In the words of Miranda Priestley “Florals? For spring? Ground-breaking.” But I mean…they just go hand in hand, right? The history of floral patterns in springtime fashion is a long one and it doesn’t look like it will be going anywhere any time soon. This year, Splendette did its most flowery collection yet, with the colours and carvings being inspired by the spring fashions of the 1940s and early 1950s. But where did this trend all start?
Historical evidence of floral motifs decorating clothes dates back centuries and is found across the globe. Even further back into time, archaeological evidence of flowers being used as inspiration in jewellery was found at the Royal Cemetery of Ur, a 4500 year old Mesopotamian site where the interred were decorated with lavish grave goods of gold floral crowns decorated with delicate lapis lazuli beads. Fast forward a few millennia and we can see various flowers decorating the fabrics of the elite from the Middle Ages onwards. With the popularity of lace on the rise during 16th century, now the poorer classes could also get on the floral fashion train (or horse and cart, I suppose) and from then on there was no stopping the trend.
The Victorian era continued the love affair with powerful and compact designs of floral motifs that had been popular during the 18th century. The rise in the Arts & Crafts movement saw a hark back to country-living, and with that comes a lot of flowers. From (usually highly toxic) wallpaper to clothing to jewellery, fauna and flora were everywhere.
Moving into the 20th century there are decades worth of floral fashions, and we saw the rise in the trend of attributing the spring and summer months with flowers. For spring, we often see softer, more delicate designs mimicking the blossoms erupting on the trees and the first signs of new life emerging for the year. Summer is often bright, beautiful and in your face with more than a whiff of tropical rainforests and far-flung holiday destinations.
The 1930s and 1940s are probably what we think of first when we think of the blossom-y designs. The small print was increasingly popular during the interwar years and was a trend we saw continue during the rationing years of the Second World War. The 1930s was also the decade when Bakelite was really pushed as the new wonder product, and with that we saw the rise of the thing we all love here at Splendette: jewellery! Bakelite, Catalin and other similar early plastics allowed the designer to mimic colours seen in nature as well as carve intricate patterns to replicate petals, leaves and stems. Splendette explored one very prominent technique back in Spring 2018 when we released a reversed carved collection alongside the regular carved fakelite collection. In Spring 2022, Eeva was heavily inspired by the trend of cream colourings which were popular for 1940s springtime fashions, contrasting with beautiful, soft colours highlighting the carvings.
From the above images we can see that there was a sway towards using large prints, usually in pink and blues, as the Second World War neared the end. Splendette’s Petal and Veronica from the Spring 2022 collection is reminiscent of this trend, and paired together with their full colour fakelite varieties, you can get a beautifully 1940s inspired stack. In particular, the brooches from this collection highlight the popularity of elevating a somewhat simple outfit with an eye-catching but complimentary brooch.
Swiftly moving into the 1950s, we see much bolder and brighter colours being used in both clothing and in jewellery. Although tropical prints had taken the fashion world by storm in the 1940s thanks to the bold, hibiscus printed shirts returning with the soldiers from the Pacific, this trend only grew stronger in the following mid-century years. I think it is Primrose and Petunia that makes me think of the 1950s the most from the Splendette Spring Florals collection – that’s probably because I once inherited a beautiful original 1950s dress from my nan which was covered in bright yellow roses and little primroses! Although influenced heavily by the 1940s continued love of Bakelite, the super tropical heavy carve fakelite collection has the ability to elevate a 1950s inspired outfit to an atomic level. The hot pinkness of Iris combined with its floral carving looks absolutely incredible, especially the bead necklace, when styled with a pin up wiggle dress and some killer shoes.
The 1960s immediately brings to mind psychedelic prints; the stiffness of the 1950s was out and free-loving flower power was in. Every thirty years or so fashion does a full circle and is influenced by previous trends. The 1960s not only saw the Mary quant-esque daisy prints in daring colour combinations, but a reflection of earlier decades fashions, particularly the 1930s. The sharp tailoring of Carnaby Street teamed with the small paisley print shirts took the high streets by storm. It seems like everyone from all generations and walks of life were dedicated followers of the fast paced, floral fashions during the 1960s.
There is no doubt that Laura Ashley is the name that propelled the flower love through the 1970s and 1980s – arguably up until the early 2000s in some wardrobes and households. Once again, we saw the 30-year cycle during these decades as bold prints, just like we saw in the 1950s, came back into fashion. The jewellery was also a reflection of the mid-century decades, with bangles becoming more and more popular as the 1980s progressed. Although not carved as heavily as they were in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, the colours were reflective of the natural world, with full bangle bouquets of colours being stacked alongside big drop earrings and strings of bead necklaces. I remember mine and my sister’s dressing up box bursting with our mum’s old 1980s floral dresses, chunky jewellery and shoes we would clip clop around the house in looking oh-so fabulous.
Into the 2000s and up until today, we see the all too familiar trend of floral fashions emerging around February and staying in our wardrobes until the chunky knits come out in late September. We just can’t get enough. Who remembers the floral leggings trend of the late 2000s? And the flower headbands of the 2010s? No matter where catwalks take us, we can be sure that petals, leaves and all things floral will be a constant.