Simply put – if it’s worn by a women it’s a corsage, if it’s worn by a man it’s a boutonniere or buttonhole. Corsage, buttonholes and boutonniere are fundamentally the same thing. Traditionally, it is a small bouquet, sometimes just a single flower, worn on a dress or suit. Just like shirts or blouses the term used is dictated by the gender of the wearer.
Where do they come from…a potted history.
There’s lots of speculation about the origins of boutonniere. Some accounts credit the ancient Greeks, Egyptians or Aztecs while others suggest they evolved from colours displayed by medieval knights or they were used by soldiers during The War of The Roses in England to differentiate the Yorkist (white rose) from the Lancastrians (red rose).
Boutonnieres seem to have become a popular gentleman’s accessory from 1770’s onwards. Their popularity began to wane after World War II and today they are rarely seen outside of formal occasions such as weddings (with some notable exceptions – Shamrocks worn on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland or Poppies for Remembrance Day in the U.K.).
The history of the Corsage appears to be different. The name comes from French and originally meant the shape of a person’s body. The term evolved to mean a type of tight fitting bodice worn by women. A “bouquet de corsage” came from the tradition of wearing flowers attached to these bodices on occasions such as weddings or funerals. Over time bouquet de corsage was shortened to just “corsage”.
The giving of corsage before formal occasions was popularised in the early 20th century. The tradition was that a boy would bring a bouquet of flowers as a gift to the parents of the girl he was escorting. From this bouquet he would pluck one bloom as his partner’s corsage.
How to Wear…
Boutonnieres are always worn on the left (above the heart) of a suit. Usually they are worn on the lapel but recently there has been a trend towards a brooch style worn horizontally above the breast pocket. When a proper buttonhole is present on the lapel the boutonniere can be inserted through this. Hand made suits will often have a small loop at the rear of the lapel below the buttonhole to hold the flower stem in place. If the lapel buttonhole is not present or if it isn’t open (do not attempt to open it as you may damage your suit) the boutonniere can be pinned in place.
Like boutonniere, corsages were also worn on the left above the heart. With changing fashions came smaller, strapless dresses and so, other suitable places had to be found. Women now wear corsages on hats, bags, tied to their wrists, on jacket lapels and even around their waists.
What’s the best type?
There are no hard and fast rules here. You could use flower colour tones that match, compliment or contrast with your or a partner’s dress or suit. You could choose a flower from a bride’s bouquet or the colour from bridesmaids dresses. Nationality could be used as a theme (Scottish – Thistle and Heather, English – Rose, Welsh – Daffodil etc). Ingredients are varied – flowers, foliage, ribbon, berry, feathers, diamante, pearls, decorative wire etc. Whatever style and colour you choose it’s easy to put your individual stamp on it and create something truly unique.
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Dapper Dave has a great piece on how to style your suits the right way – check it out
About the Author
Flowers can play one of the most important visual aspects of your wedding day. The right flowers in the right setting will dramatically add to any event. They can set the theme and tone, complimenting or contrasting, creating atmosphere and effect, enhancing and beautifying.
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