From haute couture to “ready to wear” lines, certain trends always seem to make their rounds on the runway each spring, and for good reason.
Spring marks a definitive end to the stifling thick textiles and muted tones of the winter, and ushers in the wave of light blushes and silks. The first sign of spring on the runway is the same as it is in nature: flowers blossoming everywhere.
Floral prints are an enduring staple for both high and casual fashion, and have been for decades. It is impossible to define when floral prints first came into vogue, but often the print is attributed to the East.
According to the New World Encyclopedia, as the Edo Period of Japan progressed, a new form of dyeing, called yūzen, was introduced. Through this process, delicate brush strokes could manipulate colorful rice paste to recreate even the most delicate flowers onto fabric. The chrysanthemum, as a traditional symbol in Japan (and the motif of the national seal), is on full display through their fabrics of the time.
European traders eagerly scooped up a dazzling variety of floral fabrics from several countries in the East, including both China and India, who each had their own individual bouquets.
The Victoria and Albert Museum of Art and Design houses several examples of the vibrant reds of India in the late 17th century. The following method used to produce the trademark scarlet shade is explained briefly on the museum’s website,
“Distinctive features of Indian textiles include the use of madder dye… Madder comes from the roots of a herbaceous climbing plant known as ‘chay’. When grown on soil rich in calcium from crushed sea-shells (as occurs near estuaries in certain parts of South India) this plant can be used to produce an intense, glowing red dye.”
Textile production in massive quantities became much easier during the Industrial Revolution, giving people more options than ever on their style choices, a flood of every floral combination imaginable burst forth.
From organza to silk, maxi to mini, or even black and white vs. neons, the trend of floral clothing has evolved over the years. With bright highlights of 1987, carnations and marigolds took the front seat and demanded attention. In ’97, Prada’s spring line floated down the runway with muted pastel tones featuring embroidered plants sprawled across flowing skirts. Alexander McQueen’s spring/summer show in 2007 featured dresses smothered in cool toned silk flowers, with little room for misunderstanding. Finally, spring of 2017 began in full bloom with colorful floral pantsuits from Balenciaga.
As winter fades to spring, trends will come and go, but there is one kind of annual we can always expect to be ready for spring. The variety and seemingly limitless options wrapped inside a distinctly feminine pattern are what have made variations of floral a timeless spring staple across the globe, even hundreds of years after its inception.