Flowers and the Older Women—Violets, Yes; Daisies, No

Amy J. Reeve, Practical Home Millinery, 1912

Did you know that flowers can carry messages far behind the beauty of the blossoms? I was reminded of the language of flowers in an excellent exhibit of vintage clothes at my university. The graduate student curator, Ayrika Johnson, assembled garments from the late 1800s to the 1950s, showing how florals provided not just decoration, but also hidden commentaries on what was popular and appropriate in different time periods.

Age also played a role in the language of flowers. “Some flowers, like pansies, heliotrope, violets, mignonette, and many more that will easily suggest themselves, are ‘older’ flowers more suitable for those in advanced years,” wrote Claire Laughlin in The Complete Dressmaker (New York: 1916, 331) Carolyn Perry, writing in Ladies Home Journal, had similar views. “With the coming of summer the mature woman has the same desire for flowers as have her younger sisters, but her age necessitates a more limited selection both in regard to colors and the flower themselves.  No one can correctly picture a gray-haired woman wearing daisies, buttercups or apple blossoms.” (“The Mature Woman’s Hat,” Ladies Home Journal, March 1912, 27.)

For those inclined to trim their own hats with flowers, the do-it-yourself book called Practical Home Millinery thoughtfully provided direction for making both violets and daisies, good for all age groups in the household.

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