Why you’re always the right age to don a bow (2024)

Now & Then is an occasional series that delves into the cyclical nature of trends.

The very first thing Betsey Johnson designed had a bow on it.

It was 1964, and Johnson was a 22-year-old Mademoiselle editor. She had started making her own clothes as an art student, and decided to whip up a few sexy low-cut knit sweaters to sell around the office for extra cash.

“But the secret was: I put a quarter-inch velvet ribbon around the neckline and a tiny bow,” Johnson, now 81, recalls. They were so popular that she had to quit her day job.


“I have three checks in purple ink from [actress] Kim Novak,” Johnson says. “She loved this bow sweater.”

Johnson has never stopped putting bows on, well, everything: choker necklaces made of pantyhose in the 1960s, strapless party dresses in the ’80s, even grunge-era minis in the ’90s. “They’re timeless,” she says. So, she’s amused to hear that the bow is having a moment, with young designers such as Sandy Liang, Simone Rocha and Tanner Fletcher adding the adornment to pantsuits, purses, barrettes and more.

Add to that list Nell Diamond, the 35-year-old founder of Hill House Home, famous for its romantic “nap dresses” and hair ribbons. She launched Hill House in 2016 and takes inspiration from British school uniforms, Pre-Raphaelite art and Johnson herself. (She has a few of her vintage 1990s dresses.) The two recently connected over Zoom to discuss all things bows.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

When did you first wear a bow?

Betsey Johnson: I think I was born with a bow! All the little girls in my classic Connecticut little cornball hometown wore bows. But the pair of bows that I wore practically every day were the bows in my tap-dancing shoes. They were the old-fashioned kind, with the two grommets and the holes that you thread your big ribbon through.

Nell Diamond: I would say the same: I’ve been in a bow since birth. I grew up mostly in London, and bows were a very big part of the quintessential English toddler look. And I loved them from a very early age. Also, I have a lot of hair, and so I liked to adorn my hair in many ways. I liked headbands. I liked bows. I liked little flowers. I couldn’t get enough.

But I had some dark eras in my life. Whenever I’ve turned away from bows, things were not going well for me. And if I put a bow back on, things would start suddenly going well again.

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Johnson: That makes sense.

Diamond: Right after college, I worked in finance.

[Johnson gasps in horror.]

Diamond: One of the hardest things for me was getting dressed to go into the office. I felt like I was putting on a costume every day, because I had to wear these dull colors. I couldn’t wear my cat-eye makeup. I wasn’t supposed to wear dark nail polish, jewelry or my bows. And I think that was a huge reason I left, and I went to business school and I started this company because I felt so unable to do the basic things I needed to do in a day when I felt like I was in somebody else’s skin.

[Johnson nods vigorously.]

I think there’s this idea that bows are juvenile, because they are so associated with femininity and girlhood.

Diamond: I was a child in the ’90s, and there was this idea that feminism and archetypal femininity aren’t paired together, when in fact they’re the most beautiful pairing in the world. I remember having a teacher tell me — yell at me — for wearing glitter eye shadow and tell me no one will ever take me seriously.

But my parents were amazing and told me my actions are what define me — and not what I wear. My mom always said, “You have to let your freak flag fly and be who you are.” Now, as CEO of a company and having raised all these rounds of venture capital and going into these board meetings, I purposely go the most extra I can in those circ*mstances.

Johnson: I get that. Take the ’90s and go backward to the ’40s, and it was the same thing. But with all my dancing and costumes and makeup, what I really wanted to be was a Rockette, but I was too short!

But to me, bows were very sexy, very glamorous. Betty Grable, Lauren Bacall. Lingerie. My dance teacher was the most amazing costume designer, and she always believed bows should work. And that was a design element that I always believed in. I never put a fake bow. Bows had to always work, because that’s the beauty of a bow.

Diamond: I totally agree that bows should be functional! I think that that’s actually their origin: It’s a very functional thing to tie something, and then you make it pretty [by finishing it off with a bow]. You need the [string or ribbon] for a reason, but that doesn’t mean it can’t look amazing at the same time.


Do you see something subversive about bows?

Johnson: One of my favorite dresses I designed with bows was very punk. It was black and had all these tiny bows, beautifully tied, like all over the place. It was like a cactus. Janis Joplin wore bows and ribbons in her hair. It’s rock-and-roll.

Diamond: I love looking at NCAA athletes who wear bows in their hair when they’re competing. I love seeing Olympic skiers with little bows on each pigtail. I love people who challenge our expectations, and I think that there’s a really beautiful thing about doing that with bows.

Johnson: Bows can be completely timeless and made out of anything, from plastic to net to tulle. I love tulle bows — wispy, thin tulle or stiff tulle. It’s fun to experiment with what can actually make a bow.

Diamond: Have you seen the trend that’s going around that’s like people putting bows on random things? Like in our office, we put bows on Diet co*ke cans sometimes.

Johnson: Oh my gosh!

Diamond: Or tie one on the fridge handle or on a lamp. I love this idea of, “Why not?” Why not just pop a bow on a random thing? Make your Diet co*ke beautiful.

Johnson: That’s brilliant. I think we need bows right now — especially in these times we’re living in. People want uplifting. They want fun. They want playfulness. We need more buttons and bows and beads.

Maybe that’s why bows are so resonant now.

Johnson: I don’t know, but I’m happy about it. I love bows.


Why you’re always the right age to don a bow (2024)


What is the right age to start archery? ›

While 8 is the general recommended age to start archery as a kid, learning how to shoot a bow and arrow more so comes down to a child's strength, maturity, and physical ability.

Can a 4 year old shoot a bow? ›

If you have kids, you are probably old enough to grab a bow and shoot an arrow straight to the bullseye – even though it may take you a little bit of practice before you can. Children, on the other hand, are an entirely different thing. Most experts agree children are capable to use a bow when they are three years old.

What does the bow symbolize? ›

The bow was known as a weapon of hunting and warfare from very early times in Egypt and throughout the ancient Near East. I It also functioned as an extremely important symbol of monarchial power.

Can old people do archery? ›

Age is no barrier to archery and the body mechanics to shoot a bow are something most people won't have come across previously, so everyone starts from the same point.”

Is 13 too old to start archery? ›

There is never a “too old” age group for learning archery. You can start building your skillset at any time, with the right lessons and instructor. Beginning archery is open to all! At Buck & Doe's Mercantile, our archery experts can help you determine the right fit for your child.

Can a 11 year old do archery? ›

Archery is a sport that has no limits: age, gender or ability. USA Archery coaches have access to adaptive coaching resources and can help archers overcome any challenge to entering the sport.

Is 12 too late to start archery? ›

A person can learn archery at any age. Your body is still growing at 13, so if you start now, your muscles will respond accordingly.

Is 18 too old to start archery? ›

You're never too old for archery, but it's never too soon to start, either!

Is 15 too late to start archery? ›

Archery is a fine sport for (almost) any age.

What does the Bible say about bow? ›

With the prevalence of warfare as the background to the word 'bow', its use in Genesis 9.13 is even more potent. God relinquishes the right to use the bow destructively, and instead chooses to offer it as a sign for the covenant of peace and reconciliation between God and all creation.

What is bow in the Bible? ›

The bow is a symbol of victory ( Psalms 7:12 ). It denotes also falsehood, deceit ( Psalms 64:3 Psalms 64:4 ; Hosea 7:16 ; Jeremiah 9:3 ). "The use of the bow" in 2 Samuel 1:18 (A.V.) ought to be "the song of the bow," as in the Revised Version. These dictionary topics are from.

What the Bible Says About arrows? ›

God also chastens His people with sharp arrows, as Job experienced, "For the arrows of the Almighty are within me" (Job 6:4), and as David complains, "For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore" (Ps. 38:2).

Is archery good for ADHD? ›

Relaxing forms of exercise can also be beneficial for people with ADHD as they can help relieve stress, support their sense of control, and manage impulsiveness. Archery is a great sport that can help to benefit: Focus. Coordination.

Is archery a skill or talent? ›

Archers may hone their skills for sport and enter competitions, hunt game to provide for themselves, their family or tribe, or even utilize this skill as a form of self defense in dire circ*mstances. In some cultures as well as in fiction, archery is a prized skill in battle.

Does archery change your body? ›

Archery builds strength

Repeating these movements as you shoot builds and strengthens these areas, defining the muscles and developing them. It's not just your upper body that gets a workout on the range, though. The stability and control that an archer has is drawn from the lower body and core.

Can I start archery at 12? ›

You can be any age to try Arrows' archery but some clubs have age restrictions for courses. Contact your local club to find out more.


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