Alice bands - the resurgence of a prim, proper, Prada lady

Alice bands are called so because of Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", in which the eponymous character is seldom seen without her blue hairband.

Yes, those artsy girls you see wearing maxi skirts and an 8-year-old’s hair accessories are really onto something. In the past year or so we’ve seen an array of clips, pins and barrettes. Be they of the Y2K, nostalgia-induced, Claire’s Accessories kind, or a more elegant, grown-up, pearly variety. Whilst these styles still rage on, a new hair-related trend has emerged. And for inspiration, you’d do just as well to look at your own primary school photos as you would snaps of First Ladies and English princesses. Although her political influence isn’t all she had hoped for, her sartorial influence is going strong: it’s time to channel Hillary Clinton. 

Hillary Clinton in 1992

Clinton wearing an Alice band, pearls and a cardigan: a combination loved by respectable ladies, middle aged aunts, and - more recently - the fashion "it" crowd.

A style icon in her own right, Jackie Kennedy's coordinated skirt suits were never complete without some form of headwear (in a matching colour, of course).

For the past decade it had been rather quiet on the hair accessory front. The closest thing to a hair accessory “craze” I can remember in recent times was the velvet scrunchie apocalypse of American Apparel’s heyday. Or circa 2012 when a Crips bandana tied round my head with badly applied eyeliner made me feel like a bad bitch though I was a 12-year-old white girl from London’s suburbs. For the most part women had worn their hair without much adornment. But it was only a matter of time until the 90s embellishments would come back. 

When Alexa Chung, purveyor of many a trend, sported multiple clips in her hair, people began to re-think the tackiness of a maximalist approach to accessories.

We were eased into hair-decoration with the resurgence of cute hairclips, and now there’s space for the prim and proper yet adorably girlish Alice band too. Maybe it’s a response to the brashness of streetwear that has dominated the fashion-sphere as of late. It seems that instead of opting for the unisex streetwear look, many women want to embrace their femininity through their attire, with hair accessories galore, puffed sleeves, pearls and long, flowy skirts. Or, even better, some will mix maxi dresses with a pair of ever-hyped trainers for a combination of romance and “edge”. 

Vivian Hoorn, an Amsterdam-based creative, showing us how to marry "granny" and streetwear.

Marketing agency founder Babba C. Rivera ticking all the boxes in terms of current trends: oversized headband, pearls, mint green, pastels, power suit...

Spanish-born Maria Bernad, designer and creative director of Les Fleurs Studio.

1995's Clueless featured an abundance of headbands.

The Alice band has graced the heads of style icons such as Clueless’ Cher Horowitz (a movie which is in itself an aesthetic treasure trove) and Princess Diana. It is no wonder, then, that it has been embraced by a fashion climate which loves to turn to the past for inspiration. Rather than looking back to the colourfully tacky butterfly clips of the 90s, though, this is a homage to the polished, preppy look. And when Kate Middleton was seen wearing one in late 2018, it was an important signpost in the trend’s timeline. 

Princess Diana's sartorial influence is not lost on Gen Z. Just ask Pretty Little Thing how well their cycling shorts are selling. 

Sarah, Duchess of York, in 1989

Kate Middleton in November 2018

Back in September of last year, Miuccia Prada pretty much guaranteed that the Alice band would make a comeback with her styling of Prada’s Spring 2019 show. She had the majority of her models stepping out in almost comically-oversized, padded headbands, a move which signified that wearing velvet halos was acceptable again. A happy aspect of this decade’s iteration of ultra-girly style is that it does nothing to hinder the ongoing fight for gender equality. In other words, taking style inspiration from a 60s housewife or a 90s British princess is not an act of submission to the patriarchy, but an unapologetic expression of femininity. Prada herself made it clear in a 2018 interview with British Vogue the disdain that was held towards women who loved both feminism and fashion: “Being a feminist in the 1970s, you can imagine how inappropriate it was talking about fashion. But I loved it so much that I did it.”

Prada SS19

Alice bands as sported by 60s housewives.

Shrimps AW19

Alessandra Rich SS19, flawlessly channelling the respectable wife of a politician.

I think that at one point or another all women have felt a certain shame about their femininity. In primary school I had a phase where I vehemently insisted I was a tomboy, which I later understood as an attempt to separate myself from the perceived "other girls". Now I know that a love for all things girly and an intelligent, analytical mind are not mutually exclusive (obviously) and approximately 50% of my possessions are baby pink. So, whether you want to channel 90s prep, British royalty, First Ladies, Hollywood sirens, your 8-year-old self or just want to add some classic femininity to your wardrobe, you can enjoy an Alice band. 

Audrey Hepburn in 1958, with her pet fawn.

Grace Kelly in 1955

Browse for your very own Alice band below...

Satin headband from Boohoo, £4

Velvet headband from Never Fully Dressed, £10

Satin headband from And Other Stories, £23

Pearl headband from Shrimps, £150 (sigh)

Written by Anastasia Vartanian


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