BOW ties are back, and not just with über-geeky Republicans such as Tucker Carlson.
Jay-Z, Brandon Flowers of the Killers and Gnarls Barkley’s Cee-Lo are all making fashion statements with them — the sleek black bow ties that accompany classic tuxes, of course, but also bow ties in vibrant colors and dapper tartans. Ties that look good with a retro suit or even jeans — pulled into a smart knot or left dangling at the collar. On the Calvin Klein runway, they were worn with sweater vests and jodhpurs, top hats and ski jackets. At the L.A. shows, Christian Audigier took them street, mixing basic black bow ties with leather jackets and skinny jeans.
And if you don’t want to raid your father’s (or grandfather’s) closet, take a cue from Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Dhani Jones (who loves bow ties so much they’ve become his signature style off the field): design your own.
With a simple pattern and less than a yard of fabric, you can sew a bow tie in less than an hour — and for just a few dollars. Kind of a brilliant maneuver during prom season. (Or, if you’re not handy with a needle and thread, bring the fabric to a tailor or dry cleaner — whoever hems your jeans is more than able to do the job.)
You can start with almost anything: old-fashioned silks or snazzy brocades, pop polka dot or preppy pinstripes. Or score vintage fabrics from thrift stores or even from clothes that might be out of date. Solid or stripe, paisley or Art Deco, a bow tie can do a rare thing to a man’s wardrobe: add notes of polish and surprise at the same time. Bow ties traditionally come in two varieties, the classic thistle or butterfly cut, and the sleeker bat-wing variety. Which one you prefer depends on whether you’re going for a tongue-in-cheek panache or a certain punk minimalism. Hugh Laurie or Elvis Costello? Sean Combs or Daniel Craig?
Once you’ve found your fabric, it’s a simple pattern that involves a bit of iron-on facing and a $1.75 adjustable hook. I started with an old Vogue pattern and reworked it slightly, lengthening the ends of the classic butterfly cut. For the sleeker model, I used a vintage tie as a pattern traced on an old newspaper, the way my mother did when she created patterns.
If you want diagonal stripes, cut against the grain, but make sure to do it the same way for each piece. You’ll also need interfacing, particularly if you’re using a soft fabric or silk.
The last thing you’ll need is a little thing called a bow tie set, a very inexpensive pair of hooks and a metal adjuster that attaches to both ends of the tie. This allows you to adjust the circumference and to tighten and loosen the tie once you’ve put it on. To find bow tie sets, check the notions section of your local fabric store; you can also buy them from online haberdashery and sewing stores such as Steinlauf and Stoller Inc. (steinlaufandstoller.com), Ortensia Sewing Supplies (www.ortensia.com.au) and Banasch’s (banaschs.com). Then just sew up the seams, flip it right-side out, slip-stitch the open edge and sew on the hooks.
A final press of the tie, a quick forage through the closets for a smart shirt, the perfect jacket, and you’re good to go. And if you’re too old for the prom, there’s always the Grammys.
HOW TO MAKE A BOW TIE
Time: About 45 minutes
Measurements: One size
Materials: 5/8 yard of 45-inch-wide fabric,
1/4 yard of 45-inch-wide iron-on interfacing,
1 bow tie set
1. Cut along the pattern’s thick solid lines for a classic thistle shape bow tie, using the outline for the longer piece first. Fold the fabric in half. Pin the pattern to the fabric, aligning it parallel to the fold (or, if you want diagonal stripes, at a 45-degree angle to the fold). Cut the fabric through the two thicknesses.
2. Repeat the process, using the pattern for the shorter piece. Now you’ll have two long pieces of fabric and two shorter pieces.
3. Cut out one long piece and one short piece from the interfacing. Iron the interfacing to the wrong side of one of each length of the fabric pieces.
4. Pin the right sides together of each bow tie section to each interfaced bow tie section. Stitch ( 1/2 -inch seam allowance), leaving a 2-inch-wide opening along the straight side of both pieces.
5. Layer the edges (cut 1/4 inch from the top edge to reduce the bulk) and trim the corners, then turn each piece right-side out — use a capped pen or a chopstick — and press. Slip stitch the openings.
6. Attach the pieces of the bow tie set: Thread the end of the longer tie piece through the adjuster, then through one of the hook pieces. Slide the end of the tie back through the adjuster and slip stitch the end in place. Thread the shorter tie piece through the other hook piece, turn back the end and slip stitch the edges.