Why are Gen Zers putting bows on everything? Explaining the coquette ribbon obsession

By Emma O'Regan-Reidy

Published Feb 12, 2024 at 04:30 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Bows are everywhere—and don’t expect them to go anywhere anytime soon. After last year’s balletcore, Barbiecore and a slew of other macro- and micro-trends and aesthetics, bows have been a long time coming, at least in the fashion world. The iconic motif first started reappearing on runways in 2021 (see the Fall/Winter 2022 collections of Carolina Herrera and Christian Cowan, for example) and gradually gained popularity, especially as designers like Sandy Liang and Simone Rocha began incorporating bows not only into outfits, but also into beauty looks. As a result, we’ve now entered a coquette bow trend renaissance. Here’s how it started—and why it’s happening now.

@nomangoeshere

The things boys do for their girlfriends😌 #coquette #lanadelrey #boyfriend #bowtie #bowtietrend #bicep #coquetteaesthetic

♬ original sound - ☆ +.

What is the coquette bow trend?

First things first, what is the coquette bow trend? Taking inspiration from Victorian and Regency era attire and combining it with modern details taken from dark academia, cottagecore and old money aesthetics, the coquette ribbon trend is the most recent amalgamation of fashion’s cyclical nature.

“Shows like Succession, Bridgerton, and new Lana Del Rey music are likely the source of inspiration for most, along with the rising popularity of thrifting and vintage shopping as Gen Z continues to focus on sustainability and coveting unique pieces in their wardrobes,” Marisa Ledford, a Los Angeles-based stylist, explained to PEOPLE. In short, a few items in line with the trend include romantic, billowing blouses, flowing babydoll tops and dresses, patent leather kitten heels and, of course, the more bows, the better.

@love.me.sage

Replying to @Mori🩶 sorry im bad at explaining, but it really is super simple!!!🥹🎀 just like shoe laces, i do nothing special !!! #bows #ribbon #howtotieabow #tyingabow #coquettechristmas #pinterestaesthetic #coquetteaesthetic #bowaccesories #coquette #bowprint

♬ Oui oui oui oui - Sacha Distel

A brief history of ribbons and bows

That said, the bow symbol isn’t new to 2024—it has a long history. The icon of the bow is most often associated with girlhood and pre-adolescent femininity (think big shiny hair bows or the teeny tiny bows on underwear and camisoles). Fashion designer Sandy Liang speaks to this, saying that she sees the bow as “so sweet and classic. It’s akin to the rosette you had on your little floral tank growing up. It’s a small detail that brings me back to childhood. Everything I do and create is an effort to get me back to my childhood brain.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Sandy Liang (@sandyliang)

@strawb.angel1

who would have though you only need a fork 🎀 #coquette #dollette #coquetteaesthetic #coquettefashion #bow #bow🎀girl #coquettestyle #diy

♬ IT GIRL (Sped up Version) - Aliyah's Interlude

Bows are the ultimate symbol of girlhood, and more

Building from this foundation, the coquette bow trend sees internet users reclaiming the symbol to express what womanhood and femininity means to them. In recent months, as the coquette ribbon trend has gained traction on TikTok, the bow is often contrasted with “feral” acts or items.

@tatyana.xxz

its so coquette here 🎀 #bowtrend #shopping #coquette #bow #fyp

♬ original sound - ☆ +.

For example, while scrolling the tag on TikTok, you’ll probably come across a pink satin bow around a TV remote, a potato croquette, a toilet paper roll or even antidepressants. These images can be seen as part of a continued dialogue of 20-something women talking about girl dinner, girl math, bed rotting or just being delulu in all aspects of life.

@ellereduire

#potatocroquette #coquette #fyp

♬ let the light in - ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ
@aneereedxo

🎀💅🏼#coquette #fyp

♬ let the light in - ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

According to Kate Lindsey, a contributor to the Embedded Substack, “these types of trends are a counterpoint to the idealised girl aesthetic of the early 2020s—and in the process, they’ve plucked and pulled apart the concept of girlhood through internet memes.” By tying a sweet bow on literally anything, it makes the most mundane, realistic and unaesthetic aspects of daily life something worth celebrating—while also demonstrating the duality present in young womanhood.

“I love how it’s like a little joke that coquette girls put bows on everything, and I’m definitely like that,” TikTok user @lotsobear555, whose Taco Bell bow video has millions of views, told Bustle. TikTok user @folklaurlover seconds this, telling the publication that “making something cute and coquette that wouldn’t usually be cute and coquette makes everything more fun.” In this way, bows aren’t only a fun, timeless way to express femininity, but also an exercise in self-awareness, humour and ultimately reclaiming the idea of girlhood.

@lotsobear555

taco bell in her coquette era 🎀🌮 #coquette #lanadelrey #tacobell

♬ original sound - ☆ +.

At first glance, tying bows around food may seem totally out of left field—but, upon closer inspection, it seems almost inevitable. Why? 2023 was a perfect storm of hyperfemininity, from Greta Gerwig’s anticipated Barbie film which came out halfway through the year, along with the slew of microtrends on social media that followed the wave.

It’s also worth noting that many of last year’s most-loved beauty and fashion trends were described in culinary terms—think blueberry milk nails, latte makeup and Hailey Bieber’s highly emulated glazed doughnut skin, to name a few. To that end, feminine aesthetics have never been so deeply entwined with food.

@whowhatwear

blueberry milk nails are my whole personality for summer 2023. 🫐🥛 #summernails #nailinspo2023 #sofiarichienails

♬ original sound - whowhatwear

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by rhode skin (@rhode)

Rachel Lapidos, Bustle’s senior lifestyle and beauty editor, agrees, saying: “BeautyTok trends have been a food-themed blur; I can’t imagine a hair colour or makeup look becoming popular now if it isn’t named after something edible.” With that in mind, it seems inevitable that actual food, from half-eaten Chipotle bowls to individual ice cubes, became a part of this aesthetic trend.

The all-encompassing coquette bow trend has even further surpassed the boundaries of beauty and fashion, dipping into interior design. This is seen on a mainstream level by TikTok users attaching bows to items throughout their households, but it’s also present in the design world. Examples include Anamaria Morris’s Big Bows candle holders for her brand All Kinds and CENTÁ’s imaginative, bow-adorned tablescapes, floral styling and so much more. All of that’s to say, expect the bow silhouette to be a big part of 2024’s online aesthetics in small and big forms alike.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by ☛ ❀ ➶ All Kinds ➴ ❀ ☚ (@all___kinds)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by CENTÁ (@centa_project)

Keep On Reading

By Emma O'Regan-Reidy

Get the look: channel your inner Bella Hadid with these 5 balletcore-inspired fits

By Fleurine Tideman

I love you Barbie, but we need Feral Women Media now more than ever

By Charlie Sawyer

Men online are calling Margot Robbie mid ahead of Barbie film release

By Abby Amoakuh

Pete Davidson addresses Israel-Hamas war and dating controversies in SNL season premiere

By Abby Amoakuh

British homes for British workers: Tory party pushes new controversial housing scheme

By Abby Amoakuh

Hundreds of bodies found in unmarked graves behind a state jail in Jacksonville

By Abby Amoakuh

Madeline Argy addresses Central Cee rumours in Call Her Daddy interview with Alex Cooper

By Charlie Sawyer

Nikki Haley snaps at Fox News reporters who asked her why she hasn’t dropped out of the election

By Alma Fabiani

American Pie star reveals he slept with sex worker as wife watched and ate crisps

By Abby Amoakuh

Pictures of Harry Styles sporting a buzz cut reignite bald theories online. RIP to the long locks

By Abby Amoakuh

Why is Swedish influencer Matilda Djerf being cancelled on TikTok right now?

By Alma Fabiani

TikToker predicts squatterscore as the next big thing. Please, let’s not

By Charlie Sawyer

What is delulu?

By Abby Amoakuh

Black models boycott Melbourne Fashion Week to protest racial discrimination

By Charlie Sawyer

What to do if your landlord increases your rent, from negotiating to appealing to a tribunal

By Abby Amoakuh

Nikki Haley pushes ahead of Ron DeSantis as Chris Christie drops out of presidential race

By Abby Amoakuh

Netizens are comparing the Israel-Hamas war to the Hunger Games franchise. Here’s why it doesn’t work

By Abby Amoakuh

TikTok comedian Matt Rife’s issue with his female fanbase is misogyny at its finest

By Abby Amoakuh

Noah Schnapp faces renewed controversy after apology video and defence from Stranger Things co-star

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

What is Rumble, the YouTube copycat home to problematic men like Russell Brand and Andrew Tate?