The fragile guardians of vibrancy have stood their ground throughout the ages. Delicate yet eternally warm, flowers have held the fascination of poets, bards, romantics and artists unfailingly. It is their persistent obsession which has left behind a legacy of love that humans have for nature’s play with colours.
Flowers have been primordially associated with beauty. As such, with the changing pattern of society, beauty was aligned primarily with the ladylike qualities of grace and rapture. This resulted in the symbolic representation of the traits through the women’s wardrobe.
The Orient have been pioneers in weaving Peonies on the garb of their womenfolk. With bright petals and attractive shapes, the Tang dynasty incorporated these on silk. Such was the popularity that very soon the Japanese were making Kimonos in the same floral style. The chrysanthemum appeared heavily in motifs and its broad shape was associated with the crest of the royal family, the Sun.
The West, particularly Europe had their own flowery affair during the Renaissance. Daisies, lilies, primroses, violets and roses were the favourites for ornate and naturalistic prints on clothes. The 1500s also saw the emergence of lace fashion. Lace with intricate floral work was heavily used to give plain clothes a distinctive edge. Venice and Florence had perfected the pomegranate motifs by using gold and silver threads. The Ottoman merchants brought in these first floral prints on velvet, from Persia during the Islamic period, and the Venetians learnt to eventually replicate it.
Chintz, a print indigenous to India, with multi-coloured floral patterns in docile colours, was mass produced by the block technique. Expert use of dyes along with the craftsmanship of block-makers made it a rage among the European traders visiting India. Dutch and British merchants brought rolls of these printed on cotton textiles and reaped heavy profits. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution these were mass produced economically and were introduced world over.
The Victorian Era saw the meticulously designed brocades of gold threads on silk with sunflower motifs. The twisting stems and tiny blossoms caught the designer’s fancy. Victorian society was obsessed with making floral accessories.
The ‘Flower Power’ 60’s was a spectacular display of floral range. From Chintz to laced maxis and pop out bright patterns on free flowing silhouettes, no particular flower dominated the 20th century. Laced detailed floral patterns found themselves to be indispensable for the lingerie industry. The millennials had the most recent contribution to the history through the addition of floral leggings to the list of flowery innovations. Popular culture had icons sporting brooches like Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City fame, a definitive statement for trendsetting fashion accessory.
Floral fabrics and flowers continue to be an undying fashion aspect which is iconic in every sense of the word. Whether it is the insanely bright hibiscus on a blue Hawaiian shirt or the minimalistic shoulder to bosom embroidered rose on a little black dress, this versatile motif is here to stay.
Someone aptly said “The natural duty of flower is getting a smile on a face.”