Bows are much more than knots in ribbon. In 2024 we are seeing a new era of the hyper feminine, beckoning in a wave of ideals surrounding “girlhood” and the reclamation of one’s femininity. So, it’s no wonder that the bow, such a timeless symbol of the hyper-feminine, has made such a huge resurgence. In the dawn of Gerwig’s new Barbie film, Taylor Swift’s eras tour, Gracie Abrams gaining worldwide traction, and the growing space on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram for female creators and content, it makes sense that certain trends would arise. The bow is now a symbol of this larger conversation around what “feminine” is and how women should be unashamed of this side of them, even in such a male-dominated world. It’s about finding peace and comfort in an age that promotes the corporate and an obsession with money and consumerism. 

I understand that some women will see dressing in a hyper-feminine way as feeling like an act of defiance and pride in being a woman. Especially when there is so much judgement attached to loving anything that is too “girly”, deeming it a “guilty pleasure” as opposed to a real interest or opinion. With women having historically been discouraged from bringing their girlhood into their adult lives, the bow is a way to bring some of that wonder we had as young girls back; to get in touch with that side of our most authentic selves, independent of adult and new age influences.

I have done my due diligence in the bow trend myself, purchasing some strands of ribbon and getting some dainty pale blue bows painted onto my acrylic nails in the first week of the new year. I would not describe my style as particularly “girly” or feminine so, at first, it felt out of my comfort zone to have something so inherently “girly” as a part of my everyday look. Though I did notice how it brought a small smile to my face every time I caught sight of my nails out of the corner of my eye, or the reflection of the back of my hair in a shop window. I knew ten-year-old me – with a pink bedroom, glitter obsession, and an endless supply of Barbies – would love them. 

Is it a secret language? It almost seems like a piece of fabric has become some kind of cultish signal, a dialect or secret handshake that you weren’t aware you already knew. Now when you step outside your home with a bow or a ribbon fastened somewhere on your outfit, you will undoubtedly get nods and smiles of belonging from girls you don’t know.

We do see brands capitalising on the bow trend, like every other passing craze. Sandy Liang leads the pack for me with bows – both big and small – on dresses, shoes, headbands, coats etc. We even see it take the runway with bows adorning the clothes and bags of models in Sandy Liang’s SS24 collection. Sandy Liang is closely followed by brands like Miu Miu who have that soft, preppy school girl aesthetic pinned down to a tee. Or similarly, Simone Rocha, Carolina Herrera, and Christian Cowan, all of whom have taken the bow trend in their stylistic stride. 

I do, however, recognise the “trend” aspect of the bow craze. Is it just a passing fad? Maybe. Does it seem eerily similar to the 2014 obsession with moustaches? I’d argue yes. I feel like the bow trend is already declining from the height of its traction that it reached in the first half of January, my tiktok FYP is no longer completely full of ‘coquette style get-ready-with-me’ clips or ‘easy bow hair tutorials for everyday wear’. I think it comes down to what we see as new and exciting, we all want to be at the forefront of the trends and so are quick to jump from the old to the new. 

Moreover, we are feeling disheartened at the lack of results despite this pro-feminist surge. A small example, but after the Oscar snub against Margot Robbie, I certainly felt robbed of a woman’s win. The irony comes down to Ryan Gosling receiving an Oscar. Despite his great acting in the role, I ask why should a man be praised for a movie centred around women and the female experience? Again, the patriarchy takes home a win and the women take a hit.

I do think that the trend also very much feeds into our gen-z nature of unnecessary overconsumption. Do we really need ten different rolls of ribbons? Contrastingly, is this as unsustainable as many other fashion-based trends are, considering it’s such a small accessory? Does the good outweigh the environmental harm? There are varying answers to all these questions, but at its core, the essence of what the bow represents seems to be very wholesome and unharmful. 

However, perhaps it’s time to untie… Onto the next trend. Living within a society that is ever-changing and evolving, it would perhaps be naive to think the bow has much time left. Though I hope whatever we move onto next will bring just as much innocent joy as the bows have done for us all thus far. I hope we can keep pushing those boundaries of what it means to be feminine and keep reclaiming what we have lost.