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Catalog Data

Floral accessories
Costume accessories
Twentieth century
Fan-shaped corsage shields with chiffon edging in multiple colors. Leading up to WWII, flowers for personal adornment were a large portion of the florist’s work. The traditional option for wearing a corsage was pinned to the shoulder or waist of a woman’s dress. Corsage shields were developed in the mid-1800s as backing applied to these flower arrangements when worn on the clothing to keep them from damaging garment. They were made of either a fabric or cardboard base with decorative edging of lace, feathers, chiffon, silk, or velvet. Additional satin ribbon or silk cords were popular embellishments for corsages.
Label Text:
The word corsage comes from the French term “bouquet de corsage,” meaning “a bouquet of the bodice” and refers to a small cluster of flowers worn on the body. The practice of wearing flowers pinned to the clothing dates to Egypt when fragrant arrangements of herbs and flowers were strapped to one’s arm in effort to ward of the pungent smell of the streets, as well as combat body odor. In the fifteenth century, a time of pestilence and plague in Europe resulting from the lack of plumbing and poor city planning, both men and women carried bouquets. Flower and herb bouquets were worn or carried for medicinal purposes, with the hopes that it would protect them from disease and pest infestation. By the eighteenth century, carrying fresh flowers was more of a fashion accessory than a protective devise from disease or unsavory odors. From that time, corsage bouquets have been worn for weddings and funerals, however from the nineteenth century up to World War II the popularity of flowers for personal adornment made corsages a regular fashion accessory. Corsages were worn for all types of occasions, both day and night, as an accessory similar to jewelry. They could be worn on the dress at the waist or shoulder; around the wrist, ankle, and upper arm; and have also been fashionable in the hair or on a purse. Men giving corsages as courting gift is a tradition that began in the Victorian era and is still a popular practice for homecomings, proms, formal events, and father-daughter dances. Corsages are also traditionally worn by mothers and grandmothers of the bride and groom at weddings. Corsages today are like those of the past except they are smaller now, although, as in the past, size and style varied depending on the wearer’s preference and the occasion.
chiffon  Search this
Floral Accessories  Search this
corsages (costume accessories)  Search this
corsages (costume components)  Search this
floral designers  Search this
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Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Accession number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens