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Taylor’d with Style: Fetching Florals

By JeanAnn Taylor

woman in floral dress

Just like perennial flowers returning year after year in our gardens, floral fashion makes a comeback each spring with energizing and cheerful prints and colors. The floral style trend never gets old or goes out of fashion because, flowers are pretty.

Flowers can represent many emotions: playful, edgy, romantic, modern, and feminine are just a few. Floral prints are available on a variety of materials including rayon, cotton, silk, chiffon, leather, and lace.

With so many possibilities and ways to create fashionable floral looks, I thought it would be interesting to identify some of the many types of floral fabrics.

Asian florals are credited with being the first floral fabric. During the 12th century, peonies, carnations, and cherry blossoms were embroidered on silk fabric along with images of birds, butterflies, leaves, and trees.

These nature-themed designs are now printed on everything from satin to duck. The coloring of Asian prints is often deep, rich, and sometimes has a mystical energy.

Abstract floral designs represent the natural flower in a surreal way. The use of unusual shapes and colors may only allude to true flowers.

Botanical florals depict blooms in a realistic manner. Some prints even have words included to name or describe the flowers.

Calico is a woven, cotton fabric originally from Calicut, India. The fabric is frequently printed with a small, all-over flower print which has resulted in the name “calico” becoming synonymous with the cotton fabric.

Calico actually refers to the cloth, not the design. The flowers frequently printed on the solid color background may have only two colors or a blend of many hues. The design can be bold and bright, or soft and subdued.

Calico has many uses including clothing, tote bags, home decor, crafts, and quilts.

Ditsy florals. I traveled down a rabbit hole in order to decipher and define this relatively new way to describe tiny, floral prints. The flowers in a ditsy print are small and scattered about. The pattern is pleasing to the eye and appears to be random.

Using “ditsy” to describe the floral print probably originated from the same expression used to describe someone who is silly or scatterbrained. Unlike calico, ditsy refers to the design not the fabric.

Festive florals are adorned with holiday symbols of poinsettias, berries, and ribbon. The colors are often traditional red, pine green, and gold. Modern colors of lime green, bright pink, and silver are becoming more popular.

Liberty florals were developed by Arthur Liberty. His long career in textiles eventually led him to handprint un-dyed fabrics in florals, paisleys, and abstract designs. The “Liberty Prints” with small flowers have muted colors with little or no empty space in between the blooms.

The fabric is available in silks and corduroy, with the most popular choice being Tana Lawn cotton. The drapability and silky feel of Tana Lawn makes the fabric ideal for dresses, blouses, and lightweight skirts.

Retro florals refer to the vibrant, bold colors and large motifs popular in the 1960s. While these flowers could be labeled abstract or geometric, the look is so unique to the era, when you see them you can’t help but think, “flower power.”

Vintage florals evoke a nostalgic ambiance. Roses, hydrangeas, sweet peas, and peonies portray a comforting and feminine emotion. The colors of this fabric are often muted or faded to indicate the wearing of time.

Watercolor florals have the soft, graceful look of a blurred brushstroke. The ethereal effect is often presented in wispy, pastel colors.

floral hat

With so many options, there are as many ways to style floral fashion as there are flowers in a bouquet. Learning to harmonize and play with your color palette will open the window to self expression.

You can determine the statement you wish to make and then choose the garments and accessories that reflect your intention.

Think outside the flower box. Rather than wearing the safe and common solid color skirt with a flower print blouse, try wearing a gingham sundress with a flower print bolero jacket.

A polka-dot scarf tied as a belt around a flower print dress, a pair of windowpane checked pants with a floral cardigan, or a striped button-down shirt tucked into a floral skirt can all brighten your day.

If you are feeling especially daring, a pair of floral print leggings with a floral top can be a casual and eclectic ensemble.

The trick to making these floral fashion combinations work lies primarily in the proportion, color, and rhythm of your outfit. Proportion means the size of the flowers matter in relation to the other elements of your clothing selection, the colors need to complement each other, and rhythm implies that there is some repetition to pull it all together.

When going “full floral,” mixing the size of the prints will look more appealing than wearing the same size flower from top to bottom. Blending delicate florals with bold florals works as long as you adhere to the color and rhythm guidelines.

The colors of your outfit don’t have to be the same, but choosing complimentary colors will keep your look smart and stylish. When mixing two floral prints, take care that at least one color is the same in both prints.

This satisfies the color and rhythm guidelines. For example, a print with pink, orange, yellow, and green flowers can work with a print of pink, purple, blue, and white flowers because the pink color will pull the prints together—as long as the pink hues have the same intensity.

Another interesting combination is to wear inverted color prints. A floral top with a light lavender background can look chic when paired with floral pants that have a dark lavender background—even if the colors of the flowers are completely different.

Imagine a garden filled with a variety of colorful blossoms. Combining florals can give this same vision as long as your ensemble looks intentional and not haphazard. As a seamstress, I like to add a floral collar and cuffs to the plaid shirts I make.

Pairing florals with stripes, polka-dots, or checks looks modern because the consistency of the fixed pattern complements the irregularity of the floral print. Choosing complementary colors with attention to proportion and rhythm will keep you from looking like an overgrown garden in need of weeding.

While anyone can wear florals, the size of the flower should correlate to the size of your frame. If you are petite, small prints work best so to not overwhelm your features. The softness of a small print is enhanced with flowy rayons, chiffons, and synthetic blends.

Large flower motifs work best on swing coats, full skirts, and maxi dresses so the blossoms are not cut apart. Bold floral prints can be energizing and make a strong statement. Heavier fabrics such as wool, denim, and cotton work best with these prints.

If a sophisticated look is your goal, be sure there is a little quiet space in your ensemble. This can be achieved with a solid top or bottom. Black and white floral garments can be very elegant. They can be toned down with black flats or spiced up with red heels.

For just a touch of flower flair, add a silk bloom to your purse or wide-brimmed hat. I have quite an obsession with my hand-made fabric-flowers and tend to put one on nearly everything I make. If you want to step gently into the flower field, began by adding floral accessories to your look. It’s a pretty safe way to add a pretty accent.

The variety of floral fabric prints and accessories make it easy to create many eye-catching looks. This spring, express yourself with flowers and enjoy wearing this classic trend all season long.


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