The Deliciously Monstrous Power of the Ribbon and Hair Bow
A bow in the hair calls to mind Renoir's painting of the girls at the piano. (In fact, there's a font of old paintings featuring girls at pianos wearing bows; see also interpretations by Berthe Morisot and François Gall.) Alice in Wonderland's blue satin, Shirley Temple's teeny headband, Dorothy's pert pigtails in The Wizard of Oz. A bow is so child-like, though the bow does not come from the child. It's an adult trying to make a little girl look her best; childhood as imposed by adults.
I am not alone in this newfound predilection for a style arguably best suited to the grammar-school set. In the past few years, they have been sent down the runway at Chanel (simple black in a half-up hairstyle), Tory Burch (low and loose), and Miu Miu (oversize). Bow-wearing is probably the first thing I've had in common with Kate Middleton, sartorially or otherwise, as she has a penchant for a low ponytail topped off with a black velvet style from J.Crew, which cost just $22. It has long since sold out, but royal emulators need not despair—Madewell sells a similar one for $9.50. On Middleton, the style is prim, polished, and preppy. Perhaps the appeal of a bow on a woman whose looks already lean oh-so-innocent is that the accessory pushes just a little too hard, suggesting that maybe, deep down, there's something sharp in that sweetness. I'm thinking Catherine Deneuve, Audrey Hepburn, Kerry Washington, Nicole Kidman.
Despite all reason, the accessory is surprisingly versatile. A big, black, handmade silk bow from the Santa Fe studio Bianca & Red affixed to the end of a braid pairs well with the I'm-dressing-
I ordered a black velvet ribbon off of Etsy and have been haphazardly donning it when my hair is at its most unruly or unwashed. This is important: for a successful dishabille effect, one's tresses should be loose and tendril-y. A too-stiff, too-low ponytail stands the risk of evoking George Washington.
There is something deliciously monstrous about a grown woman who has tied a bow anywhere on her body. Someone I know called it an affront to feminism. I'm not sure that my hairdo is pushing the movement backwards, but I get what she's saying. The writer Carmen Maria Machado addressed this to creepy perfection in her short story "The Husband Stitch." The narrator has a ribbon tied in a bow that's part of her body.
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