The “pussy bow” was the conservative fashion statement of 2017

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In October 2016, the Washington Post released the Access Hollywood tape that caught President Trump making derogatory statements about women—which he later dismissed as “locker room banter”—to television host Billy Bush. “I just start kissing them,” he said. “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

The next day at the second U.S. presidential debate in St. Louis, future First Lady Melania Trump wore a hot pink “pussy bow” blouse from Gucci’s fall 2016 pre-fall collection, sparking speculation that the flashy decision was a deliberate response to her husband’s leaked video. The Trump campaigned denied that this fashion statement was intentional, and in all likelihood, the First Lady chose this $1,100 crepe de chine top because she prefers Italian designers (Dolce & Gabbana is another favorite) and thought it was a stylish, conservative-looking (conservative as in modest, not politically) option.

In fact, the women on the other side of the aisle liked the pussy bow, too. Two weeks after the Access Hollywood tape leak and Trump wore the Gucci blouse, Academy Award-winning actress Emma Stone wore a pussy bow blouse in support of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. “Emma and her Don’t Grab My Pussy Bow take Middleburg Film Fest #werewithher,” her stylist, Mara Roszak, wrote on Instagram.

The “pussy bow” blouse is a type of women’s dress shirt with a big floppy bow tied at the front, reminiscent of the sort of ribbon you’d tie around your pet kitten. Coco Chanel, who made her mark by adopting styles from men, wore the pussy bow herself. It was an iconic component of Yves Saint Laurent’s original Le Smoking suit, a tuxedo-style suit for women. And it became a “career woman” look popularized in the 1980s when power suits, stilettos, and shoulder pads were de rigueur for women trying to ascend the corporate ranks outnumbered by men—the bow was the woman’s counterpart to the man’s necktie.

Samantha Cameron, pictured with her husband, David Cameron, wore a pussy bow in homage to Margaret Thatcher at the late conservative British prime ministers funeral.

REUTERS/John Stillwell/Pool

Samantha Cameron, pictured with her husband, David Cameron, wore a pussy bow in homage to Margaret Thatcher at the late conservative British prime ministers funeral.

It was also a public marker of femininity in a dominantly masculine environment. Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher claimed to wear pussy bows in public appearances for their “softening” effect. (At Thatcher’s ceremonial funeral in April 2013, wife of then-Prime Minister David Cameron, Samantha Cameron, wore a pussy bow in homage.)

First Lady Nancy Reagan loved a good pussy bow, too. In the 2013 PBS documentary, Makers: Women Who Make America, Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman noted that in the 1970s and 1980s, corporate executive women wore “suits with a skirt and a jacket with button-down shirts and a little bow tie, because that was sort of our interpretation of the man’s tie. It was our attempt to be feminine but fit into what was then a male world.” (Thatcher was the leader of Britain’s Conservative Party as Prime Minister, and Whitman is a former Republican candidate for governor of California who supported Clinton in the 2016 presidential elections.) Ironically, as noted by Jezebel, more than two decades later, American Apparel began selling these pussy bow blouses as “secretary blouses.”

Ivanka Trump, in a pussy bow blouse, participating in an event at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Ivanka Trump, in a pussy bow blouse, participating in an event at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

In 2017, the first year of the Trump Administration, the pussy bow officially renewed itself as a conservative female favorite—particularly in hues of rose. In February, former Olympian and reality star Caitlyn Jenner sported a pink pussy bow blouse when she released a video asking President Trump to get in touch: “I have a message for President Trump from well, one Republican to another. This is a disaster. And you can still fix it. You made a promise to protect the LGBTQ community.” Ivanka Trump wore a red pussy bow blouse to the October meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, where she spoke about women-owned businesses alongside World Bank president Jim Yong Kim. Her eponymous line also sells a pink polka dotted pussy bow blouse, now on clearance for $16 from $79 at Lord & Taylor. Megyn Kelly, who left Fox News for NBC in 2017, debuted her new daytime talk show, Megyn Kelly Today, in September, wearing a millennial pink pussy bow blouse on the first episode.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and leader of the Conservative Party, well known for being the Iron Lady, supposedly wore pussy bows for their "softening" effects.

Reuters/R. Letkey

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and leader of the Conservative Party, well known for being the Iron Lady, supposedly wore pussy bows for their “softening” effects.

“It’s a very ‘feminine’ item, but to me femininity encompasses strength and confidence,” fashion editor and stylist Derek Nguyen explained on the phone. “So for women to be donning this item in a public space in a patriarchal society is a power statement, in my opinion. I think it’s a very chic item.” Nguyen has styled pussy bow editorials in homage to Clinton and #PantsuitNation, an organization that originally started as a private Facebook group and hashtag for supporting the candidate. When actress Dakota Johnson wore a Gucci pussy bow blouse with a suit in May, Vogue described it as “distinct girlboss vibe.” (Johnson is friendly with Clinton.) Turns out, everyone likes the pussy bow—it’s the only issue we can agree on these days.

qz.com