Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Waltz of the Flowered Dresses

A museum in the U.K. pulls apart a century of floral outfits, prissy, frumpy, and almost funky.

imageMini-dress from the 1960s

with anemones and dandelions

Photo: Floral Frocks

Floral attire has been around a long time, since just after Eve grabbed for a fig leaf, we suspect. The Fashion Museum in Bath, England, hasn’t sent its historical researchers back quite that far, but they have mounted what appears to be an interesting exhibition—Pick of the Bunch—that looks at flowered dresses since about 1920.

The museum’s manger Rosemary Harden announced, “Every summer for the last 100 years or so, generations of British women have chosen to wear floral printed frocks for both the everyday and the special occasions in their lives. We are really thrilled that we have had the chance to present an exhibition on this area of fashion history, which we know will strike a chord.”


Queen Elizabeth II in flowered dress

visiting Adelaide, Australia, 1954

Photo: National Museum of Australia

While we’re no experts in couture, its strikes us that the emphasis on English dresses is—while perhaps of sociological and cultural interest—rather dowdy. The online exhibit features clothing suitable for affluent milkmaids. It’s not that we have anything against milkmaids, but where are the razzle-dazzle contemporary designs, the big kooky blooms of “Swinging London, ” or even preppy pink and greens of Lilly Pulitzer?

imageLilly Pulitzer fans

tend to run in packs

Photo: Lilly Pulitzer

Check out the Floral Frocks website for what’s there and what’s missing. The exhibition is strong on its history of fabrics, patterns, printing-techniques and dyes. And if you’re near Bath, catch the show, which is up through August 27th. “On Saturday 4 August, visitors wearing a floral frock or floral shirt or tie will be able to gain half price admission to the display.” We presume that fig leaves will qualify you for the discount also.

Of course, the designers and curators who composed the website pound on several staples (ouch!) of fashion advice. Here’s one: “Better to go for bold, abstract or painterly styles. If you can identify the specific variety of rose in a print, it belongs in a gardener’s handbook.” We must disagree! A well executed print of chrysanthemums, lilies or violets on fabric is not only an achievement but a delight—one that’s sustained many a child through a long homily. We can only hope that the lady in the next pew—or ahead of us in line at the post office—will be wearing this number from 1949, on view both at the museum and via its online exhibition: the only garment we’ve ever seen with fucshia blossoms.


Posted by Julie on 07/24 at 04:56 PM
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