Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Taking A Bow: The Sweet New Trend For 2013

One of the most surprising sights in Paris last week wasn't the queue for the new 'Bohemia' exhibition at the Grand Palais, nor the Van Cleef & Arpels display at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, but something altogether more discreet. So discreet, a person could have missed it in the great, swirling circus-like display of fashion that is Paris in September and October. That is, until hundreds of these things popped up on the sartorial landscape, like little flowers blooming well before their season, and it became impossible to ignore them anymore. There were so many that I began to see them everywhere: on umbrellas and scarves; on the backs of trenchcoats; even on French cakes and pastries.

It was only when I walked past Lanvin's store on the Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré and noticed all the windows devoted to them that I knew a new fashion trend was in full force.

The look? The fresh, feminine, slightly whimsical but mostly elegant beauty of the ladylike bow.

Now for most of us bows speak of sweetness, of 1950's tea dresses and YSL gowns runched into glamorous folds with an enormous tie holding it all together at the decollatage. Bows are, by definition, pretty. They belong to the girl next door. Like this Kate Spade clutch, above. But the bows I saw in Paris were far from the sweet sixteen look we normally associate with them. These were BAD BOWS. These were bows that could girl a get into serious trouble.

Big BOW trouble.

Don't get me wrong.  I love a bow. There's nothing lovelier than receiving a present (preferably a big come-to-mamma one) with an enormous bow wrapped around it. Why do you think Net-a-Porter is so successful? The black-grosgrain ribboned boxes (above) are as luscious as the offerings hidden inside them. (Co-founder Natalie Massen has often spoken in business articles about how the boxes and bows were a deliberate strategy to win over new buyers.) And now that Christmas is coming, we've all got lots of opportunities to practice our bow-tying. Christmas is, after all, the bow-iest time of the year.

And so, as we head into The Season of The Bow (although judging by the vast numbers of twists and turns seen on stylish Parisians, it's already here), I thought I do a little post on the cute beauty of them.

Here's a bows-and-all look at the trend that's tying us all in a knot.
{Image at very top  from Australian Vogue}

Nicole Kidman looking bow-beautiful at Derby Day here in Melbourne last week. 
The frock was by L'Wren Scott. The hat was by Stephen Jones. 
It was easy to see how they were both inspired by another bow lover, the always gorgeous Audrey, shown here...

My Fair Lady
Cecil Beaton certainly knew how to take bows to new heights of glamour.

Kate Spade.

More Kate Spade.

And a little more Kate Spade.

Some Chanel, to give you a breather from Kate.

Chantal Thomass.


Chanel from 2009.

Love this.

Christopher Kane Spring/Summer 2013.

Chantal Thomass' Paris store.
Have you ever seen a more irresistible store?

Chantal Thomass' bow headboard.

More Chanel.

Bow nails.
Just fantastic. 
(Unsure of source; please email if you know so I can credit)

Grace Kelly and David Niven, Monte Carlo, 1959.
{Source unknown}

Original drawings for Chanel designs.

A little frou frou from the 1980s. 
Could someone please pop a top on this mannequin?

(I think? Please correct me if it's not right.)

Miss Katy Perry. 


J.Lo in Valentino.
Can you see the tiny bows at her waist? I love this outfit. The shoes are perfect too. 

The iconic image of the hot-pink YSL bow.

Dior Haute Couture.

More Dior Haute Couture.

Lulu Guinness.

Cuter-than-cute bow cookies, by Meg from Embellished Paper, for a party she designed.

And the cover of my most recent book....
I didn't even realised I was "on trend".
(Then again, I'm usually so involved in writing that I wouldn't notice a trend if you stuck a bow around it and slapped it on my desk!)


  1. Hi Janelle

    Mixed feelings about Our Nic's cup outfit ..bit like a sashed equine? I am old enough to remember the MFL reference.The blue Chanel very pretty for the backless YSL >>

    hope all well with you, I have started a new job full time into the city by 9am the full catastrophe..god Im tired , today is my fourth day

    1. You're hilarious. I have to admit, I like L'Wren Scott's designs. I think she borrowed too closely from Cecil Beaton for this number but it was nonetheless a lovely tribute to My Fair Lady. What's MFL? Am imagining all sorts of things!!

      New job sounds impressive, but exhausting. Don't worry, we've all felt like that after a week in a new position. I'm sure it will get better in the second week. It sounds close to home, so at least that's something. Wishing you well for it! xx

    2. Just realised MFL is My Fair Lady! My apologies for being so vague. Head is stuck in gardens at the moment... Trying to use media contacts to gain us an audience with A Certain Handsome Gardener Who Goes Around The World In 80 Ways... Not sure I can pull it off but will try. Have already secured us a visit with another incredible and very famous private garden that's rarely open to the public. So have head full of flowers at the moment and a long way from Beaton and beautiful frocks, sadly. xx


  2. Utterly beautiful! I was wondering what I should wear to work today. Dilemma solved, it is the black and white stripe shirt with a... bow (with a skirt).

    1. Black and white stripes with a bow would look beautiful, in my opinion! xx

  3. I love bows they're so ladylike and the choices you've shown here are fabulous. I love that little settee! Wow!

    1. It's cute, isn't it? Thanks for taking the time to comment. xx

  4. When I was cleaning up at my parents house, I found one of my grandmothers ballgowns from the 1950's. It is a pale grey brocade with soft pink rosebuds on it, and around the waist the most enormous pale pink satin bow, almost on the scale of the YSL bow you posted above. I'll have to take a photo of it for the blog. I had no idea it was on trend again! You've taken such beautiful images for this post xx

    1. Sounds beautiful Heide. The pale grey with the pink rose buds sounds exquisite, especially with the huge pink bow. You should definitely keep it. Imagine wearing it to a garden party somewhere, one summer's night? BTW, I'm coveting your roses... Would love to plant some but our garden is so windy (we're on a hill), and I fear they'd go to God before they bloomed. xx

    2. Not sure I'll be able to wear it. My grandmother was extremely thin - I think I'd need a rib or two removed. I might try it on and see though....I last wore it as a 15 year old (fitted perfectly then, hence why I think it likely won't now!) We had a big wind on Monday (50,000 lightening strikes in South Australia - it went on all night) and I woke to find piles of petals all over the ground. I can see why you're reluctant to try Roses if you get wind at your place! xx

    3. Dear Heidi

      It sounds lovely and very chic. Look forward to seeing it on your blog. Your grandmother must have been a beautiful woman. Such a treasure to have found. If it sadly doesn't fit and you don't want to keep it yourself (particularly if it has the skirt volume of Christian Dior's New Look), you might think of asking whether a large state gallery would like it for their collection. Best wishes, Pamela

  5. Reading your blog while on the bus going to Oaks Day, with bows on my stockings and handbag. Didn't know I was so on trend. Thanks for such gorgeous pictures as usual.

    1. Aw, how lovely. Bows on your stockings sounds gorgeous! And the handbag... well that sounds like it just makes the outfit! Hope you have a wonderful day. I'm sure you will, dressed so beautifully. Wishing you all the best. xx

      PS Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I was very touched.

  6. Love this post! So beautifully compiled and edited.
    Though I must agree with smr about Nic's outfit-too 'costume-y'

    1. Yes, a few people thought it was very theatrical and perhaps a bit much, so I can understand your sentiment. xx

    2. Dear Janelle and Slim

      Personally I love L'Wren Scott's take on Cecil Beaton's costume for MFL. Not many women could carry it off but I think Nicole can. She looks exquisite. She and Cate Blanchett are often both imaginative and courageous in their gown choices. Sometimes they're so original and different that they're not always appreciated as fully as the more usual run of red carpet outfits. But I think they look fabulous - and at the same time they always manage to look like the ladies they are. Yes, a little theatrical at times, but after all, they're not the girls next door. Best wishes, Pamela

  7. And a lovely segue to your gorgeous book at the end! tadah!

    bad bows, mmm....that's a thought. I think they have to be almost a little suggestive to stop being sweet. And then bows on parcels, ah, it's half the fun of giving and receiving presents, really. The anticipation of what lies behind the bow... xx

  8. I will look at bows through different eyes from this day forward, all because of this beautiful post. A-M xx


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