Boden dress styled in the first instance with a second hand hat and pair of wedge heels, and in the second with shorts from a charity shop, a necklace made by Maya, my favourite ankle boots and a Persephone book.
What does a love of florals say about a person? Possibly nothing of great significance beyond a penchant for petals and colourful patterns. But it remains a universal symbol, worn by everyone from Grace Kelly to (apparently) the suffragettes; a print of continuing endurance – encompassing everything from the smallest of sprigs to the largest of abstract splashes.
Florals can appear passive at times – sweet, charming, out of reach of mud and grass stains. Indeed, the prevalence of roses and daisies on fifties' day dresses may suggest that they are purely the domain of the pretty. However, just as there is something in the region of 250,000 varieties of flowering plant in the world, so the floral print has more forms than one could wear in a lifetime. The bold, red splash of poppies; the embroidered intricacy of multicoloured chrysanthemums; the monochrome restraint of grey and white blossom scattered across a skirt. The realistic rubs fabrics with the outlandish. Flick through any book on vintage trends and there will be a profusion of flowers, from the imposing shapes on a thirties evening coat to the busy fabric of a Laura Ashley smock.
The interlinked history of florals and fashion may stretch back to when the first flower was tucked behind an ear, but achieved popularity in the 20th Century. As methods of printing became cheaper and more effective, the concept of leisure grew large in society – leading to a spate of tea dresses rippling with flowers during the 50s. Brands such as Horrocks are now famous for their functional floral creations, whilst designers such as Hubert de Givenchy, Cristobel Balenciaga and Christian Dior often took the structure, colour and effect of flowers as inspiration for the cut and pattern of their clothes.
At the moment the current SS13 collections are blooming, with Prada, Erdem (inevitably), Moschino, Zac Posen and the inimitable Corrie Nielsen, among others, making use of the floral motif. There’s a hardy endurance there. The love of flowers on clothing is deep-rooted, popping up as a trend every few seasons like newly sprung seedlings. Sometimes what follows is an article in a publication on the ‘perfect’ floral dress, as though there is a single, elusive one out there – hanging expectantly as it waits for a warm body to give it shape.
I’ve been lucky enough to find several. One is a vintage 70s dress cut tight to the torso and covered with rounded blue and brown flowers. Another is a 60s gold cocktail dress with blue roses stretched across the surface. A third is a black mini-dress covered in pink and orange petals, belted at the waist and flared slightly at the hem. I wore it to the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank in London on Friday to celebrate International Women’s Day. I was a feminist in a floral dress and it felt good.
But the latest floral addition is this Boden beauty, chosen to celebrate Stylist offering a £500 giveaway to one fortunate reader. It was difficult to pick from the selection of Boden dresses on offer, but from the knee length dresses this print dress (Riviera shirt dress in Steel Flower Pop) has a special resonance. It reminded me of a Brettles housecoat I became smitten with several years ago: light pink linen with deep pink, almost crimson flowers, it was the kind of item one would want to lounge around in drinking cocktails and having informal dinner parties. Perhaps this says as much about my aspirations as my preferred aesthetics, but similarly here the wide skirt, lilac cotton and shirt dress design brings with it plenty of potential. The neat pattern encourages thoughts of picnics and afternoon tea, lounging in the grass or stretching legs across the lawn on warm, summer evenings as the light fades. It is a dress of idealism, as well as a practical item to wear repeatedly once spring hits its stride.