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Section 2: flowers to wear.

Flowers have long been used for personal adornment and decoration. Modern floral designs meant to be worn or held come from a number of floral traditions. A few examples show clearly that the idea of wearing flowers is not a new one: The ancient Grecian garlands and chaplets, the Polynesian floral leis, the Georgian period formal gown accents, as well as the Victorian Era tussie-mussies as shown in Figure 2-1, all testify to the popularity of using flowers in one's dress.

As illustrated in Figure 2-2, flowers can be arranged in an infinite number of design patterns and worn literally from head to toe. This section provides guidelines of design, wiring and construction techniques, and various design styles.

Guidelines of Design

Many of the principles of design that you follow in making flower arrangements in vases can be directly applied to the art of making corsages and other floral pieces. However, the following principles are additional guidelines for the construction of floral arrangements meant to be worn, often called "body flowers."

Theme and Style

The color and style of the gown, suit, hat, purse, or even hair and hair style to which the flowers will be attached is of utmost importance in determining the color and style of the floral piece. For example, flowers designed to be attached to the decolletage of a sequinned black, velvet gown will have a certain theme and style totally different from a floral chaplet for a young flower girl.



The occasions or event for which these designs are made is also an important consideration, and knowledge of the environment in which the flowers will be worn will help you select the parts. A formal black tie dinner-dance will most surely dictate a style different from a luncheon honoring the volunteer candy stripers at a hospital. The black-tie event suggests glitz and glamour while a hospital luncheon does not.


The flowers, foliage, ribbon, and other accessory fillers, often called the "parts," used to make a floral piece must be harmonious to one another in color, texture, and style (see Figure 2-3). What kind of flowers you use--whether they are carnations, roses, orchids, or zinnias--is not as important as how well they blend with the other flowers and foliage. Ribbon and other fabric materials added to the design should complement the flowers; the textures, colors, and patterns of ribbon are all elements to consider when adding loops or bows to corsages. Delicate lace ribbon will suggest a different texture and style than that of shimmering metallic gold or silver ribbon. Filler accessories such as hearts, pearls, butterflies, and other tiny novelties, when used, should also be in harmony with the flowers and fit the style.

Proportion and Scale

The sizes and amounts of flowers, foliages, and accessories of the corsage must be in proportion to one another. A corsage with too much ribbon, netting, or other accessories does not allow the flowers and foliage to be fully seen and appreciated.

The size of the completed design should also be in proportion to the person who will be wearing the corsage, boutonniere, or hair piece. This requirement is especially applicable in the case of small children or petite women who can easily be smothered and frustrated by a large floral piece, as shown in Figure 2-4.

Sizes of corsages will vary with trends and styles. Corsages have not always been small and compact. For some occasions, such as homecoming, and in some regions, the philosophy is "the larger, the better." In such instances, corsages and boutonnieres are designed purposely large and out of proportion to the wearer.




The basic shape of the floral piece should take into consideration where the design will be worn. For example, the hairstyle will help determine the actual shape of a hair piece. Whether worn on the shoulder, wrist, or neck, the shape of a corsage must be in harmony with its placement. If the shape is wrong for the way the floral piece is intended to be worn, as shown in Figure 2-5, problems will undoubtedly occur. Flowers become a nuisance when they are the wrong shape. Always remember to blend the shape of a floral piece to be an added accessory to the total "look."


Just as you must carefully arrange flowers in a container for proper balance and stability, you must also design corsages, boutonnieres, and other floral pieces securely. The design should be well constructed to retain its original shape, letting nothing fall out of the design (see Figure 2-6). When flower petals shed or parts drop off all together, an embarrassing situation arises not only for the person wearing the floral piece, but for the designer and gift giver as well.

Whether attached with pins, or worn as a wristlet, a barrette, or a clip, a floral piece must be lightweight and easy to wear. Heavy corsages put a strain on clothing and a bulky corsage results in discomfort and self-consciousness (see Figure 2-7). Heavy wrist corsages are undesirable as well, often making the design a burden to wear. A minimum of stems, wires, and tape will keep the design less weighty. Several guidelines and techniques are listed later in this chapter to help you construct lightweight floral pieces.




Both visual and physical types of balance are important when making floral pieces. Choosing asymmetrical, symmetrical, or radial balance before beginning construction of a floral piece will help promote mechanical balance throughout construction (see Figure 2-8). Corsages will be more apt to lie flat on the shoulder or wrist when visually balanced.


For stability, the heaviest portion of the design should be located at the point where all the stems are physically bound together. This central area should also be the point of attachment to a wristlet, barrette, or wherever the pins hold the floral piece to clothing.


Focal Area

A focal area or center of interest in a corsage or hair piece draws attention and provides a visual, as well as physical area where all lines converge to and from, just as it does in floral arrangements. A focal point can be created in various ways. A larger or more unique flower will easily create a focal point, as will a bright color, dark shade, or any color contrasting with the rest of the design. Sometimes, for special events, accessories used in greater proportion to the flowers will provide an instant focal point (see Figure 2-9). Place the focal point at the center of gravity; never place a focal point at the design edges (for example, flowers at the top and a bow, to serve as a focal point, at the bottom). This treatment generally results in a lopsided design, both visually and physically.

Preparation of Materials

Before construction of corsages, boutonnieres, and other floral pieces begins, the materials going into the design must be prepared. Fresh flowers and foliage must be conditioned, wired, and taped, and occasionally sprayed with paint or an antitranspirant. Accessories such as ribbon loops and tulle fans must be made. Having once done all the initial design work, you will be more efficient during the construction of a floral piece.


Conditioning is a technique that allows flowers and foliages to fully hydrate with water and preservative before using them in designs. Fully turgid or firm flowers and leaves will hold up better after losing their stems to wire and floral tape.

It is especially important to condition blossoms and leaves that are harvested from blooming and green potted plants. Do not wait until the last minute to select various blossoms for corsage work. Give these flowers and leaves time to drink in water and preservative and fully hydrate before using them in corsages and boutonnieres.

Wiring and Taping

Wiring and taping flowers and leaves replaces natural stems; if left on, the stems would be too bulky and heavy. Wire allows more freedom in design, making it easier to maneuver stems and keep flowers in position while being worn. Wire strengthens and, for tiny florets that have been removed from an inflorescence, provides a new stem.

Several wiring techniques are used in corsage work. The wiring method used will depend mostly on the actual shape of the flower head or cluster of flowers. The thickness or gauge of the wire used is determined by the weight of the flower head and where in the design it will be placed. Large or heavy flowers closer to the binding area will require thicker wires. Small, delicate flowers positioned on the perimeters of the design will not require the same thickness of wire.

The most useful wire gauges are medium to fine in thickness. Gauges #24, #26, and #28 are the most common for corsage work. Use the lightest gauge wire possible that will do the job. When making corsages and boutonnieres, trim out excess wire to keep design pieces lightweight. As you prepare your floral piece, be aware that not every addition to a corsage (or other floral piece) must be wired and taped in. Many types of low-temperature glues and floral adhesives are available for adding lightweight accents of ribbon and blossoms.

Roses and Carnations

Roses and carnations have rounded heads and a visible calyx. The most common method of wiring for these and other similarly shaped flowers is often referred to as the pierce method (see Figure 2-10).

Step 1 Remove all but about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of stem. Do not remove the green sepals from roses; left on, they provide color and accent, and look more natural.

Step 2 Insert a medium-gauge wire (#24) into the calyx. Bend the two wire ends downward, keeping them parallel to each other. Never twist wires to avoid too much bulk in the stem.

Step 3 Tape the wires by stretching a piece of floral tape around the calyx. Wrap around in one spot until the tape begins to stick to itself.

Step 4 Continue stretching the tape downward onto the wire in a spiral pattern, covering all the wire.

Step 5 After floral taping, the tape can be further tightened by applying pressure with fingertips.

Rose Petals

Individual rose petals may be used to form tiny rose buds for accents and contrast in floral pieces (see Figure 2-11).



Step 1 To make a rose bud, trim a tiny half circle at the base of the petal in the center.

Step 2 Roll a single petal from side to side.

Step 3 Add some floral tape or low-temperature glue to keep the petal from unrolling. Insert wire above tape.

Step 4 Bend wires down and floral tape.

Step 5 Add a second or third rose petal around the bud to give it more fullness if you wish. Attach these other petals with tape or glue.

Step 6 Use floral tape and tape to form a natural-looking stem.

Feathering Carnations

Petals from carnations may also be used to make smaller flowers. The process of splitting a carnation apart is often called feathering. Feathering large carnations takes some time and effort but allows for more versatility in design. Knowledge of this technique is especially beneficial if small carnations are needed for a design and miniature (pixie) carnations are not available. Several flowers (two to six) may be made from a standard-size carnation.

Step 1 To feather a carnation, remove its stem. While pressing firmly at the base of the calyx, roll from side to side until the ovary with its attached center part (the pistil) slips out and can be removed (see Figure 2-12).

Step 2 Next, peel the calyx sections downward, away from the petals. This action will open up the flower head, yet still keep the petals attached to the base.

Step 3 Remove a section of petals to form the new smaller flower.

Step 4 While holding the petals tightly in one hand, wrap the base of the cluster together with a piece of floral tape. Once the floral tape is tight around the petals (forming a new calyx), the section can be wired.

Step 5 Insert a thin wire just above the floral tape, as shown in Figure 2-13.

Step 6 Bring the wires down together, keeping them parallel to each other.

Step 7 Use floral tape to form a new stem.




Chrysanthemums, asters, daisies, and other flowers with flattened heads lacking a visible calyx are wired for security using hook-wiring (see Figure 2-14).


Step 1 Remove all but 1/4 to 1/2 inch of stem.

Step 2 Insert a hooked or U-shaped wire through the top of the flower head, and pull the wire ends down until they cannot be seen from the top.

Step 3 Use floral tape on the wire to form a new stem.

Filler Flowers

Filler flowers and small clusters of tiny mass flowers are often wired by using clutch or wrap-around wiring (see Figure 2-15).

Step 1 Gather the stems of baby's breath, statice, waxflower, or other tiny fillers into a small cluster.

Step 2 Wrap a lightweight wire tightly around the stems.

Step 3 Bend the wire ends downward, keeping them parallel to one another.

Step 4 Tape the stems and wires together using floral tape.



Stephanotis flowers can be wired in a number of different ways; however, the most efficient method is to use a stephanotis stem. These stems are manufactured specifically to provide a stem and keep stephanotis flowers from wilting. Before using stephanotis, it is best to condition them in cool water to firm them up.

Step 1 Moisten the cotton portion of the stem in water for a few minutes.

Step 2 Remove the tiny green sepals and tiny stem from the blossom.

Step 3 Use the wired stem end to push out the tiny ovary through the top of the flower (see Figure 2-16).

Step 4 Insert the cotton stem into the flower. (It can be poked down through the top or can be pushed up through the base of the flower.) Generally, the flower and stem do not need any further wiring or taping and are ready to use in designs.


Cymbidium, Cattleya, and Japhet Orchids

Orchids are wired differently than other flowers because of their unique shapes. Orchid stems can be left in a tiny plastic tube for a constant water supply or the stem can be wrapped with wet cotton or tissue (see Figure 2-17). Generally, two wires are needed when wiring cymbidium, cattleya, and japhet orchids.


Step 1 Recut stem and place in corsage water tube, or wrap stem end in a piece of moistened cotton or tissue.

Step 2 Insert a medium wire (gauge #22 or #24) through the orchid stem just below the flower. This wire will provide strength while holding the flower in the proper position.

Step 3 Insert a finer wire (gauge #26) through the stem above the previous wire at a right angle to the first wire. This thinner wire will help keep the moistened cotton, tissue, or water tube in place.

Step 4 Bend all wires downward, keeping them parallel with one another.

Step 5 Tape the source of moisture inside the wires, covering all the mechanics, using floral tape.

Dendrobium and Paphiopedilum (Lady's Slipper) Orchids

There are several ways these orchids may be wired, depending on how they will be used in the design. The stem may be cross-wired with fine wire, as is done for Japhet orchids, or a single medium gauge wire may be inserted vertically into the stem and flower as listed below.

Step 1 Insert a medium wire (#24 or #26) vertically up the short stem.

Step 2 Push the wire out through the throat of the orchid.

Step 3 Curve the wire end into a small hook. Then pull the wire hook gently back into the orchid until it reaches the flower base. The end of the hook will protrude slightly through the back of the orchid.

Step 4 Tape the wires to provide a new, natural-looking stem using floral tape.

Phalaenopsis and Vanda Orchids

Phalaenopsis and vanda orchids are wired differently than other orchids because they are quite fragile and require extra support within the flower head itself (see Figure 2-18).

Step 1 Tape a wire (gauge #24 or #26) with white floral tape.

Step 2 Curve the wire into a hook or U-shape.

Step 3 Insert the wire carefully from above the orchid over the middle section and through the visible spaces. The taped wire does not puncture any part of the flower; instead, it provides a source of support for the orchid.

Step 4 Wrap a tiny piece of moistened cotton or tissue around the orchid's stem if you wish. This may be held in place with another fine wire.

Step 5 Using floral tape, tape the stem, wires, and cotton together to provide a longer, more natural-looking stem.



Highly fragrant gardenias are extremely fragile and easily bruised. Browning of petals can be lessened by keeping your hands wet while working with gardenias. Most gardenia flowers are mounted on special collarettes with background leaves and packaged in protective boxes that keep them fresh.

To wire a gardenia, it is best to leave the protective collar on the flower. The collar keeps the flower positioned and protects the petals.

Step 1 Insert a wire (#24) through the stem, beneath the collar.

Step 2 Trim the end of the stem and add a moistened piece of cotton or tissue.

Step 3 Insert another wire (#26) through the stem, higher than the first wire and perpendicular to it. This wire will help hold the cotton in place.

Step 4 Bend the wires parallel to the gardenia stem and floral tape.

Step 5 If you wish, trim the leaves on the gardenia collar with scissors.


Lilies and Alstroemeria

Lilies, alstroemeria, and other similar flowers can be wired several different ways. The flower stem thickness and position of the flower (in a corsage or other floral piece) will determine the most efficient wiring technique. Cross-wiring the stem with medium gauge wire works well for large lilies, while the pierce-wiring or wrap-around wiring methods, using fine wire, supports dainty alstroemeria, delphinium, and other small florets.

Step 1 Remove most of the stem except for about 1/2 to 1 inch. Large lilies will benefit by wrapping a small moistened piece of cotton or tissue against the stem end. Remove the anthers (pollen) to prevent staining.

Step 2 Insert a wire (#24 or #26) through the top of the stem. Sometimes a second wire will need to be inserted perpendicular to the first wire.

Step 3 Bend the wire ends downward, keeping them parallel to one another.

Step 4 Tape the stem and wires together, using floral tape, being careful not to damage the flower petals.

Broad-Leaf Foliages

Individual leaves of camellia, ivy, salal, and other broad-leaf foliage can be wired using stitch wiring (see Figure 2-19).

Step 1 Pierce a fine wire (#26) through the back of the leaf near the center vein and make a tiny "stitch." Make this stitch high enough on the leaf to gain control and support the leaf, but not so high that the stitch will be visible in a design.

Step 2 Move the wire until there are two equal ends, and bend them downward.

Step 3 Keep one of the wire ends parallel with the mid-rib of the leaf. Twist the other wire end around both the leaf stem and the straight wire.

Step 4 Tape the leaf stem and wires to form a new, natural-looking stem using floral tape.

Spray Painting

Carnations and a few other flower types can be lightly spray painted with special floral tints. It is important that just the petal edges are painted. This technique is called tipping (see Figure 2-20).

Step 1 Wire and tape carnation.

Step 2 Pierce the wired stem through the center of a paper towel (to protect hands from spray paint).

Step 3 Gather the paper towel up around the flower head.


Step 4 Squeeze the flower head together with the paper towel tight against the petals. Only the petal tips will be exposed to the paint.

Step 5 Apply an even coat of paint. If the tipped carnation is not dark enough or another paint color will be added, the process can be repeated until the desired effect and color is achieved.


Accessories, such as ribbon loops, bows, tulle netting fans, and other novelties, can be added to corsages to enhance a theme and create a unified design. Not all corsages rely on accessories for visual success--some will look better without any extras.

It is important to give thought to the selection of these design extras. Their main purpose is to accent and give importance to the flowers in the design. To keep the entire design lightweight, be sure to choose extras that are not heavy.

Ribbon Loops and Flags

Loops and flags of ribbon are more suited to most corsages than multilooped bows. A large bow in a corsage can be overpowering and unfitting to the flowers and the entire design in which it is placed. Ribbon loops and flags accent the flowers and add color and texture throughout the entire corsage, helping to unify the whole design. Loops can be made in a number of different ways. The following steps explain how to make a simple single ribbon loop. (see Figure 2-21.)


Step 1 Cut a piece of ribbon 3 to 4 inches long.

Step 2 Fold the ribbon in half with the right side out.

Step 3 Place a wire (#26, #28, or #30) across and on top of both ribbon ends. Fold the ribbon ends up toward the top of the loop.

Step 4 Bend the wire ends downward and twist them together.

Step 5 Secure the base of the ribbon and attach onto the wire, hiding any mechanics by using floral tape.

As shown in Figure 2-22, double and triple loops can be made, as well as loops with tails, called flags. A variety of ribbons can add shimmering, glitzy, velvety, or lacy textures and patterns throughout a corsage.

Net and Lace Fans

Net and lace may be added to designs to provide a background and also to create fullness in corsages without adding weight. Net, also known as netting and tulle, is sold on small bolts, usually 6 inches wide. Netting is available in a wide variety of colors, patterns, textures, and styles. When using netting in corsages, choose materials that are not scratchy and stiff. These can be annoying and sometimes irritating to the skin when placed in shoulder or wrist corsages.

Net and lace can be cut into sections, forming fans, butterflies, or tufts (see Figure 2-23). Several methods can be used to make net background for corsages.

Step 1 Cut a long piece of netting (12 to 18 inches) from the bolt.

Step 2 Fold the piece of netting in half (from side to side). Fold in half again so the piece is folded into fourths.

Step 3 Cut the net, while still folded, diagonally every 2 1/2 to 3 inches. Trim the ends diagonally as well.

Step 4 Open up an individual piece of net and lay flat.

Step 5 Starting at a straight edge, fold up in 1/4- to 1/2-inch pleats (like an accordian).

Step 6 Place a thin wire (#28 or #30) across the top and center of the piece of net (see Figure 2-24).

Step 7 Fold the wire ends down together, while holding the two net sides close together.

Step 8 Twist the wires together. The net will form the shape of a butterfly or fan. These sections may be taped to hide wires and mechanics using floral tape.




For a smoother appearance, pieces of netting may also be folded to form a tuft without cut edges. Net pieces are placed to form a background to help visually as well as physically support flowers in a design (see Figure 2-25).


Many novelties are manufactured for use in corsages (see Figure 2-26). They range in style from cute, youthful bees and butterflies, to more elegant-looking pearls, rhinestones, and other faux jewels. Lightweight holiday and seasonal novelties are available for use in corsages as well. Novelties generally have a wire attached for convenience in design. However, do not assume that everything must be wired and taped. Low-temperature glues and liquid or spray adhesives may be used to secure some novelties into designs.


Artificial Leaves

Artificial leaves, sometimes called glamour leaves, can be added to corsages and boutonnieres in addition to fresh foliage. Artificial leaves are available in a wide range of colors, sizes, textures, and cluster groupings. These leaves add color and texture accents throughout a design and generally add a touch of elegance.



Many events such as weddings, proms, banquets, and other formal events are special occasions for men to wear flowers. However, the occasion need not be formal. Special holidays such as Father's Day, Valentine's Day, or Boss's Day, or sentimental occasions such as an anniversary or birthday are also times when flowers are worn by men. A single flower or small cluster of flowers is a classy addition to a suit coat for any day of the year.

A floral piece worn by a man is called a boutonniere and is generally worn on the lapel of a formal jacket or less formal suit coat. Flowers are most often worn on the left lapel near the buttonhole (hence the name "boutonniere"). Smaller pins with black heads (boutonniere pins) or the larger pins with pearl heads (corsage pins) may be used to attach the boutonniere to the lapel. Pins may be inserted from the back side of the lapel if desired.

Whether the boutonniere is a single rose, carnation, a dendrobium orchid floret, or a cluster of stephanotis, statice, or a sprig of holly, the success and security of any design will depend on proper construction techniques. A single flower with some filler and foliage is a popular boutonniere choice (see Figure 2-27).

Single-Flower Boutonniere

Carnations and roses are the most requested flowers for single-flower boutonnieres. There are, however, many other flowers that work well in boutonnieres, such as alstroemeria and delphinium blossoms and dendrobium orchids.


Step 1 Wire and tape a rose (or other flower) using floral tape.

Step 2 Add a sprig or two of baby's breath (or other filler flower, such as statice, heather, waxflower, and so on). Use just enough filler flower to accent the main flower, not overpower it. Position the filler blossoms above and behind the rose head or to the side, or lower in the front of the rose. Using floral tape, affix the stems of the filler flower onto the main flower stem.

Step 3 Add an ivy leaf (or other small broad leaf such as camellia, lemon leaf, or pittosporum) to the back or side of the design. Lacy foliages, such as leather leaf, ming fern, cedar, tree fern, or plumosa fern can be used as well. The foliage might have to be wired for additional support before taping it into the boutonniere (generally a stitch wire or wrap-around wire).

Step 4 Tape the boutonniere stem tightly and evenly using floral tape. A tight wrapping will secure the design and look nicer, without wires showing or poking through the tape.

Step 5 Curl the stem of the boutonniere forward around a pencil, if you wish, for an interesting, less blunt look.

Step 6 Attach a pin by inserting it through the thick portion of the wired stem. As shown in Figure 2-28, after making a carnation boutonniere, bend the carnation head forward. The flower will look nicer and fit more closely to the lapel.


Multiple-Flower Boutonniere

Once you have learned how to make a single-flower boutonniere, the design possibilities are endless. Two or three little flowers may be clustered together to form a unique boutonniere. It is important to remember to keep these designs fairly small. Avoid making boutonnieres that are so large and excessive that they look like corsages.


Step 1 Wire and tape two or three small flowers using floral tape.

Step 2 As shown in Figure 2-29, select the smallest of the flowers for the height of the boutonniere. Add the other flowers onto the stem of the first in a slight zigzag pattern. Angle the lower flower heads facing out.

Step 3 Add filler flowers for accent if desired. Add a few small broad leaves or tiny sprigs of foliage behind the main flowers.

Step 4 Use floral tape and complete the stems as desired. Add a pin.

Nestled Boutonniere

Smaller flowers (such as sweetheart roses, pixie buds, or a tiny cluster of statice, or other fillers) can be inserted into the center of a carnation. Knowledge of construction techniques for these unique, novelty boutonnieres is important, for they are often requested for proms and other special occasions (see Figure 2-30).


Step 1 Wire a small or sweetheart rose with a #22 wire. Do not tape.

Step 2 Select a carnation with a different color than the rose. Remove the pistil from the center of the carnation to allow you to nestle the rose further down into the carnation.

Step 3 Insert the ends of the wire through the top of the carnation head, down through the center, and out the base of the calyx. Position the rose down into the center of the carnation.

Step 4 Insert a wire (#24) through the carnation. Keep all wires parallel to each other. Tape the wires together using floral tape.

Step 5 Add filler flowers and foliage to the design if you desire. Add a pin.

Boutonniere and Corsage Stem Ends

The wired stems at the base of boutonnieres and corsages are generally visible, so it is important to cover all wires with floral tape. Often a distinctive corsage and especially a boutonniere may be set apart from all others by a simple twist or turn of the taped stems.

One of several simple techniques may be used for putting the final touch on the design piece itself. As shown in Figure 2-31, the simplest method is cutting the stem and leaving it straight. However, curled stems offer more unique options than does a straight stem. The stems may be easily curled by spiraling the stem around a pencil. The curl can be pulled to the side or stretched out in a number of ways.

Stems may also be given a more natural look by keeping individually wired and taped stems separated from one another, taping them together only at the top. For the design to appear as if the flowers have been plucked from the garden, vary the stem lengths.



Corsages are worn by women on special occasions such as weddings, proms, and other formal events. Corsages are popular floral gifts during holidays such as Mother's Day, Easter, and Secretaries' Day, as well as many other times. Whether a corsage is worn by the mayor at a town fair, the woman giving the main address at a conference, the volunteer candy striper at the hospital, a woman on an anniversary dinner date, or a young girl graduating from elementary school, the corsage sets the wearer apart. Corsages and boutonnieres (see Figure 2-32) as floral gifts show appreciation and distinguish the wearer.

Corsages are commonly worn on the shoulder or the wrist. Smaller corsages may be worn in the hair, at the waist, or pinned to an evening purse. The style and fabric of the dress, current fashion trends, the occasion, and personal preference all dictate what type of corsage is preferred. And remember, the success of any design is dependent on proper and secure mechanics.

Single-Flower Corsages

Corsages with one main flower share similar steps of construction to a single-flower boutonniere. However, corsages differ from boutonnieres in the additions of bows or ribbon loops and accessories such as tulle and decorative novelties. The single flower may be a simple carnation or a more exotic gardenia, cymbidium orchid, or cattleya orchid (see Figure 2-33).

Step 1 Wire and tape an orchid (or other flower for a single-flower corsage).

Step 2 Prepare accessory items that are to be added into the corsage, such as two or three net (tulle) fans, one to three ribbon loops, or a tiny, unobtrusive bow. Lightly spray paint net fans, if desired, to provide color and accent.

Step 3 Prepare several leaves or sprigs of foliage and a few tiny sprigs of filler flowers.

Step 4 Place filler flowers behind and around the main flower as desired, and tape in position.

Step 5 Position foliage at the top and sides of the flower, and tape into place.

Step 6 Add net fans as background material around the perimeters of the corsage, if desired. Add ribbon loops for color and accent.

Step 7 Trim excess wire from the corsage as you add additional materials. Secure using floral tape and curl up the stem end. Add one or two corsage pins to the back of the corsage.



Multiple-Flower Corsages

Corsages often have several small flowers grouped together, accented with foliage, ribbons, net tufts, and filler flowers. Constructing this type of corsage is similar to making several boutonnieres or single-flower corsages and then putting them all together into a secure, lightweight, visually lovely design. A variety of flowers, such as roses, feathered carnations, miniature carnations, chrysanthemums, stephanotis, and alstroemeria may be used. It is important to establish a theme and style for the corsage, so that harmony and unity are achieved. (Refer to Figure 2-34 to make a multiple-flower corsage.)

Step 1 Wire and tape three to seven small flowers. Choose a variety of flower types and sizes. Select some leaves or sprigs of foliage and filler flowers. Wire and tape for use in the corsage.

Step 2 Prepare accessory materials, such as net tufts, ribbon loops, and a bow.

Step 3 Begin the corsage with a small flower bud. Position a ribbon loop behind the flower and one in front. Tape these together. This flower will serve as the backbone or spine of the corsage.

Step 4 Tape filler flowers, leaves, and accessory materials around and behind each of the flowers. Position individual flower sections (similar in appearance to boutonnieres and single-flower corsages) onto the main spine of the corsage in a zigzag pattern. Flower heads will begin to face out.

Step 5 If you wish to, add a bow in and among the flower sections. Make the bow integral to the design of the corsage so that it repeats the color and texture of the ribbon loops already taped into the design.

Step 6 To complete the visual flow of the design, position remaining flower sections below the bow so the flower heads are facing out and downward.

Step 7 Trim excess wire from the corsage as you tape in materials. Tape securely using floral tape and roll the stem end forward or to the side. The spine of the corsage should remain flat in order for the design to lie closely against the shoulder or the wrist.

Step 8 The corsage may be maneuvered into a variety of styles or shapes, such as crescent, round, vertical, or triangle, simply by bending and curving the wired stems into desired positions. Add two pins to the spine of the corsage.


Over-the-Shoulder Corsage

Over-the-shoulder corsages, sometimes called epaulet designs, are made to be worn on top of the shoulder and cascade down, both in front and back. Although these elegant, graceful designs are constructed similarly to other multiple-flower corsages, the smallest flowers on both ends must be wired with a fine gauge wire (#28 or #30 or finer), allowing them to cascade freely. These small flowers at the ends should be more widely spaced than the rest of the corsage, giving the corsage a more natural, graceful appearance.

Glamellia Corsage

A glamellia corsage is made from various sizes of gladiolus florets arranged in a way to resemble a camellia flower (hence the name for this corsage). The florets are removed from the stem, and the petals of the flowers are cut and wrapped around a gladiolus bud. These novelty corsages, though time consuming, are distinctively glamorous for special occasions (see Figure 2-35).

Step 1 Choose a slightly opened gladiolus bud. Remove the green calyx portions. Wire and wrap with floral tape.

Step 2 Cut the base of a floret, as shown Figure 2-35. The center portions of the flower will fall out, but the petals should remain intact. Position a section of petals against and around the center bud. Wrap a fine gauge wire around several times to secure the petals and then use floral tape. (Floral adhesive may also be used to attach the petals to the center bud).

Step 3 Add another section of petals circling around the other side of the bud. The glamellia will begin to take on a rounded shape.

Step 4 Continue adding sections of petals around the perimeters of the glamellia until the desired size is achieved. Wire and tape the base of the glamellia.

Step 5 Add several broad leaves underneath the glamellia to help support the newly formed flower and give it a more natural appearance. The glamellia flower may then be used in a corsage design.


Wrist Corsage

Corsages may also be designed to be worn on the wrist rather than the shoulder. However, wrist corsages must remain lightweight, fairly small, and unobtrusive. Although made in the same way as shoulder corsages, these corsages must have a wristlet of some kind securely attached.

Several commercial wristlets or wristbands are available. Some have a band that is elasticized while others are plastic latch-type or velcro bands. The wristlet is attached to the back of the corsage with metal clamps (see Figure 2-36). For security, after pressing the clamps in place around the spine of the corsage, add floral tape around the clamps to keep them tightly in place.

Football Mum Corsage

Football mum corsages are traditional for high school and college homecoming football games, dances, parades, and other festivities. These corsages are regional; that is, in some areas they are considered the ultimate status symbol and in other areas they are virtually unknown.

Corsages are designed with one, two, or three standard incurve chrysanthemums (also called football mums) and a variety of long, cascading ribbons in the school's colors. Accessories such as miniature footballs, cowbells, megaphones, and tiny plush animals are popular additions to these designs. Often the first initial of the school name is represented on top of one of the mums with the name of the individual wearing the corsage spelled out with glitter or stick-on letters on one of the flowing ribbons (see Figure 2-37).



Because of the size and weight of these corsages, mechanics are all important and everything must be wired and glued securely. To keep petals from shattering,mums must be sprayed on the backside with a special clear glue. The following steps of construction may be altered for making single and simple, or large and lavish designs.

Step 1 Choose a standard incurve chrysanthemum (football mum) free of blemishes. Remove all but one inch of stem below the flower head. Hook-wire the flower with a gauge #22 wire. (Alternate wiring techniques such as pierce or insertion may be used.) Tape the wired stem using floral tape. If desired, wire and tape a second or a third football mum, depending on the style and size of design.

Step 2 Spray the flower head with a spray sealer, which will prevent petals from shattering.

Step 3 Stitch-wire camellia or salal leaves with gauge #24 wire. These wired leaves will help to support the otherwise fragile mum. Tape the stems of the wired leaves using floral tape. Place these leaves around the mum to add background while giving support to the flower. Leave all wires parallel to one another. Tape the wires tightly together.

Step 4 Long ribbon streamers and a large bow may be added at the base of the design. Streamers may be braided, knotted, or twisted.

Step 5 Accessories such as dangling miniature footballs or cowbells may be added to the design. Letters and numbers may be made out of chenille stems; these may then be glued onto the top of the flower head or attached with a wire.

Step 6 Securely tape the stem. Make sure all accessories are secure. The entire design may be sprayed with a light coat of glitter or sealer spray.

Other Floral Designs to Wear

Floral pieces are often worn in the hair, attached to a hat, pinned to a purse, or worn as a lei. As in other designs, the occasion, clothing, individual preference, and fashion trends all help determine the desired design. As with wrist corsages, keep designs lightweight, with an appropriate shape and size for the setting.

Flowers for the Hair

Small floral pieces are often designed for individuals to wear in their hair for special occasions such as proms and weddings. Tiny flowers or filler flower clusters may be secured in the hair with hairpins. Small floral designs (similar to boutonnieres) may be attached to a barrette, comb, or hair clip with wire or glue (see Figure 2-38).



A chaplet is a floral wreath or garland for the head. These designs are popular for special occasions such as proms and weddings (Figure 2-39a). Since floral wreaths are often worn by young flower girls at weddings, it is important that head measurements be taken before making these designs to ensure a proper fit.

Step 1 Measure the head. Cut a #22-gauge wire to the length needed, adding on an extra inch to allow for hooking the wire ends together to form a wreath (using floral tape, two straight wires may be taped end to end to form a longer piece, or spool wire may be used).

Step 2 Tape the wire, as shown in Figure 2-39b, using floral tape.

Step 3 Wrap strands of ivy around the wire. Secure the ivy periodically with floral tape. Or, another common procedure for adding foliage is to bind tiny clusters of foliage, such as ivy or leather leaf, with fine wire (#28); each additional cluster of foliage should cover the stems of the previous cluster. Floral tape will secure foliage clusters in place.

Step 4 Add tiny flowers and fillers in a random or orderly pattern with wire and floral tape.

Step 5 Form the wire into a ring and insert the straight wire end into the opposite hooked end, as shown.

Step 6 If you wish, add delicate ribbon streamers and a tiny bow in the back where the garland comes together, concealing the final mechanics of the chaplet.



The lei originates in Hawaii and is a garland or wreath of flowers and leaves, generally worn around the shoulders about the neck. Leis vary greatly according to the flowers, foliage, and the manner of assembly. For example, a simple lei may be made with carnations (see Figure 2-40).

Step 1 Gather forty-five to fifty-five carnations and remove their stems.

Step 2 Using a special medium-weight lei needle (or long darning needle), thread dental floss, fishing line, or lei string (about 7 feet long, doubled to 31?2 feet long or 42 inches) into the needle.

Step 3 To make each carnation fuller, gently brush across the petal tips of each flower, as shown.

Step 4 Begin threading a carnation onto the string by first inserting the needle into the calyx. Continue pushing the needle through the calyx until it goes through the seed pod and comes out through the center of the flower. Thread another carnation onto the string in the same fashion. The carnation flowers should fit snugly next to one another, and the green calyx should be visible between each carnation head.

Step 5 Thread enough carnations to make the lei of the desired length. Remove the lei needle and tie the string ends together. The connecting point may be concealed with a bow.


A lei with a "double" carnation pattern is made in much the same way as a "single" carnation lei.

Step 1 Gather twenty-five to thirty-five carnations and remove their stems.

Step 2 Using a special medium-weight lei needle (or long darning needle), thread dental floss, fishing line, or lei string (about 7 feet long, doubled to about 3 1/2 feet long or 42 inches) into the needle.

Step 3 Split carnation sepals (calyx) as shown, keeping the flower intact, to allow the carnation flower to spread out flat, forming a wider, thicker lei.

Step 4 Begin threading a carnation onto the string by first inserting the needle into the calyx. Continue pushing the needle through the calyx until it goes through the seed pod and comes out through the center of the flower. Feed carnations onto lei string with the green calyx tucked into the center of the previous carnation to produce a thicker, fuller pattern. No calyx should be visible.

Step 5 Thread enough carnations to make the lei of the desired length. Remove the lei needle and tie the string ends together.

Flowers to Hold

Handheld flowers and bouquets are often chosen by young ladies to enjoy at special events. The custom of carrying flowers has been a romantic and sentimental tradition since the English-Georgian and Victorian times. Miniature nosegays are sometimes popular for proms and other school dances and events. It is important to make these designs lightweight and easy to carry. Flowers may be inserted into a wet foam holder or they may be tied together, as in a hand-tied bouquet.


Aerosol and liquid sealers, often referred to as finishing sprays and dips, may be used to seal the porous surfaces of flowers and foliage. Sealers inhibit water loss, helping flowers and leaves in corsages, boutonnieres, and other floral pieces to remain firm for a long period of time. Sealers should only be applied to firm, healthy flowers and foliage; they will not help flowers and foliages that are already wilted. After spraying a floral piece, allow the sealer time to dry before packaging the design.


Corsages, boutonnieres, and other floral pieces for special occasions should be packaged carefully to prevent moisture loss, protect the floral design, and provide an attractive presentation for the receiver. Several types and sizes of bags and boxes are available for packaging flowers that will be worn.

Step 1 Place the floral piece on a layer of shredded wax paper (often called orchid grass). The orchid grass will cushion and help protect the design while it is packaged.

Step 2 Gently place the floral design and orchid grass into an appropriately sized bag. Fold the bag and close with boutonniere or corsage pins (or if pins are already attached to the design, staple the bag shut). It is not always necessary to use a bag within clear plastic boxes or boxes with windows; simply place the orchid grass in the bottom of the see-through box and place the floral piece on top.

Step 3 Place the floral design (within the bag) into an appropriately sized box. A ribbon in a corresponding color may be tied in a pretty bow around the box.

Flowers to wear are special accessory items that may be designed in an infinite number of ways. Many special occasions and events are traditionally associated with the wearing of flowers such as weddings, proms, homecomings, Mother's Day, and many other formal or sentimental times. Floral pieces to wear must be designed in the appropriate shape, size, and style to fit the purpose and place for which they are intended to be worn. Proper wiring and construction techniques are essential to keep these fresh designs secure and long lasting. Knowing and practicing basic techniques of construction for boutonnieres, corsages, and other floral pieces to wear will give you confidence in your own ability to create truly distinctive designs.
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Author:Hunter, Norah T.
Publication:Delmar's Handbook of Flowers, Foliage, and Creative Design
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Previous Article:Section 1: floral arrangements.
Next Article:Section 3: contemporary design styles and techniques.

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