Popular Historic Clothing Motifs: Black and White Bows

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.