Pussycat bow blouse designed by Elspeth Champcommunal for Worth London, 1945

A lavallière, also called a pussycat bow or pussybow,[1] is a style of neckwear worn with women's and girls' blouses and bodices. It is a bow tied at the neck, which has been likened to those sometimes put on "pussy cats".[2]


While bows at the neck had been worn since at least the 19th century, the term "pussy cat bow" took hold in the 20th century. It has been suggested that "There is always been something subtly subversive about the pussybow", and that it "evokes defiance". Kate Strasdin of Falmouth University says "Historically, it's associated with women who are starting to invade male spaces – the golf course, the workplace – and challenge traditional dress codes". The pussybow blouse is often paired with trousers.

The lavallière in 19th century France

The lavallière

The lavallière is a type of cravat similar to the bow tie that was popularly worn in the 19th century in France. It is of similar fashion to the bow tie, but has a larger knot and drooping ends. The length of the scarf can be up to 1.60 metres (5.2 ft) and is knotted in the same way as a bowtie, but forms two falling shells and two free ribbons. The name is associated with the Duchess of La Vallière (mistress of Louis XIV).[3] It was primarily worn by women, artists, students, and intellectuals associated with the political left in 19th century France.

20th century

In 1934, the St. Petersburg Times offered a pattern for an Anne Adams dress featuring a convertible collar which could be worn in four different ways, including as "an intriguingly feminine pussy cat bow tied high under your chin."[4] In 1947, pussy cat bows were part of the look inspired by Gibson Girls and 1890s fashions created by designers such as Omar Kiam.[5]

Certain western films of the 20th century employed the pussy bow as a clothing accessory for cowboy characters. Jack Lemmon as Frank Harris in the 1958 film, Cowboy, is one such example.

By the 1960s, pussycat bows were a fixture in American fashion, having been incorporated by top designers like Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent.[6][7][8][9]

Meg Whitman, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett-Packard, explained in a documentary that women began wearing the lavallière in place of a tie when entering the workforce in the 1960s.[10]

During the 1980s, the pussycat bow blouse became a key part of Margaret Thatcher's political image after she became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1979 and became closely linked with her.[11] Thatcher reportedly said she thought bows were "rather softening" and "pretty", and at her funeral in 2013 Samantha Cameron, the Prime Minister's wife, paid tribute by wearing a pussy bow blouse.[12] The Thatcher look was imitated by other female politicians.[13]

21st century

Musician Harry Styles wearing a pussy-bow blouse during a 2018 Live on Tour show in Saint Paul.

During the 2016 US presidential election, Melania Trump wore a Gucci pussy-bow blouse during the second presidential debate. This caused some to question if it was deliberate, coming just two days after her husband, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, was revealed to have spoken of being able to "grab them [women] by the pussy" in a video clip, which gained widespread attention and condemnation.[14][15][16][17] Melania Trump wore a pussycat bow when discussing cyberbullying in August 2018, renewing speculation that she was trolling her husband.[18][19]

In April 2018, women and men in Sweden took to wearing lavallière in support of Sara Danius, who had resigned from the Swedish Academy for her handling of the aftermath of a sexual assault incident involving Jean-Claude Arnault.[3][20]

Throughout 2017 and 2018, UK musician Harry Styles wore pussy-bow blouses during his Live on Tour.[21][22]

In 2020, US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris wore a pussy-bow blouse with a suffragette white pantsuit to deliver her victory speech on November 7.[23]

See also


  1. ^ Britten, Fleur (28 May 2022). "Take a bow: Kate Moss outfit sends subversive message at Depp libel trial". The Guardian.
  2. ^ "Marian Martin Dress – A Little Woman Style". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 8 November 1934. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  3. ^ a b Anne-Françoise Hivert (May 1, 2018). "En Suède, les féministes empruntent le col lavallière". www.lemonde.fr. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  4. ^ "Wear This Frock Four Different Ways: Pattern 1969 by Anne Adams". St. Petersburg Times. 16 December 1934. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  5. ^ "Gibson Girl is Back as Fashion Leader". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. 10 January 1947. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  6. ^ Bruzzi, Stella (2012). Undressing Cinema: Clothing and identity in the movies. Routledge. p. 49. ISBN 9781134770595.
  7. ^ English, Bonnie (2007). A cultural history of fashion in the twentieth century : from the catwalk to the sidewalk (English ed.). Oxford: Berg. p. 38. ISBN 978-1845203412.
  8. ^ "Saint Laurent Shows Spring Collection". Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. 3 February 1964. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  9. ^ Noel, Lucie (24 February 1965). "Fashions Feature Linens, Weaves, Silk Prints". The Tuscaloosa News. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  10. ^ Makers: Women Who Make America, 2019-02-14
  11. ^ Carnegy, Vicky (2007). The 1980s. New York: Infobase Pub. p. 7. ISBN 978-1438118949.
  12. ^ Carter, Claire (17 April 2013). "Samantha Cameron pays subtle tribute to Margaret Thatcher's sense of style". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  13. ^ Siggins, Lorna (1991). Seamus Deane; Andrew Carpenter; Jonathan Williams (eds.). The Woman Who Took Power in the Park; excerpt reprinted in The Field Day anthology of Irish writing. Derry: Field Day Publ. p. 287. ISBN 9780814799079.
  14. ^ "Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005". The Washington Post. October 7, 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  15. ^ "Melania Trump's Blouse Gets Attention". NBC Bay Area. October 10, 2016.
  16. ^ Mazza, Ed (October 10, 2016). "Not A Joke: Melania Trump Wore A 'Pussy Bow' To The Debate". The Huffington Post.
  17. ^ Dowd, Maureen (October 11, 2016). "Solving the Riddle of the Slovenian Sphinx and the Pussy Bow".
  18. ^ Bruni, Frank (August 21, 2018). "Melania Trump Could Be Our Greatest First Lady".
  19. ^ Donnelly, Erin (August 20, 2018). "Is Melania Trump trolling POTUS with her pυssγ-bow blouse and speech on 'destructive' social media behavior?".
  20. ^ Laird Borrelli-Persson (April 18, 2018). "From the U.S. Presidential Race to Sweden's Literature Nobel Prize Organization—The Politicization of the Pussy Bow". www.vogue.com. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  21. ^ "Harry Styles' Best Outfits: His Most Iconic Looks Yet". Peoplemag. Retrieved 2023-04-06.
  22. ^ Halliwell, Kate (2018-07-20). "The Harry Styles Style Matrix". The Ringer. Retrieved 2023-04-06.
  23. ^ Gonzales, Erica (2020-11-08). "The Internet Is Loving Kamala Harris's White Suit". Harper's BAZAAR. Retrieved 2020-11-08.