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 Or score vintage fabrics from thrift stores or even from clothes that might be out of date.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, (as pictured here) and the sleeker bat-wing variety. Hugh Laurie or Elvis Costello? Sean Combs or Daniel Craig? Which one you prefer depends on whether you’re going for a tongue-in-cheek panache or a certain punk minimalism.

Beats fashion, and according to the New York Times, the bow tie is back this year. That’s the great thing about being playful with your wardrobe – sooner or later everything will be in vogue again.


Dimensions: 4.5″ long x 2.5″ wide

You will need:

  • 5/8 yard of silk fabric, 45″ wide
  • 1/4 yard of fusible interfacing, 45″ wide
  • coordinating thread
  • 1 bow tie set *


Enlarge the pattern on graph paper. Scale is 1 square = ½ inch


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, according to manufacturer’s directions.

4. Pin the right sides together of each bow tie section to each interfaced bow tie section. Stitch using ½ inch seam allowance, leaving a 2-inch-wide opening along the straight side of both pieces.

5. Grade the edges (trim ¼ inch from the top edge to reduce the bulk) and trim the corners, then turn each piece right-side out  (I use a loop turner)  and steam 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.

* A bow tie set is 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 or tailor supply stores.