If you’re a part of the cosplay world it is more likely than not that you’re going to come across a fancy bow at some point. Be it a smart bow tie for your 11th Doctor, or the perfect pink lacey piece for your Sweet Lolita gown, you’re going to want to know how to get it done properly. Here I am going to outline two different types of bow – firstly, the super simple ribbon bow made from a piece of wide satin ribbon, and secondly the more detailed fabric bow that involves sewing, pressing, mitred corners and a bit of decoration. Once you have the basics down, you can take the style in all sorts of directions, making gigantic bows for your Japanese Obi or heavily decorated brocade ones for the stomacher of your Marie Antoinette costume. So, let’s get started, shall we?

Ribbon Bow Tutorial

To begin, we will look at the basic ribbon bow. Here I have half a metre of white satin ribbon ____wide. There are two ways to do this depending on the style of bow you want.

Firstly, you can lay the pieces across like this, with the edges sticking out


And then take a piece about 8cm long, fold it lengthways in half like this


And wrap around the X that you’ve made.


If you have a polyester ribbon, make sure all the edges have been sealed at the edge – you can do this by carefully running a lighter close to (but not touching) the edge. Please be careful when using fire, you may need to ask someone to help.

And there you have it! Your simple satin ribbon bow. You can add a few bits to bling it up, here I’ve put on some hot fix crystals to make it sparkle!

Fabric Bow Tutorial

So now that you’ve mastered the ribbon bow, lets move on to something a little more complicated.

To make the fabric bow, take the fabric that you want to use and lay it flat – make sure it has been pressed so there are no creases. To make this bow I started with a square 20cm by 20cm and folded it in half, and then stitched along the edges leaving a 1cm seam allowance.


You’ll want to leave an opening around the centre of the longest side like this, so that once you’re done you can ‘mitre’ the corners by cutting them diagonally as shown.


And then turn the whole thing inside out through that gap.


Use the closed end of your scissors or a pencil to gently poke the corners through completely and use your fingers to press the edges down so that it’s as flat as possible and the seams are on the edges. Use a hand-sewing needle to do small stitches to close the hole in the centre; now you can carefully iron the whole thing flat (this is called ‘pressing’).


So next we want to do mostly the same, but with a smaller piece; the size is usually down to personal preference – I’ve used a piece that is 2cm and added seam allowance; the length needs to be enough to fit around the bow, so I made mine about 6cm long knowing that I would need to cut it down. When you go to sew it, there’s no need to go around the ends, just sew along the long side so it basically becomes a tube, then turn through and iron. After that, you should end up with two pieces like this:


If you want to add fancy edges to the bow, this is the point to do it – I’ve shown a couple of options that you could try.


I decided I liked the look of the lace, so I just threaded a needle and hand-stitched it onto the edges.

Find the centre of the longer edge, and pinch both sides together. Wrap the narrow piece around and pin at the back like this;


So now you can take a needle and thread and stitch it closed. Flip it over and voila! You have a bow!


Velveteena Leigh is a North London based costume maker specialising in corsetry, cosplay and historical costuming with recent ventures into lingerie/fetishwear. She is especially fond of anything involving glitter or sequins.