How to wear…the bow

Valentine’s Day has a way of stirring up strong feelings in us. It’s gloriously romantic! It’s vulgar and cliché! It’s a hollow exercise in consumerism! Regardless of whether you’re happily coupled up or going it alone, we could all do with a dose of romance to cheer us up – even if only in our clothes.

Fashion month may be in full swing showing the autumn-winter collections, but all along the high street, shops are starting to fill up with their spring-summer offerings. As we face into a new season, it’s still too cold out to be trying our hand at city shorts or crochet, but there are a number of trends you can get a head start on right now, and top of the list is the bow.

It’s the accent of the season, adorning everything from T-shirts and headbands to blazers and evening gowns.

At Emilia Wickstead and Erdem, brands beloved by Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, the look was classically feminine with a twist. Erdem drew inspiration from two 19th century cross-dressers for a play on gender norms, contrasting masculine suiting with elegant floral prints and plump taffeta bows.

Wickstead amplified the drama with huge trailing bows decorating ponytails, headpieces and, most spectacularly, column gowns, a custom version of which was designed for supermodel Alek Wek at the Fashion Awards.

There were floppy bows embellishing shoulder straps and waistbands at Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, and massive bows exploding from gowns at Valentino and Marc Jacobs, such as the strapless style worn by Lady Gaga.

If it looks a bit too frou-frou for you, consider more androgynous interpretations: Dries Van Noten instantly elevated a basic white T-shirt by tying a big black bow across the chest, tucked into khaki wide-leg trousers, while Balenciaga used lopsided floral bows to counteract sharp tailoring. Comme des Garcons upends the typically ‘girly’ implications of the bow with a pencil skirt featuring an asymmetric shape and untidy knot – just tuck in a white shirt and add some pointed flats for a crisp and directional workwear look.

Balance out the feminine flourishes by pairing a bow-tie blouse with wide leg trousers in this season’s neutral tones. A high-waisted style will help to ground & Other Stories’ bold blue top, while still nodding to the trend.

You can also lean into the prettiness with a fitted top like Ted Baker’s navy knit or silk-front blush design. But don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by fanciful fashion: for everyday, a pair of slim tailored trousers or midi skirt in a muted black or navy will work to tone down the romantic whimsy.

For evening, you can really go all out, and a bow offers an easy way to upgrade a classic LBD, as illustrated by Alek Wek.

Even a supersized style like those gracing Coast’s cocktail dress and Monsoon’s jumpsuit look tasteful and timeless, and are versatile enough to make a strong impression alone with neat courts and simple jewellery, or to support a raft of statement accessories and jewels.

Ramp up the glamour with one of Richard Quinn’s bouncy bow-bedecked ballgowns, and wear with knee-high white boots to give the look an edge, or, for a more demure styling trick, take your cue from Emma Stone and go half-and-half: the blouse is sufficiently sparkly and luxe that all she needs is a pair of impeccable black formal slacks to let that bow wow.

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