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An Insightful Guide to Flower Fashion & Its Evolution Through the Ages

Image credit: Erdem SS24 London Fashion Week. Runway Florals by Blooming Haus.

Uncover the Blooming fusion of flowers and fashion!

Ever thought about the inseparable connection between flowers and fashion?

Their symbiotic and ever-evolving partnership has not only shaped our décor and wardrobe choices but has even had an impact on the cars we drive!

As luxury florists crafting avant-garde floral masterpieces for the globe's most renowned fashion houses, we're privy to the profound intertwining of these two realms.

With our recent debut at September's London Fashion Week 2023 for both Roksanda and Erdem, we're diving into the insights that may just redefine your perception of style.

It's a floral fashion fiesta you won't want to miss! 

A Deep Dive into Flower Fashion Throughout the Ages

1. The Origins of Popular Floral Design  

The history of flower fashion has its origins way back in Ancient Egypt when visual designs began featuring floral elements.

Blooms like the Lotus appeared often and were considered sacred - it's not hard to understand why.

At nightfall, they close and go beneath the water and at dawn, they climb up above the water and reopen.

Any nature lover will still think that's pretty magic, even today!

Symbolic of purity, rebirth, and strength, they rise from the mud without stains.
In Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, people used real flowers to adorn their clothing.

This use of wreaths and garlands not only added scents to the flower fashion of the time but was thought to bring luck or ward off bad energies.

As time progressed, floral patterns began featuring on silk and ikat cloth that was traded across Asia between the 11th and 13th centuries.

And so, flower fashion was born!

These floral designs were on tapestries and rugs and were also featured on tapestry-like clothing worn by the Uighurs of Eastern Central Asia.

During this period of history, designs on textiles such as silk often featured peonies.

They were captured either on their own or with brightly coloured objects as part of a wider design.

The popularity of the peony as a flower continues to this day, with many brides taking a particular shine to them because of their romantic, soft, and feminine blooms.

Overall, the flower is considered to symbolise bashfulness or good luck, while in China and Japan, the blooms mean wealth, honour and fortune.
Bulgari Blooms by Blooming Haus
This trend of including striking flowers and colourful designs influenced by nature swept from China through Asian and Middle Eastern countries.

Flower fashion made its way to Europe via Italian merchants due to the existence of the Silk Road.
Part of a children's blanket, quilted circa. 1725 – circa. 1750. Made in India. Part of a collection in Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Chintz is a good example of the Asian influence on flower fashion.

The word "Chintz" comes from a Hindi word that means "variegated" or "spotted" and refers to designs that began in what is modern-day India and Pakistan in the 15th century.

The term chintz refers to a glazed cotton fabric featuring colourful block designs.

This type of fabric, which often featured floral designs, was brought to Europe by Vasco da Gama in 1498 when he returned to Portugal.

After this first introduction, French and Dutch merchants began widely trading in Chintz.

2. Flower Fashion: The Tulips of the Ottoman Empire 

The Ottoman Empire played a vital role in the development of flower fashion during the “Tulip Era” from 1520 to about 1730.

Our long-standing love affair with tulips was particularly prominent in Persia in the 17th century when they featured in the gardens of prominent individuals like Sultan Suleiman and Ahmet III.
Fashion designs often featured tulips alongside vines and pomegranates.

The inclusion of these colourful flowers in textiles, ceramics, and embroidery then began influencing European designers in cities like Venice and Florence.

3. Europe & the Growing Popularity of Flower Fashion

Not every aspect of flower fashion history in Europe was influenced by other parts of the world, such as Asia.

Floral lace was used to decorate clothing in Europe from the Middle Ages.

People used this lace to enhance the edges of the materials they used, such as linen.

The first people to use lace in this way were high-class ladies and gentlemen.

Common people followed the trend in the late 16th century.
When the Mongol Empire took control of the Silk Road, the trade in silk between Asia and Europe grew.

This growth in the trade of silk textiles led to silk joining lace as a popular textile choice at the court of Louis XIV.

Many of the fabric designs used were based on botanical specimens and engravings, contributing to the ongoing evolution of floral design in fashion.
Dress from about 1735, restyled 1763, Silk; brocaded plain weave Museum of Fine Arts Boston 1990
The influx of fabrics from Asia damaged profits for European-based fabrics like wool and linen.

So, a ban on the importation of fabrics such as cotton was introduced.

However, aristocrats and courtiers ignored the ban, and chintz, silk, and lace remained familiar features of flower fashion in European Royal courts.

As the 18th century arrived, designs featuring roses and carnations rose in popularity too.

4. Native American Flower Fashion

Our deep-rooted infatuation with floral representation in fashion isn't restricted to Asia and Europe, North America also played a vital role in its evolution through the ages.

The First Nations people included floral designs in their clothing and accessories.

As an example of this, the Ojibwe people were famous for their incredible floral beadwork from 1640 onwards.

They covered bags, moccasins, and the cuffs of their clothing with depictions of flowers, including tulips and violets.
An Ojibwe breechcloth from 1885 that was part of the exhibit "Floral Journey: Native North American Beadwork" at the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles in 2014

Other Native American people, such as the Sioux and Lakota, developed floral beadwork skills.

Landscapes, people, and animals joined flowers as popular design features of their work in the late 19th century.

Back then, civilizations around the world were undoubtedly much closer to nature than many of us are today.

For example, before modern pharmaceuticals, many flowers were medicine.

Living in harmony with the natural world it was a vital pillar of existence, and perhaps representing nature in all its forms in so much of art throughout the ages was, on some level, a form of worship.

Ojibwe beading techniques often reemerge as a hot flower fashion trend.

So, next time you see their influence in shops, we know and love, such as "accessorize" you can enjoy a deeper understanding of their design roots.

5. The Industrial Revolution's Impact on Flower Fashion

The arrival of the Industrial Revolution changed everything!

Gearing up for mass production, flower fashion was at the forefront of many designs - not just in clothing but homeware, music, lifestyle products and more!

As printed fabrics increased tenfold, floral patterns such as Chintz became much more readily available.

When it came to women's fashion, floral designs have been booming ever since!

You log on to any high street store's website, and we guarantee you'll see something floral in minutes.
Also, during the 19th century, poets and pioneers of the Arts and Crafts movement impacted flower fashion greatly, particularly when blooms were a hot favourite at the time.

For example, the work of William Morris brought the sunflower to wider attention.

This bright and beautiful bloom became a huge trend and was printed on wallpaper, fabric, and tiles.
Flowers by Blooming Haus
And so the modern era of flower fashion was born!

As we entered the 20th-century floral designs featured in Liberty prints, who could forget the evolution of the Hawaiian shirt?

6. The Many Faces of Modern Flower Fashion

In the 1950s, Dior released its "New Look" dress that was based on the shape of a flower.

These flower-inspired lines influenced the standard fifties dress.

And many of these dresses also featured flowers in their printed design.

They were a feature of the wardrobe of stars such as Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor, whose styles were emulated by women around the world.
Moving from the 1950s to the 1960s, once again, big changes were happening in society.

Towards the end of the decade, flower power came into force.

Being a "flower child" or "hippy" often involved making a political statement, such as opposing the war in Vietnam.

It also involved embracing the natural beauty of flowers in clothing and accessories.

This part of the flower fashion story also became synonymous with love, peace, and harmony.
From the sixties through the mod fashion era, flower fashion has continued to evolve.

Designers like Lilly Pulitzer have been famous for their use of floral designs from the 1960s to today.

Many designs from the Pulitzer collection have been created by artist Suzie Zuzek who is inspired by the original ideas of Lily Pulitzer herself.

Pulitzer designs of the 1960s through to the 1980s featured hibiscus flowers and jungle prints.

Today's prints from the fashion range are brighter and bolder, focussing on neon pink, blues, and greens.
Interestingly, in 2022 designers such as Lowe took flower fashion to a new level by zooming in on a specific flower - the very dramatic and rather exotic-looking Anthurium - one of our personal favourites.

It was exciting to see a designer not only just to use the bloom in print but actually adorn its seductive shape and form onto the clothes, much like the Ancient Greek times, except Lowes flowers were (obviously) artificial.
Image credit: LOWE
Recently, we provided the runway florals for both Erdem and Roksanda at London's Fashion Week 2023.
Image credit: Erdem's SS24 Runway Florals by Blooming Haus
Roksanda witnessed the evolution of our grounded installations, initially crafted to metamorphose the venue and elevate the collection's narrative. Later on, we took the reins, repurposing these installations into exquisite bouquets for the distinguished guests at the runway show.

With floral headbands trending in 2024, we're excited to see where flowers and fashion will take us next.

What trends do you think we'll see in the coming year?

Will we see history repeat itself or forge a new, more innovative path?

Are growing conversations around the concerns for our planet's future also impacting fashion brands and their floral choices? We certainly think so!

As Europe's first B-Corp Certified Event Florist, we're experiencing this first-hand and are hopeful that we can lead by example, inspiring others to join the movement in building a brighter, greener, and more sustainable future for all.

7. Flower Fashion-Inspired Bouquets & Installations

At Blooming Haus, we can tell you first hand there are never more flowers than there are in fashion!

Take our biggest floral installation to date for example...VOGUE WORLD 2023 which featured 20,000 red roses!
The relationship is symbiotic.

Our obsession with flower fashion throughout the ages shows up in much of our work.

We're consistently assessing trends, forecasting and musing upon which florals best fit the theme and tone of the current times in which we're living.
Every aspect of our luxury floral design process takes into account floral history, symbolism, design principles, and of course our own Blooming Haus signature flair we have become renowned for.

Frolic in Blooming Haus' imagination, and view our current spirited designs available on our sustainable online flower shop.

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