Bouquet de corsage & Boutonnieres

Published 10:09 am Monday, May 14, 2018

What do birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, proms and funerals all have in common? Flowers!

Nowadays, most special occasions be they happy or sad will have flowers included in the ceremony and ritual celebration of them in some form. Recently the many beautiful prom pictures that have been shared on social media have had me pondering the evolution of the practice of giving, wearing and displaying flowers.

Way back in time when good hygiene (as we know it today) was in its infancy and most of the population were superstitious, it was daily common practice to wear flowers and herbs on one’s person to mask offensive body odors, prevent illness and ward off evil spirits. Over time the practice became less prevalent and was reserved for special occasions.

Back in history women would wear small arrangements of flowers at the center of their bodice. This section of women’s clothing was originally called the “corsage.” Hence the French term “Bouquet de corsage.” Today we reference any small arrangement of flowers worn by a woman as a corsage.

The area on the person where a woman would wear a corsage has changed over the years along with the reason for wearing one. Originally worn in the center of the bodice, over time the placement shifted to the left over the heart. Greek culture believed that flowers worn over the heart at weddings would protect the bride and groom from evil spirits. The bridegroom would wear a flower (what we call today a boutonniere) on the left side of his chest to protect his heart from being soured toward and turned away from his bride. In medieval times Knights of the realm wore their ladies colors on their chests as a display of their love and devotion.

Around the time of World War II the corsage was being worn higher up the bodice almost on the shoulder of the woman. The bouquet was a bit larger in size and customarily worn upside down with a ribbon bow tied on the top. The flowers commonly used during this time were usually showy and sometimes not native, orchids were a favorite of many American women. I surmise that at this point the corsage was more a symbol of love and respect than a cultural practice born from superstition.

Fashion seems to rule how and where the modern day woman wears the corsage. With the popularity of strapless garments, most young women today wear their corsages on their wrists. I am not sure I care too much for this. Hopeful that it provided some “extra space” between them, I must admit liking the idea of a sizable beautiful flower corsage attached with a large pin to the bodice between my daughter and her date while on the dance floor.

It is now common practice to custom order corsages and boutonnieres for proms and weddings to coordinate with fashion or the theme of the occasion. Not too long ago, a male suitor would present a young lady’s parents with a gift (usually flowers) upon arriving to take her out on a date. He would remove a flower from the arrangement and pin it on her dress. It was a ritual intended to show respect and that his intentions were good to the parents and the young lady. A coordinated corsage and boutonniere also indicated that a couple was in attendance together. Over time the reasons, meaning, rituals and even the Bouquet de corsage and Boutonniere itself has changed. What hasn’t changed is the fact that people still incorporate flowers into the most important moments of time in their lives. Dawn Conrad is a columnist for The Kenbridge- Victoria Dispatch. She can be reached at conrad.gardenmuse@gmail. com or gardenmuse.