Glossary – Pussycat bow

Melania Trump wearing a Gucci blouse with pussycat bow

Melania Trump wearing a Gucci blouse with pussycat bow

It took me a while to figure out what all the recent hubbub was regarding pussycat bows. Suffice it to say that Donald Trump was caught on film years ago referring to grabbing a woman by an anatomical synonym that also refers to a feline. The day after this old film surfaced his current imported wife wore a bright pink blouse with a pussycat bow, providing fodder for the fashion blogosphere to explode.

Norel, 1951. Norell popularized large pussycat bows in the early 1950s .

Norman Norell, 1951. Norell popularized large pussycat bows in the early 1950s .

I am usually easily regaled by  smutty double entendres and potty humour, but I really don’t think there was anything intentionally ironic about Melania’s fashion choice. What I do find peculiar is that suddenly pussycat bows are being called pussy bows.

Vogue magazine found the earliest reference to the style from 1934: “a cunning bow that ties high under the chin and looks for all the world like those we put on a Pussy Cat when company’s coming.” The bows are made from an extension of the collar that I have seen range from small toggled cords to flamboyant scarf necklines – most often on a blouse worn under a chicly tailored suit.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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4 Responses to Glossary – Pussycat bow

  1. What, no mention of Margaret Thatcher, perhaps the MOST notorious of all pussy bow wearers? 😉

    • Jonathan says:

      I recall it was hard not to find a career woman in a power suit without a pussycat bow at the throat – all part of the 80s mixed message statement in career women’s clothing – MASSIVE shoulders and a dainty bow, tailored double breasted jacket and a micro mini skirt, A serious no-care hairstyle and a pair of 4 inch stiletto heels…

  2. Also, here’s a 1989 reference to “pussy bows” in a hilariously bitchy article on the ABC of fashion from the Guardian…. https://www.theguardian.com/world/1989/dec/11/gender.pressandpublishing

    • Jonathan says:

      That is the earliest reference I have ever seen to that abbreviated description. I only ever knew of them as pussycat bows. Although its interesting that this reference is from 1989 – after the pussycat bow FINALLY falls from fashion. I don’t recall seeing it in fashion at all since the late 1980s – unless used ironically in some post millennial throwback runway look that never caught on. (I think Gucci or Prada played with the look a few years ago…)

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