The Cat’s Meow

• This season’s obsession with the updated classic •

pussy bow blouse
An off-centred pussy-bow peeks out of a jumper on the Bottega Veneta catwalk. Via Vogue

The cat’s out of the bag: the pussy-bow is here to stay. This style has withstood the test of time and we’re seeing it everywhere this fall: on the autumn/winter runways, dresses and tops from Gucci to Valentino, Chloe to Chanel displayed pussy-bows proudly. Even Erdem’s float-y gowns could not escape being tied up in the trend. It’s a bow that can be worn with anything and its venerable versatility is what has kept it coming back for decades.

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A Gucci pussy-bow on full display. Via Vogue

At Gucci, where nearly half of the autumn/winter looks included a variation of the pussy-bow, its adaptability is on full display. A sheer blouse with a hint of dusty blue makes for a literal blank canvas, as layers of the same transparent material transform into an opaque bow. With the shirt very nearly not there, the pussy-bow is the focal point. Elsewhere, a light blue tiered dress has a box-y red bow round the neck, while a silky deep turquoise blouse adds a skinny black tie for a feminine appeal. Large floral maxi dresses are decked with floppy bows, while they also stick out from under jackets and sleeveless jumpers in a way that screams geek chic. Alessandro Michele proves that a pussy-bow can go with anything.

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A pussy-bow blouse with trousers for a silky business look at Bottega Veneta. Via Vogue



Meanwhile, Bottega Veneta’s take on the style shifted it from sitting perfectly under the chin to slightly off centre. Rather than tying the tails into an actual bow, they are simply knotted loosely to the side, making the classic feel a little less stuffy and Victorian. Worn on their own or over sleeveless jumpers, these slick creations fashion a sensual business look that calls to mind the seventies as the tails drape softly to the side.

The pussy-bow often gets a bad rap because of the name, but it shouldn’t. They’re simply named after the bows worn by kittens (think The Aristocats). While the style itself can be traced back to at least the 19th century, the name was first used in a 1934 newspaper article accompanying a dress pattern. The article demonstrated how the dress could be worn several ways, one of which with “an intriguingly feminine pussy-cat bow, tied high under your chin!” The pussy-bow continued to stay popular through the mid-20th century, especially in the 1960s and 1970s when Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent popularized it again.

Then, in the 1980s, the pussy-bow blouse got its most famous advocate: Margaret Thatcher. As prime minister, the pussy-bow was her signature style and she once said she liked them because they were “rather softening and pretty.”

Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard’s CEO, may also have tapped into why it was so popular in the eighties. “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,” she says. “It was our attempt to be feminine but fit into what was then a male world.”

Since then, the pussy-bow has become floppier and not as tight around the neck. Gucci’s bow-ed dresses, as seen on Alexa Chung, are geek chic while the traditional blouses in brown and orange hues fit neatly into the current 1970s-revival mood. Sheer blouses give it a sexy turn while Ryan Lo’s rich navy blouse and Bottega Veneta’s silky off-cantered versions provide elegance. Dip your toe (or should I say paw?) with the ribbon tie front.

The beauty of the pussy-bow is its versatility. As a blouse, the style can be paired with almost anything: jeans, leather, a skirt, jumpers, jackets… Olivia Palermo often pairs the classic top with shorts for a casual take. Dress it up or down: this style works for any occasion. There are solid coloured versions and patterned; they can be made of any material. For a hyper-feminine look, there are dresses with a pussy-bow, or try a modern take by pairing it with a playsuit.

Almost any look can be achieved while wearing the blouse, and that’s why it has stuck around all this time. Whether it be a classic take on the look or a more of-the-moment pattern and style, this is one piece that is not only relevant today but will be for years to come. With its popularity firmly decided, affordable varieties are popping up all over the high street. Anyone can be the cat’s meow this season with a pussy-bow!

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