion stir as people want to channel her strength by sporting her signature scarf around their neck. Is this just another version of a necktie or pussy bow???
Fashion is and always has been a way for someone to make a statement without words. The women’s necktie, for however small an accessory it may be, appears to be a piece that can speak volumes.
So where do you stand?
Should neckties be a staple of the women’s wardrobe?