It’s prom season! This, of course, means that florists will be busy making corsages and boutonnieres for high school students. Along with the shoes, the bag, hairstyle and makeup, corsages are a must-have fashion accessory for prom.
Corsages can be made with a single flower or a variety of flowers including: roses, orchids, Gerbera daisies, carnations, chrysanthemums and lilies. Most will wear their corsages on their wrists, while trendsetters will wear them in unexpected places, like: the upper arm, the shoulder, fingers, shoes and ankles.
So where did the tradition of wearing corsages come from?
Wearing flowers on one’s body isn’t a new concept; people have been wearing flowers for centuries. The ancient Greeks used to wear fragrant flowers and herbs at weddings because they were thought to ward off evil spirits.
The word “corsage” first appeared in the 15th century, but had no reference to flowers. Instead, the word described the size and shape of someone’s body; a slim lady would have a delicate corsage, whereas, a strong man had an imposing corsage. Over time, the word evolved to mean “a woman’s bust.” By the 1800s, corsage meant the bodice, the top part of a woman’s dress.
The corsage, as we know it today, to mean a small bouquet of flowers to be worn on the body, came from the French words “bouquet de corsage” for “bouquet of the bodice.” It was tradition for French women to wear flowers on their bodice during weddings and funerals.
Even though flowers aren’t worn on the bodice anymore, the abbreviated name corsage remained to describe flowers.
In the early 20th century, the corsage was seen as a courting gift for women, particularly when attending formal dances. To show respect to the woman’s parents, men would bring flowers or a gift to the home. The gentleman would take a flower out of the bouquet and present it to his date and attach it to her dress, usually on the left shoulder.
When “spaghetti” straps and strapless dresses became popular, pinning the flowers on the dress became impractical. Thus, wrist corsages with elastic bands were created.
Today, young men still buy corsages for their dates, but it is also acceptable and normal for parents to buy their teenaged daughters a corsage. In fact, the corsage is seen more of a fashion statement than a sign of courtship.
Corsages aren’t just for formal dances; mothers and grandmothers of the bride and groom often wear corsages on their left side (closest to the heart) at weddings.