Tuesday, November 1, 2011

For Love of the Pussycat Bow by Gail Carriger

 I adore pussycat bow shirts. They have that lovely prim and proper yet slightly hot feel to them ~ very sexy librarian. I don't understand why anyone would have an objection to this kind of top, but apparently there are some who find them challenging.

Here I am at various events sporting the big bow.

With Carrie at WorldCon 2010 in Melbourne and at WorldCon several years earlier in what is technically a tie front not a pussycat.
With Cindy during the Blameless bouk tour and at BEA in 2009 launching Soulless.

One advantage of the pussycat? They draw attention up to the face and away from theRack, or so I like to pretend.

Here's my collection . . .

The two browns. The darker one was thrifted from Haight Street $15, the lighter one I bought from Max Studio outlet for about $30. It's a little too small and is just about to go to consignment because of The Move.
The grey one is vintage, possibly from the 80s but it could be the 50s, I had to do some tailoring at the sides, came from 23 Skido I think, $20. The periwinkle has gone off to a new home, I just didn't have much to go with that color, Thrifted, $10.
I might get rid to this red one, I just can't find a way to wear it without the bra showing and it's really to warm to wear with an undershirt, not to mention added bulk. It's a modern piece, $10, thrifted. The tan blouse is relatively new, it needs a little sewing, I got it in Sabastopol at a vintage store there, it's 1970's $15. I haven't worn it yet but I am a little concerned about the color.

There are so many different ways to sport this look, from counter color to matched, from vintage to modern.

You can go knitted or as a gown, sleek and tiny or big and ultra retro.

If you are going to go for a blouse form and you are contending with the Rack, I suggest a knitwear version is your best option. Barring that, with autumn upon us, opt for layering your pussycat blouse under a fitted vest, cardy, or sleek blazer.

Technically, if the bow lies at the bottom of a v-neckline and isn't up high, it's called a tie-front blouse. But I tend to lump them all under pussycat. However, I think the tie-front is also a good option for the Rack, so long as the tie part falls above it, and not on it or bellow.

If you are going to opt for the flowy and filmy blouse style pussycat and you don't want to layer it make certain to choose the right options for your bottom half.

Unless you have a very short torso this means choosing bottoms that stop at the waist (no higher) and which are fitted in around the hips to counteract the blouse's poofiness. A pencil skirt, a-line skirt, or flattering formal trousers are all good options. You might consider tailoring your blouse in from bellow the chest down to cut the volume, also safety pinning it to your undies (yes, I said it) or tucking into your control-top nylons are valid options  ~ so long as no one is going to see you removing the outfit that night! And, so long as your bottom is indeed tight in at the waist (so nylons or undies don't show there).

I'd avoid more modern looks. Don't get me wrong, I love aspects of the above images: the small pattern purple with the black leather skirt and red shoe; the white blouse with the black bow; and the black and white pattern combo with the peach bow, but the cuts combos are flawed. We have what is referred to in fashion parlance as playing with volume. Those of us with a rack are already battling volume. I'm against a lady-like blouse with a full, ruffled, or bubble skirt. It's just a whole lot of puffy for one body to handle, unless a very skinny and tall body.

That said a ladylike blouse with a tough leather skirt? Very nice and edgy. Or black and white broken up by one pop of color? So chic.

There is also the side-tied pussycat to consider, if you are inclined to asymmetry.

And, of course, you can make one of your favorite collared blouses or suit jackets into a pussycat by simply adding a little ribbon.

Middle is a blouse from 1936, right is a Norman Norell dress ca. 1964 via The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

You can aslo go pretty crazy with the pussycat bow, please resist the temptation.

Middle Norman Norell ensemble ca. 1970-1971 via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and right LWL kelly wearstler.

When in doubt, opt for something in a single color pallet and more subtle, generally the bow does most of the fashion work for you.

1940's lovely polkadot and Norman Norell dress ca. 1961 via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art


  1. omg! the picture you used for the alexia version is one of my favorites!! when i was kid my mom had a book w/ that picture in it & i used to stare at it for hours coming up w/ stories about the people in it. how funny to see it years later on this blog!!

  2. Not that you should listen to someone who's as fashion challenged as me, but a suggestion for the red shirt. Try a pink cami under it. Yes, people can still see it, but the combo of pink and red is always popular. It would be neat for Valentine's Day, and cami's aren't as hot as undershirts since they don't have sleeves. Plus the bra would be hidden.

    I don't like anything that draws attention to my face. Especially the double chin.

  3. I used to be dead set against the pussycat bow (or pretty much any bow that wasn't on my sneakers or tying my pony tail), but after reading this blog I've become a lot less hostile to them. In fact, I have bought two shirts with pussycat bows just this year. They're actually quite fun to wear and the ones I have look lovely :)

    Unfortunately, I don't have Facebook, so can't show you any pictures, but one is a red short sleeved satin(ish?) top and the other is a purple long sleeve light weight/semi sheer top over a thicker darker purple cami.

    Other things your blog has changed my mind about: cardigans (as casual/daywear, as opposed to just office wear) and pink clothes. I even now own a pink cardigan!

    Basically I think your blog is marvellous and I love seeing all the different style you show. It's helping me broaden and create my own fashion interests and I'm really happy with the wardrobe/style I'm slowly building for myself. So thank-you for all the hard work and thought you put into this blog :D

  4. Oh everstone thank you so much. What a totally sweet thing to say. I'm so honored to have had some kind of wardrobe effect.

  5. Super post! I have big love for the pussycat bow - it goes against the 'rules' for big boobs, being buttoned up to the neck, but as you say, because of the distraction thing, it somehow works!

    xx Charlotte
    Tuppence Ha'penny Vintage

  6. Awe, thank you so much Charlotte. I adore your blog, by the way. I hope you don't mind my occasionally ganking images of you for examples of Retro fabulousness (I always try to remeber to provide a link over). ~ Gail


If you are using LJ to comment, it may not work.