I recently went to see the Botticelli exhibition.
The thing I loved the best was Flora. Her great beauty is enhanced by flowers that pick up the warm blonde of her hair, the light blue, white and almost black of her eyes, the rosy orange of her lips and deeper pink of her blushes. The very dark green/black motifs stop her looking sickly or too girlish. Her hair is threaded with flowers , and a little drown is piled on the top of her head. A wreath-collar-necklace made of the darkest evergreen leaves encircles her neck, and woven into the base are sprigs of wild flowers; their colours, a little stronger and deeper than those on her head. And under the collar is a silk or cotton dress, painted with flowers. Here the palette is more restricted – just reddish pinks, deep green and the natural-white ground. What skill Botticelli exhibits not just in terms of his painting technique and ability to capture beauty, but also in creating harmony between the human form and nature. The pink-blue-yellow, grounded with a judicious use of both softened black and white make the colour composition come alive. This image has inspired dress designers, through the ages, to work flowers into clothes. At the V&A exhibition you can see how Schiaparelli did this in her 1938 Pagan collection.
Chanel uses feathers and strong colours to create a beautiful floral dresses.
This lovely dress is by Marc Bohan from the 1960s. It looks like he has used millinery flowers on a creamy linen dress. It may include applique, embroidery or printing too. This dress is in the FIDM museum which looks like an amazing place to discover. Unfortunately its website search doesn’t work very well.
Here is a dress by Alexander McQueen that I saw last year at the V&A. This too was inspirational for me. He ensures that floral is not sweet, but edgy. Purple, brown and greenish flowers are often the plants which encourage insects that feed on dead things.
Below I have three images of the recurring attraction of floral embellishment of clothing. In the first I am a bridesmaid at my Uncle Raymond’s wedding. I am wearing a white velvet dress and a floral crown of blue and white flowers. In the second in about 1988 with my daughter Esme. We are both wearing vintage jumpers with embroidered flowers. These may appeal to Stephanie who is putting flowers on her SWAP jumper. In the third picture is my version, a little sweet pea blouse I made, paired rather inappropriately with my Iris printed, silk SWAP Biki of Milan skirt. But as Kim Hood says “More is more”. I liked the effect so much I really would like to make a dress or another blouse with applied flowers. Personally I like the artful randomness of these items rather than forcing flowers into a pattern.