Why do knickers have a bow on the front?

Woman in pants with hand on hip
Most knickers have a little bow on the front – ever wondered why? (Getty Images) (Delmaine Donson via Getty Images)

Whether you buy your knickers from high street staple such as Marks & Spencer and John Lewis, or high-end designers like La Perla and Agent Provocateur, most will have one design feature in common.

There is often a little bow in the centre front of knickers at the very top.

Most of us won't have given the little bow a second thought – even if it does come in handy when working out which way around to put your pants on.

But it turns out there's more to the tiny bow than you might have initially thought.

The little bow is a common design feature of knickers. (REUTERS)
The little bow is a common design feature of knickers. (REUTERS) (Stefan Wermuth / reuters)

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If you've ever wondered why so many panties have that little bow on the centre front, you're not the only one.

The most common answer shared by both internet sleuths and fashion historians is that the bow dates back to before elastic was invented.

Drawstring ribbons tied up with a bow at the front kept underwear from falling down as before the stretchy fabric was invented – but today it remains on knickers for aesthetic reasons.

One person said on Reddit: "Now? Because it's cute, it's feminine, it evokes innocence, and it makes it really easy to tell which side is the front when dressing hastily in the dark.

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"As for the roots of the tradition? It comes from pre-elastic days when your underthings were held in place by a bit of ribbon threaded through the eyelet lace at the tops."

Working knickers and pulling knickers on line
Most knickers today still feature a bow on the front, although the reason dates much further back in history. (Getty Images) (Peter Dazeley via Getty Images)

The most common response was that the bow kept underwear from falling down as elastic was yet to be invented – but today it also remains on knickers for aesthetic reasons," they added.

Many of us today use the bow to distinguish the front and back of our pants as we get ready for work in a bleary-eyed daze.

But this has been going on for centuries as before electricity, many women would have to get up before dawn and dress in the dark – or by candlelight.

Many people admitted they hadn't known the reason behind the bow, with some even claiming it had "blown their mind" when they found out the news. Plus, who doesn't love a bit of embellishment?

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