How To Make A Bow Tie that Looks Professional

Can you wear a bow tie? It’s a question the Oliver Wicks experts see a lot. While they’re out of favor for formal settings like the office, a bow tie can be a fun addition to any man’s wardrobe and can be a great way to liven up any look. They’re especially used in wedding events and are a staple of black tie eventing, so every stylish gent should know how to wear a bow tie like a pro

You can also buy a premade bow tie to add to your ensemble. But did you know you can make a classy and classic bow tie with relative ease, too? Whether you need to dress like a million bucks without spending that much or have your heart set on the perfect pattern and can’t find it commercially, making a bow tie is a nifty skill to have in your pocket, so let’s take a look.

What is a Bow Tie?

A bow tie is almost literally what it says on the packet- a necktie option that’s shaped like a classic bow. It’s neat and clean and sits right at the neckline. This is why you see them used with tuxedos as a default- they’re fuss-free, symmetrical, and slim without distracting from the fancier front of the classic tuxedo shirt. They’re also part of the default cocktail wear for men.

You may be surprised to learn that the style was popularized by Croatian mercenaries in the 30-Year War! They’re part of the wider cravat family (think fancy neckties), and it’s unclear whether the traditional cravat grew out of the bow tie or vice versa. They’re often worn with fixed wing-style collars and are seen as one of the hallmarks of a truly stylish gentleman. You’ll see many noted academics and political figures of the last few centuries sporting a bow tie, and they lend a kind of old-school cool to the classic suit look.

They make a great pairing any time you wear a fussy shirt or elaborate collar, as they fill in the neckline without the extra length of a classic tie. Still not sure what they look like? Our classic Oliver Wicks white and black bow ties should give you a great idea.

Black 100% silk bow tie by Oliver Wicks

How To Make a Bow Tie

First up, it’s important to decide if you want to make a ‘real’ bow tie (read: one you tie like the elegant gent you are) or if you’re looking for a ‘quick fix’ bow tie that’s pre-tied for convenience. Both have their pros and cons, and as long as the end result is glamorous, there’s no real reason to shy away from a pre-tied bow tie. But learning to tie a bow tie properly is one of those gentlemanly skills every man should know, so why not go bold and learn to make a bow tie from scratch?

What Would I Need to Make a Bow Tie?

You will need about a ¼ yard of two kinds of fabric to make a proper bow tie. We’re often asked how to make a bow tie out of ribbon, and it can be done- but the results will not have the solid elegance of a properly made fabric bow tie. It could be great for a fun function or to spice up Father’s Day for you and your kids, but if elegance is the name of the game, stick to authentic classic fabrics.

You will also need to add ½ yard of quality interfacing to your shopping list. Two ‘slide adjusters’ for bow ties will help you shape and secure your bow tie (see an example here). These are sometimes called ‘tri-glides’ in the sewing industry. You will either need solid and discrete hemming skills or use bonding tape to secure the edges neatly. Lastly, pattern paper to help you get the cut and shape correctly, matching thread, and a sharp pair of dressmaker’s scissors will seal the deal.

The Method

  • You will begin by creating your pattern on the pattern paper. 
  • Typically, the bow tie pattern will give you a ‘long’ and a ‘short’ piece
  • Then carefully fuse the interfacing to the back of the outside fabric for your bow tie
  • Now smoothly and carefully trace the pattern shape onto the interfacing side of the bow tie
  • When you’re satisfied, all is well (double check the pattern), cut the bow tie shape out of the interfacing-bonded fabric. 
  • You need clean, neat edges, so cut carefully.
  • Repeat this for the inside fabric of the bow tie, which does not need interfacing.

Now it’s time to sew!

  • Start with the two ‘short’ pieces. Pin the interfacing-bonded front to the softback, right side in.
  • Leaving a seam allowance of about ¼ inch, meticulously sew the curves of the bowtie. Leave the ‘tail’ of this side open, and don’t leave the opening too near the curve- place it into the straight section. 
  • Now turn this section the right side out (a dowel or the back of a pen can help).
  • Bond the raw edges of the opening with your bonding tape.
  • Repeat with the other side of the bow tie.
  • Carefully press the resulting bow tie for crisp, clean edges.
  • Feed each tail carefully into the tri-glide to join them together. You can skip this part if it’s too confusing, or you know the pattern is the right size for your neck, and simply join the two ends together like a classic shop-bought bow tie.

Do note: If you’re using a patterned fabric, you must carefully ensure you have a ‘right side up’ for the left and right section of the bow tie and join them at the back. Otherwise, half your pattern will be upside down!

We know those written instructions can look overwhelming, so here’s a handy video guide to help:

Help, I Can’t Sew!

How to make a bow tie without sewing is another common question. If all of that was a little too technical for your sewing skills, there are other options. You can make a no-sew, no-tie premade bow tie option quite simply without cracking out the sewing machine. 

You will want to use a stiffer, more robust fabric if going for a no-sew option. Simply cut a broad rectangle of suitable fabric twice as large as the final bow (to create the bow) and a smaller, thin rectangle (to create the center ‘tie’). Make sure they are proportional.

  • Double over the ‘bow’ part of the fabric. Line them up meticulously.
  • You will want to secure these ends together, likely with bonding tape.
  • Gently squeeze the center to make a neat set of three creases.
  • You can glue these folds in place with hot glue.
  • When the center is secure and has a neat, proportional shape, use the center tie to neaten the pinch and cover the area. It can again be hot glued into place.

As there is no band in this style (you can, however, make one), this will be a pre-tied style of a bow tie. Still confused? Try this video guide to help:

A black bow tie on a burgundy dinner suit

How to Choose Color and Material 

Seersucker, yarn-dyed fabrics, and anything that could be used for a man’s dress shirt (like robust cotton) will all work beautifully. Quilting-weight cotton is often recommended for the best balance of elegance and sturdiness. You can work with finer materials, but they can be challenging.

As for color and pattern, the world is your oyster. As with a classic necktie, you want to consider how the color of your bow tie matches the rest of your suit. After all, you’ve spent a lot of money on a custom suit that is perfect for your body. You want the bow tie to look equally good. Rather than getting ‘matchy,’ focus on a stylish contrast that will add color to your ensemble and blend elegantly with the undertones of your suit. There’s no right or wrong answer here, as long as it is appropriate to your overall outfit and the occasion.

Can I Make a Bow Tie out of a Tie?

You can! But that doesn’t always mean you should.

Here’s a handy video guide on how to make a tie a bow tie in a pinch. While this look can work nicely if you are meticulous with balancing the bow tie and use the correct breadth and type of fabric, it can quickly become a bulky mistake if you’re not careful. With practice and confidence, however, it’s another quick alternative to tying a classic bow tie.

Advantages Of Making Your Own Bow Tie

The most significant advantage of making your own bow tie is that you aren’t confined to a specific brand or tailor’s ideas. You can:

  • Select your own fabric, color, and pattern and thus ensure you have the perfect ensemble every time. 
  • Get greater versatility in your wardrobe and the opportunity to create the perfect look without confines. 
  • Add a great skill to your quiver.

Most store-bought bow ties will be between 14 and 19 inches, but we all know the Oliver Wicks motto- a suit that fits you. No man is a walking stereotype of sizes, and whether it’s a matter of your tolerance to tight things in your neck area or simply a quirk of your physique, being able to sculpt a bow tie that’s an ideal fit is immensely rewarding. You can also adjust the style and tie to suit yourself, mix and match fabrics elegantly, add adornments, and create something no one else will have.

Disadvantages Of Making Your Own Bow Tie

All of that elegance and grace hinges on your capabilities, however. A sloppily made or poorly finished bow tie will look dull and unsophisticated (so if you’re asking how to make a bow tie from a tie, you may want to think again). Don’t think of your bow tie as a gimmicky add-on but rather another piece of your sartorially elegant wardrobe. You want it to look polished and proper, and if your skills don’t match up to that expectation, you could have a problem.

You could also make a dud choice of fabric, which most professional tailors will have the skills to know on sight. You may make a beautiful velvet bow tie that turns out itchy and scratchy, slap too much embellishment onto it and watch it wilt off your neck, or choose a delicate, fussy fabric that doesn’t hold shape or feel comfortable. Or end up with a fabulous bowtie that won’t tie symmetrically and looks odd.

So if you’re venturing into some do-it-yourself designer wear here, make sure you approach the project with sense and style. Make your first few bow ties simple and classic, and get more adventurous as your skills build.

Where Can I Find Free Bow Tie Patterns?

Of course, we won’t abandon you out in the cold. If you’re new to the art of making your own bow tie, the internet and Oliver Wicks have your back. The important thing to remember is that men aren’t the only people who wear bow ties! They’re a popular hair tie choice for women, and many baby-focused sites also offer patterns for bow ties that may look adorable on a little one’s bald head but won’t work well for your tuxedo! So always ensure you and your chosen pattern source are on the same page as to what type of bow tie you are making. 

Your most reliable source for free bow tie patterns will be reputable sewing sites. There’s been a boom in male-focused online sewing and pattern sites, and what could fit the image you’re looking to project more? Wardrobe by Me and Thread Theory both offer male-centric sewing patterns like bow ties. Etsy and YouTube also have some great offerings if you’d prefer to purchase a specific style or respond better to visual guides. If you’re looking for a trustworthy and reliable source, you can always chat with the Oliver Wicks pros at too.

Our best advice is not to get too wrapped up in fancier patterns until you have the basics and feel more confident. Stick to the method we explained earlier and keep it simple, at least at the beginning.

How To Tie A Bow Tie?

As with many classic tie patterns, tying a bow tie starts by hanging it around your neck, with one side about 2 inches longer than the other. Cross the longer side over and bring it up behind the short side, then create a bow-like loop with the shorter side. Then bring the longer piece around to create an equal bow loop on the other side, pull it through the backing loop you already made, and tighten it like a classic tie.

Are you still feeling overwhelmed? We have a handy step-by-step breakdown you can follow in greater depth right here for you. There’s also a handy video guide you can follow right here:

Keen to collect some more great men’s fashion tips and tricks? The Oliver Wicks newsletter is packed with handy style guides and other important info every stylish gentleman should know. You can sign up to have these delivered right to your mailbox weekly via the box on every page of our website. You’ll soon be the snappiest dresser you know!


A white bow tie by Oliver Wicks

A bow tie is a fun way to start exploring the broader world of men’s fashion, add fun to a somber outfit, and create an eye-catching personal style statement. Adding the versatility to make your own can be a powerful way to embrace your own fashionable nature, and it’s a great skill to know in a pinch, too. With this handy guide, you should feel more confident about creating your own bow ties- so have fun! 

Remember, the Oliver Wicks team is always on hand to help you with any style questions, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you wish at! We’ll guide you through picking the right suit and the right accessories.