On a Scale of Kate Middleton to SJP, We’ll Walk You Through the Art of Wearing a Hairbow as an Adult

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grown up hairbow universal
Rachel Bowie

Ever since Kate Middleton first stepped out in 2018 wearing the most delicate velvet hairbow attached to her ponytail, my interest in the formerly child-like hair accessory was piqued. Fast forward to 2023, when Sarah Jessica Parker wore a practically floor-length bow to the New York City Ballet’s fall fashion gala and the accessory officially went from being a twee relic of the past to a must-try.

As a 90s kid, I grew up with so. many. bows in my hair arsenal. They were on headbands and barrettes, but also on hats and even chokers, which I wore with such pride way back when. Fashionable? They were not.

Cue the 2023 hairbow resurgence, which comes in a range of shapes and textures that both minimalists and maximalists can enjoy. Are they as easy to pull off as the Princess of Wales and SJP make them seem? We tested a selection of bows out and chatted with a couple of experts, too.

Meet the Experts

  • Ryan Trygstad is a precision stylist and co-owner of the New York City-based Mark Ryan Salon. His clients range from Kelly Ripa to Naomi Watts and Emma Roberts.
  • Jennifer Behr is queen of the luxury hair accessory—bows included—and founder of one of fashion’s pioneering luxury hair accessory brands. Her pieces are beloved by celebs including America Ferrera, Nicole Kidman, Zendaya and more.
kate middleton and sjp hairbow
Cindy Ord/Max Mumby/Getty Images

Why Are Hairbows Trending Now?

We can hem and haw about getting a butterfly haircut and the decision to dye our hair “cherry cola” red, but adding a hairbow is a low-pressure, high-impact way to dress up your mane—and, even better, one that’s not permanent. Based on the way celebs like Brie Larson and Emma Watson are wearing them, bigger and bolder is definitely better. In other words, the hairbows of 2023 aren’t the schoolgirl styles we’re used to seeing. Instead, they come with an interesting texture or a floor-length tail. Hair is also styled with precision. (Just look at SJP and her half-up, slicked-back strands.)

“I love this current bow moment we’re in,” says Behr. “It’s super romantic, but also a bit tongue in cheek. Women are wearing the bow, which used to be very little girl, in an empowered Fashion—with a capital F—way.”

It’s also an easy way to add character to your look. “Bows are a timeless silhouette, but one that has range. You can wear one that is big and covered in crystals and very over the top or choose a style that’s classic like a black velvet bow. People like when they can take a trend and make it their own,” she adds.

grown up bow options
Jennifer Behr/Hill House Home/J.Crew

How to Wear a Hairbow as an Adult

Cue my own hairbow experiment: I already snapped up a smaller, more understated bow at J.Crew the minute Kate Middleton was pictured wearing one, but I was eager to kick things up a notch now.

First, I checked in with Trygstad for some tips on pulling off a bow in 2023. His number one piece of advice is to not overthink it—in fact, he loves saving ribbons from pretty packages and gifts and turning them into hairbows. “Translucent bows, finer ribbons, anything silk or velvet. You’d be amazed what you can create with a clip and a hot glue gun,” he says.

For everyday wear, Trygstad’s go-to look is to sweep hair to the side and clip the bow further back behind the ear. “Positioning a hairbow to the side creates easy dimension, but also adds a bit of romanticism,” he says. Of course, the most obvious and easiest way to style a bow is either with your hair pulled half-back or fully up. Also, the sleeker your strands, the more grown up your bow will feel.

And if you want to go bigger and bolder, Trygstad says to consider the proportions of what you’re wearing with the bow. “You want to think about the entire look. If you’ve got a big sleeve, you want a bigger bow; for an exposed shoulder, an oversized bow also feels right. But you can also add a bow—say, a 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch to a sportier look.”

What I Learned From Wearing Hairbows in the Wild

I tested a range of styles to find a hairbow that best suited my taste. The characteristics that I found to be the most practical for everyday wear: A bigger bow with texture.

Enter Jennifer Behr’s Harper Bow Barrette. I wore it to the park, to the office, to school pickup and on a few recent nights out. My favorite part: I could pop it into my locks without a mirror in sight. It was easy to clip in and it gave my outfits extra flair without stealing the show or being too over the top. In fact, for a group dinner this week, I wore this particular bow with a pair of jeans, a black sweater and cherry red coat. My bow was the talk of the table! “OK, we all need bows,” my friends remarked.

I did experiment with a few longer-length styles, too, but found they weren’t as easy to pull off on, say, a play date or grocery run (though I’d certainly wear one to a fancy dinner). Anyway, seeing as how bows—and the myriad ways to wear them—are continuing to trend, I look forward to trying more styles in the new year. 

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...