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Tied up in style
Some trends never go out of style - like perky bows atop little girls' heads
Hall County girls Birdie Gailey Gurley, left and Sylvia G. Head pose for a photo dressed in "middy blouse suits" around 1912 or 1913. - photo by Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Division of Archives and History, Office of Secretary of State

Some things never go out of style.

Southerners will likely embrace the Bible for ages, middle-aged men will covet the cars of their youth and little girls will flaunt sweet hair bows.

For more than a century now, bows have graced the heads of local elementary school girls.

The accessory has also gained popularity worldwide. Russians once thought enough of large hair bows to require young schoolgirls to wear them.

At Gainesville and Hall County elementary schools, red, orange, green and white bows decorate elementary schoolers. There's striped bows and bows with polka dots. Then there's seasonal bows adorned with jack-o'-lanterns, Georgia Bulldogs, Santa Claus and even jingle bells.

Kendra Bates, 7, said she's one of a handful of bow-wearing girls in her second-grade class at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy.

"I like wearing bows because they make me feel special," Kendra said with a snaggle-toothed grin. "I'm a hair bow kind of girl ... They're pretty slick."

While Kendra said she wears bows a couple of times a week, Emma Ingle, 6, said she wears bows a lot.

"Almost all the time. My mom makes me wear them," Emma said.

Emma and her first-grade Enota classmate Adeline Bryant, 6, said they'll wear bows for now. But their moms' window of planting bows in their hair may soon come to a close.
"I'll wear bows until third grade, and then I'll stop," Adeline declared.

Adeline's mother, Cindy Bryant, said she and her daughter have had to compromise.

"Our new rule is she has to wear them at least to church," Bryant said. "It's so cute. It's dressy. To me, it's part of being a little girl."

Bryant said she uses a subtle technique to get Adeline to wear a bow. She said she plunks a ribbon down on Adeline's head and usually Adeline forgets she's wearing it.

Emma's mom, Kelley Ingle, said she's put bows in Emma's hair since she was about 2 years old and had two hairs to pin together.

"It's a Southern thing," Ingle said. "The thing down here is the smocked Bishop dresses and the big bows in their hair."

But moms said bow-wearing comes at a price. The handmade bows made by Bows Arts sold at Hansel & Gretel Children's Boutique in Buford range from $3 to about $10. Other area boutiques can get even fancier, with bows costing up to about $15.

Delores Betsill, part owner of Hansel & Gretel Children's Boutique, said bows are a big seller.

"Bows are really in," Betsill said. "The small and large classic bows are the best sellers, but we do a lot of infant and toddler (bows), too."

"Then we have the giant bow," Betsill said. "It's a huge bow. It's almost like a hat. You'd only wear one at a time."

Bows can also be custom made at the boutique to match outfits, she said. Grosgrain, satin, organza and velveteen are the most common ribbon materials used for bows sold at the store.

Even with the slow economy and high gas prices, Betsill said the boutique's bows keep drawing quite a few shoppers from Gainesville.

"I think it's hot still," Ingle said of the time-tested bow. "I think it always will be in the South, too."

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