ribbon, relatively narrow width of woven fabric edged with selvage. Ribbons have been used for centuries as girdles, headdresses, and badges and for ornamentation. At first called ribbands, they were narrow strips of cloth which were attached to a garment to form borders. The modern ribbon with two selvages was known after 1500; at first it was reserved for the wealthy. In the 17th cent. ribbons were highly fashionable and were used profusely on every part of the costume. The blue and red ribbons, which have since become awards of merit, at first indicated the Orders of the Garter and the Bath, respectively, in England. The French Legion of Honor is symbolized by a watered red ribbon and a medal.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.