Popular Historic Clothing Motifs: Black and White Bows

February 12, 2013

Black and White Bow-Festooned Clothing

Tea Gown, circa 1875

Mon. Vignon Dinner Dress, circa 1875-78

House of Worth Dinner Dress, circa 1880-90

House of Worth Evening Dress, circa 1888

Herbert Luey Evening Dress, circa 1890

I usually avoid bows since they are not to my taste, but beginning in the late Renaissance, bows slowly became de rigueur. The 18th century is famous for its lavish ruffles and bows, as is the Civil War era. With all the fabulous bows throughout history, I chose to narrow the field a bit and focus on the late Victorian/Early Edwardian use of bows, especially in the most classic “color” duo: Black and White. By the 1870s, motifs had become stylized. No longer was a bow just a knot of fabric! Besides being carefully engineered into different shapes with a needle and thread, bows did not even require ribbon, but became an image embroidered, beaded, or incised into the fabric itself. The bow is an icon of femininity, but in black and white, it loses some of its “cutesy” factor and become rather elegant.

5 Responses to “Popular Historic Clothing Motifs: Black and White Bows”

  1. You’re right – using black does make the bows look elegant. It’s interesting how much a colour can influence something.

  2. merriank Says:

    Scrolling through one of my favourite blogs I saw this picture of a middle aged Edwardian lady wearing a dress layered in bows. Interesting to see on a person not the mannequins


  3. aubrey Says:

    The first photo, of the tea gown, is so lovely it positively HURTS. Black – or dark – decorations fitted against a pale background lifts mere femininity into the sublimely dramatic without sacrificing any of the delicacy.

    • Liz Says:

      I love tea gowns. They look so fussy, yet relaxed. Plus, you are so right: a deep color against a white or cream background really pops!

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