Photo taken by Ishma Khattak
Bows have had a major comeback the past few months, but the fashion trend represents more than a simple hair accessory.
Within the fashion realm, bows made an appearance back in February 2023 in Simone Rocha’s fall 2023 show as well as in Sandy Liang’s spring 2024 show in September 2023.
Off of the runway, bows have seemed to take over social media platforms. On TikTok alone, searches for “bows” had reached 4.3 billion views according to Culted as of December 2023. Celebrities such as Sydney Sweeney, Olivia Rodrigo, Sarah Jessica Parker and Alicia Keys have been spotted sporting ribbons and bows in casual and red carpet looks.
Part of the reason bows became so popular is due to the hair accessory’s symbolism of girlhood and femininity, two growing trends in society over the past year.
2023 was a year of feminine expression as seen by the “Barbie” movie, Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour and Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour. On TikTok, this can be seen in the common use of the phrase “I’m just a girl” and trends such as #barbiecore and #balletcore.
Additionally, bows are often reminiscent of childhood, connecting with the ideas of reclaiming youth post-COVID according to Bazar Magazine’s Tara Gonzalez.
“Younger millennials and Gen Zers lost three years of their normal, precedented youth, to Covid. Ribbons are like a quick fix, something you can tie on to try and make up for lost time that screams, I’m still young,” Gonzalez said.
Beyond bows, the “croquette aesthetic” has taken off. The aesthetic incorporates the soft and playful look of bows into more than just hair accessories by emphasizing pastels, florals, frills and lace.
But many are beginning to wonder if bows have gone too far. Culted even published an article titled “Are bows the new millennial mustache?” which analyzed the absurdities and similarities between both trends.
One example is how TikTok user Sierra Palian shared a video of a glass of water and ice cubes individually wrapped in pink bows with #croquette, and the video now has over 11 million views.
Despite the internet-wide inside joke of fashioning random objects with chic bows, Palian shares to the New York Times that the trend is more than just a meme.
“It’s a way to express your femininity, but in an extremely self-aware way… It’s hyper feminine, but also there’s an awareness to it. It’s not ditsy culture,” Pilian said.
To some trend analysts and political reporters, the recent popularity of these hype-feminine trends come in response to the challenges of being a woman. Bows and soft pinks symbolize a carefree time of being a girl before entering the real world.
In an interview with NPR, writer and researcher Isabel Cristo discussed how the feminine and girlish looks are empowering to adult women following current politics such as the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
“I think that, you know, part of what the girlhood trend is is sort of responding to a quite bleak political landscape. You know, we're in the direct aftermath of the Dobbs decision… And I think that leaves us feeling sort of a bit unmoored and a bit untethered to an identity of womanhood that is, like, rooted in joy and lightness and playfulness,” Cristo said.
In 2024, it will be interesting to see if the bow trend perseveres or if a new feminine trend will emerge. Bows have already been spotted in red carpet looks for the Grammys and the Emmys, so it seems that bows are here to stay for at least a little while longer.