THE CORSAGE IS FASHION’S FAVOURITE NOT-SO-NEW ACCESSORY
Make like Copenhagen cool-girls, 1920s flappers and Carrie Bradshaw, and pin flowers to your clothes.
This article was originally published on ELLE.com
Who’d have thought a few artfully placed folds of fabric could induce such joy? The corsage is back – again – and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
Pinning fabric flowers to one’s clothing is something people have been doing for over a century. The corsage (by which I refer to a three-dimensional fabric flower, not the real posies historically worn upon the bodice and in more recent times, the wrist) has the power to transform an existing outfit without buying new – something that 1920s fashion lovers understood all too well.
‘The corsage was something which could be moved from one outfit to another – or even to your hat,’ says 20th century fashion historian, dealer and collector, Liz Eggleston. ‘In an era when people might only have had a handful of garments, you could expand your repertoire with some relatively inexpensive fabric flowers.’
Something ordinary can be made extraordinary with the addition of a corsage. Look at Saint Laurent’s Autumn/Winter 2023 show, in which blousy, oversized flowers were pinned to the lapels of classic leather jackets and pea coats. In Prada’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection, casual jersey dresses were enlivened by a liberal smattering of appliqued satin blooms. In the early 2000s, ‘Sex and the City’ costume designer Patricia Field accessorised Carrie Bradshaw similarly by pinning corsages to simple cotton tanks and dresses.
According to Eggleston, it’s a styling trick that’s a century old:
‘My favourite corsage moment of [the 1920s] is in the Clara Bow film 'It', where she cuts the neckline and sleeves from a plain day dress to transform it into an evening dress. But the flourish which makes it work is that she merrily rips the flowers from a new hat and pins them to the hip of her dress.’
If you’re anything like me, you will save and swoon over antique dresses from the 1910s and ‘20s that have been liberally appliqued with 3D flowers. Click here and here to see such beauties, but only if you have steely willpower. Alternatively, Sleeper’s recently released poppy pin sets – designed in collaboration with Ukrainian designer Anton Belinskiy – will do the job of emblooming a dress you already own.
You may be a member of the ‘more is more’ club, in which case, you love the corsage for its capacity to make an eclectic outfit even moreso. Many credit Alessandro Michele – former Creative Director at Gucci and the king of eclecticism – with the flower pin’s recent resurgence. He added supersized blooms to collars in his first collection for the house in 2015; today, giant lilies occupy silken Gucci lapels.
Chanel offers a more matchy-matchy interpretation of the trend for Autumn/Winter ‘23. 100 years after Coco Chanel first pinned a camellia upon a chiffon dress, the house staged an entire show around its floral emblem. Coats, tops and jackets in leather, wool and tweed were accompanied by coordinating, 3D camellias. Coordination continues at Rixo, where many of the brand’s signature dresses and blouses now come with matching rosettes.
Corsage-wearing has been championed by the Copenhagen street-style set for several years. Petal proponent Pernille Rosenkilde owns various satin roses and camellias by Danish brand Damernes Magasin, which she wears in a trio at her neck, or solo, attached to the waistband of a By Malene Birger fuzzy knitted skirt. She is also the proud owner of that Sonia Rykiel striped, corsage-fronted jumper – yes, the one that Carrie wears in Paris, in the penultimate episode of ‘Sex and the City’ – which the designer has re-released in coral and pink. At Copenhagen-based brand Saks Potts, flowers have appeared in the last three collections – from striped roses to match cotton-poplin shirts, to metallic leather camellias.
Elsewhere in the world, cool girls are corsage-ing. New York-based fashion historian Ruby Redstone gets hers from long-standing Manhattan haberdashery, M&J Trimmings (the London equivalents of which include Soho’s MacCulloch & Wallis and Marylebone’s V V Rouleaux) and adds them to everything from 1940s souvenir pyjama tops to mod-striped dresses. For her birthday outfit this year, ELLE’s own Digital Fashion Editor Daisy Murray chose a frothy, coral-red carnation she sourced from Etsy (options here and here) to add colour to her Ganni denim blazer and white, raw-hem dress.
Model and knitwear designer Ella Emhoff made a case for knitted corsages when she wore one of her own designs at Paris Fashion Week. Not very crafty? Do like London-based influencer Susie Garvie and plump for one of Sara Bubamara’s made-to-order, crochet flower necklaces in a colour of your choice.
When writing about anything flower-related that might constitute a trend, one can’t help but think of the immortal line Miranda Priestly delivers in the 2006 film, ‘The Devil Wears Prada’: ‘Florals? For Spring? Groundbreaking.’ If the corsage can inspire us to shop our own wardrobes, it just might be.