*** > collar bows: patterns

Bows on Boys' Collars: Patterns

boys collar nows
Figure 1.--This boy wearing a classic Fauntleroy suit, probably in the 1890s, has a large plaid, but not tartan bow. The tails of the bow fall to his waist. Notice the white edging on the bow.

A great variety of colors and patterns were used for boys' collar bows. Unfortunately the black and white photography of the day makes it difficult to fully assess the bows. Thus information on bow colors will have to come primarily from research on period fashion periodicals. The patterns, however, are relatively easy to assess even with black and white research. The colors and patterbs selected in most cases reflect the mother's preferences. One aspect I am not sure of is what the boys thought of the different options, whether they had preferences as to colors and patterns. Cerainly these bows must have been impossible for the younger boy to tie and thus somewhat of a bother, but I am not sure if they had or expressed preferences as to colors and patterns.


Virtually every major type of pattern was used on boys' collar bows. We see a lot of solid colored bows in various colors, but bows with patterns seem even more popular. One reflection of the popularity, at least with the mothrs, is how commonly the different patterns appear in the photographic record of the day. Plaids were very popular. We also notice a lot of striped bows. Plaids and sripes were particularly popular and appear to occur most commonly in the photographic record. Unfortunately the riot of colors in olasiuds abnd stripes is lost in the black and white photography of he day. Also used were polka dots, polka-dot like patterns and checks to a lesser degree. These were not as common as the plaids and stripes, but we see a nmumber of them. The polkadot-like patterns night also be done in curcular firms, but we also see other figures and shapes discpersed in polka-dot like fashion. These are some times lost unless we have a close-up of the bow. They did not show up as well as actual polka-dots which are solid bits of pure color..


HBC is not sure how patterns varied over time and among countries. There may have also been age and gender differences--although collar bows for some reason were much more commonly worn by boys than girls. Girls in contrast were much more likelty to wear hair bows which could be huge. As for collar bows, the United States was the epi-center fir bioys' collar bows. This was largely because large, colorful bows were strongly associated with the Fauntleroy craze. And no country embraced the Fauntleroy style like the United States.

Types of Patterns

HBC has noted boys wearing floppy bows with quite a wide range of different patterns. The plaid patterns were probably the most common. But there were many other patterns that were commonly worn, such as plaid, stripes, and polka-dots. Yhere were in addition, several others. HBC has archived quite a range of bows worn by boys. We have, however, only limited information on the different patterna.


My initial assessment is that plaid, but not tartan, bows were the most popular. These come in a great diversity of patterns and color mixtures. Usually there is a white background to the plaid. This pattern was suitable for just about any boys's garment in the late 19th century--except the sailor suit. A good example is an unidentified American boy in the 1890s. Another example is Robert Mason Hamilton, a Chicago boy in 1897.

Plaid Tartan

Plaid tartans were another popular choice. The tartan bow, like the plaid bow, were appear to be particularly popular for kiltsuits. They were also a popular choice for black Fauntleroy suits because of the often bright colors in the tartan. Unfortunately the black and white photography does not provide any clues to the actual colors.


Polka dot bows were also popular, but I notice far few examples in the photographic record than the other styles. We notice boys wearing both light-colored bows with dark dots and dark bows with light-colored dots. As the photograpgs are all black and white, we are not sure about the actual colors. A number of boys with polksdot bows are archived on HBC. The polkadots varied in size. One example is Elyde Synder & Elyde Porter. Another example is an unidentified American boy, probably in the 1880s. Another example is Clayton Reitz, probably about 1890.


Checks were a very popular style. Somewhat related to plaids, checks have consistently sizes alternating square boxes of color and white. Almost always one of the alternating colored boxes is white. A good example of a checkef floppy bow is one worn by an American boy about 1890.

Figure 2.--This American boy wears a large stripped bow with his otherwise rather mature looking suit and small collar. Many mothers had their sons wear such bows with therir first mature-looking suit as a transition from sailor suits and Fauntleroy suts.


Stripes were another popular pattern. Boys wore a wide range of stripped bows. There were different widths of stripes and color combinations. Some striped bows had two colors and others more. Both bright and muted colors were worn, HBC is not sure about the relative popularity of the different stripe color patterns. Red and bue stripes appear to have been a popular color pattern, but of course colors are difficult to assess in blak and white photographs. The striped bow appear to have been generally cut on a diagonal bias rather like modern ties, but the way the bows are tied it is often difficut to tell. Some of the stripped patterns we have seen on the bows we have also noted on ties.


We notice some bows that look rather like plaid, but in fact are disecting stripes forming squares. Usually these are dark colored bows with light colored lines. Unfortunately the black and white photography gives us no clue as to the actual colors. This pattern is not as common as some of the others that we have noted.


Some patterns were done by weaves and not by collors. These are difficult to see in photographs unless we have a close-up and the lighting is right. The patterns themselves are quite varied. I think these weave patterns were mostly done in dark bows. As they are so difficult to see in yje available photographic portraits, we only have archived a few exapmple, One such example is an American boy, H. Harry Cowell in 1890.


A variety of other patters were used for boys' collar bows. Some we are not even sure how to describe. We see one Reading, Pennsylvania boy with a solid-colored floppy bow that had a kind of broken womdering line. This was not a very common pattern.


A few of the patterened bows appear to have a little white edging--apparently a lace affect. This does not seem to have been the case of the solid color bows, but some of the pattern bows do appear to have this edging.


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Created: February 15, 2001
Last updated: 2:13 PM 12/27/2023