In Nicki Minaj’s song Get On Your Knees, she uses the line “Got a bow on my panties ’cause my ass is a present.”
While this has been a tradition women have become accustomed to, it got me to thinking as to why panties have bows on them in the first place?
It was assumed by many that having a bow on the front of your panties was used to help women get dressed in the dark back in the days of no electricity and needing to get up early to manage the household.
But the same question was asked on a recent Reddit thread and one of the responses sparked a curious theory as to how the bow really came about:
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.
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. The little bow is where you tied that ribbon, and of course it’s in the front because that’s the easiest place to do something like that.
Not to be left out, men during the Middle Ages once had bows on their undergarments to keep them from falling off.
via Revival Clothing
History Extra goes on to further explain a woman having a bow on her undergarments in the Middle Ages was seen a hussy who sleeps around more than the public expected her to. Which it’s probably safe to assume back in those days, women were only allow to sleep with a man if she intended on getting knocked up.
Paintings, woodcuts and book illustrations both of sacral and secular themes show only men wearing this type of underpants: a small piece of cloth covering buttocks and pubic area fastened with narrow straps tied in a bow at the hips. When women are shown wearing pants it’s always in the context of ‘a world turned upside down’. Trousers and underpants were considered a symbol of male power and women wearing them were pugnacious wives trying to usurp the authority of their husbands, or women of low morality.
A book illustration from a German translation of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Famous Women, published in 1474, displays Semiramis, Queen of the Assyrians, and two of her ladies-in-waiting wearing underpants. But of her it is said “Semiramis, a woman once Ninus’ wife, masqueraded as a boy, his son” and “it is believed that she gave herself to many men. Among her lovers was her own son Ninyas.”
Obviously times have changed since the Middle Ages where in present day, men would be ridiculed for having a bow on their boxers.
As for the inferred meaning that women only have a bow on their panties because they might sleep around a lot, I’ll stick with the excuse the bow is to help the ladies get dressed in the dark when coffee hasn’t quite set in.