Ribbons were everywhere at New York Fashion Week. Draped bow bags made an appearance at Sandy Liang’s SS24 show, Tanner Fletcher had bow suits, Helmut Lang brought hair ribbons and giant inflatable bows were spotted at the Marshall Columbia for Cash by Cash App launch party. Fashion Week street style was also bow obsessed: Ashley Rous, the fashion influencer behind bestdressed, a popular YouTube channel, wore a pink off-the-shoulder bow over a white lace dress, a bow bag and bow tights to the Sandy Liang show.
Celebrities also followed suit. Sia wore a giant bow on her head while performing for Christian Siriano’s 15th-anniversary show, and Julia Fox stopped by the Marshall Columbia party with bows in her braids. Even Doja Cat donned pink bows and ribbons in her newmusic video for “Agora Hills.” The trend spilled into London Fashion Week as well, where Simone Rocha sent models down the runway wrapped like presents in off-the-shoulder bow dresses, and Milan Fashion Week, where Aniye Records used small bows as nipple covers on sheer black lace. (Last year, the brand utilized bows for eye makeup.)
The point of peak bow saturation might not be too far ahead.
After Miu Miu’s AW22 runway show, the brand’s bow-adorned ballet flats quickly became the cult shoe of the season. And the bow trend began trickling its way from the runway to at-home styling videos on TikTok. If there’s a place to tie a bow, someone has found it and is posting about it: Here’s how to “coquettify” a top (by tying ribbons on each arm), put bows on your Apple headphones or add ribbons to the bottom of jeans. Ribbons are inhabiting the current desire to make everyday objects “coquette” — picture pastel frills, white lace, hearts and pink ribbons — such as by hanging toilet paper rolls with bows, adding giant bows to wedding dresses or even ribbons tattoos.
Seann Altman, a content creator in Los Angeles, started accessorizing with ribbons after becoming “fascinated” with the ballet trend (dressing in rehearsal-style ballet attire like bodysuits, leggings and wraps). Mr. Altman began by putting ribbons in his hair and then on his shoes, which progressed to using bows as belts, accessorizing with leg warmers and braiding the spaghetti straps of his tops. His TikTok account is filled with ways to style ribbons.
Ms. Rocha, an Irish designer based in London, said there was always room “for more bow — bows feel like the closing of a package, the final piece, but also that it historically is holding something together.”
Mr. Altman welcomed the idea of reaching “peak bow.” “What would that even look like?” he said. “An outfit made entirely of ribbons?”
This vision was brought to life on Sept. 14 in London Fashion Week by the actress and model Jodie Turner-Smith, who wore a large, black bow with elbow-length gloves for Vogue World, a live editorial fashion show and street fair.
The bow itself isn’t new, existing for hundreds of years across trends and genres in the fashion world for its functionality and whimsy. But Mandy Lee, a trend analyst, said it was hard to recall another time in fashion history when bows were center stage. “I think a huge factor in bows trending this time around is the sheer quantity,” she said. The fashion world’s current bow obsession, Ms. Lee said, has to do with the accessibility of ribbons, the emphasis on hyperfeminity and the rise of aesthetics like “ballet-core” and “girlhood.”
Despite the nod to childhood and nostalgia, bows have been tools for rebellion, specifically against the rise of minimalism in the era of “quiet luxury,” Ms. Lee said. “We’re seeing the opposite reaction to uniformity with hyper-personalization and customization,” she said, while bows are quickly becoming a uniform of their own. “You see another girl wearing a bow, and you’re wearing a bow, and it’s like ‘I get you.’”
Sporting bows is a wink at fellow ribbon-wearers — even in otherwise nondescript outfits — hinting at and revealing a shared mutual understanding or vision. (A “basic” outfit with bows is an example of “Lana Del Ray” aesthetic, for instance, rather than boring.)
Lina Sun Park, an installation and sculpture artist whose bow croissant took the internet by storm, accidentally fell into a “niche TikTok corner of girls that love coquette style,” she said, after experimenting with using ribbons with food. Some people are “disgusted or enraged by the sight of ribbon woven through bread or cheese,” Ms. Park said, adding that there can never be “too much of a bow moment.”
While bows undeniably tie into conversations about “girlhood” (girl dinner, anyone?) and the rise of hyperfeminine aesthetics online, the Tanner Fletcher bow suit has captured hearts across genders. Fletcher Kasell, co-founder and co-creative director of the “genderless” brand in New York, said that its latest bows were influenced by interior design. “The bow suit was actually a last-minute addition to our FW23 collection, and it ended up our best seller of the whole season,” he said. “It’s refreshing and rewarding to see that men are looking to embrace their feminine side with the masculine silhouette, with feminine bows being a hard mash-up of the two.”
Ms. Lee, the trend analyst, is convinced that — at least for the time being — we’re stuck navigating a ribbon-filled, mirrored infinity room: Every time it seems the bow trend has reached its ultimate peak, there’s another collaboration or release that keeps the momentum going. “If you had asked me if we reached peak ribbon two months ago, I would have said yes,” she said. “But it’s still going.”