Thursday, October 25, 2012

Corsages and Boutonnieres

Fena Flowers has a particular speciality that is unknown to many customers because the average Fena Flowers customer is not in the habit of regularly attending formal high school dances. Fena elevates the standard wrist corsage from the mundane (this blog author, back in her high school dance days, received corsages consisting of two spray roses, a tulle frill, and a few sprigs of iridescent ribbon) to an art. With rhinestone wristbands, decorative elements ranging from feathers to wire, the same diverse and unique fillers and greens that distinguish Fena's floral arrangements, and a wide variety of flower options, a Fena Flowers corsage is a marvel to behold!

Fena Flowers' corsage ribbon selection.

Making a Corsage

If you've ever wondered how a corsage is made, here's a quick, illustrated tutorial:

Wiring roses and other flowers.

First off, all the flowers that go in a corsage are wired. Roses have sturdy stems and firmly affixed petals, so the thin, flexible wire can be run through the stem without fear that the head of the flower will break off above it. The wire is then folded down and secured with floral tape. For flowers like orchids that have thin, weak stems, the wire is formed into a hook that is threaded through the center of the flower. The wire and the stem are then wrapped in floral tape. Floral tape is stretchy and sticks to itself; to get a thin, even wrap, the wired item is quickly twisted with the fingers while the tape is stretched taut at a downward angle. The tape wrap should be as thin as possible to keep components from becoming too bulky.

This sample corsage includes spray roses, delphinium, wire-mounted rhinestones, feathers, ribbon, ornamental grasses, pittosporum leaves, and a rhinestone band.

All of a corsage's components are laid out and prepped before assembly begins. Greens with sufficiently woody stems do not need to be wired, whereas more fragile greens, like the grasses, benefit from taping and wiring to make them sturdier while also allowing for flexibility. Ribbon fragments, which would otherwise be difficult to position precisely, are attached to wires as well.

A designer learns through practice how to mentally compose a corsage before assembling it, making it easy to assign components to groupings.

The next step involves grouping components in clusters according to where they will be positioned in the corsage and taping them together. Corsage elements that weren't wired individually, like the feathers, rhinestones, and ivy leaves in this sample corsage, are taped into the clusters. Clusters generally contain three or so components; any more than that, and their flexibility would decrease, making it harder to do the necessary bending and manipulating that happens during assembly.

As the clusters are layered and snuggly fitted together, the corsage begins to take shape.

The clusters can then start to be put together. Greens and ribbons tend to go in the back while flowers and decorative elements like rhinestones go on top. Several clusters can be taped together at once, reducing the bulk of the growing corsage "stem" and maintaining flexibility. When the corsage is halfway finished, the wristband is slid onto the corsage and secured with a wire if necessary. The remaining components will help hold the wristband in place when they are secured with the tape wrap.

Almost done!

When all of the components are in place, a fat, pointy "stem" of wrapped wire protrudes. This can be covered in a ribbon wrap and then twisted up close to the body of the corsage. 

A beautiful white and purple corsage is finished and ready for the dance! An experienced corsage-maker can assemble one in just fifteen minutes, but it takes a lot of practice to get that fast.

A quick spritz of glitter spray gives the corsage a bit of sparkle and it is done! Corsages are best stored in a cool but not cold place until the dance. In the fall, an unheated garage is a great place to keep the corsage; if the weather is warm and the corsage or boutonniere is picked up the day before the dance, it may be stored in the warmest part of the refrigerator.

Ordering a Corsage

When it comes to ordering a corsage, teenage boys often delegate the chore to their mothers, though young men need not be intimidated!

This corsage answers to a simple description: pink!

A customer can place an order knowing only the color of the dress and nothing more or have a long and specific list of things to be included; either way, Fena Flowers always endeavors to produce something beautiful and unique. 

A much more detailed description of the colors in a girl's outfit yields a corsage tailored to coordinate with all its elements.

Looking at the distinctive color combination of the above corsage, I would hazard that the lucky girl who received it was wearing a brown and turquoise dress with peach accents and silver jewelry!

This one-of-a-kind corsage features a minute echeveria instead of a flowers as the focal point!

Other customers will explicitly ask for something wildly unique. Fena Flowers is always happy to fill this kind of request! Our designers love the opportunity to be creative and incorporate unique decorative elements into a corsage.

This corsage is made up of white and purple delphinium, a single white dendrobium orchid, white freesia, rhinestones, berzelia, bear grass, striped black ribbon, and feathers.

This corsage contains purple delphinium, two white dendrobium orchids, white spray roses, oblong crystals, snowberries, sheer black ribbon, and feathers. 

No two corsages are exactly alike, even if they have the same basic description. Both of the corsages above are purple and white with black accents, but contain different flowers and fillers and are constructed differently. Fena Flowers makes every single corsage to order, so even those produced from similar simple descriptions will vary in appearance!

Elements of a Corsage

The dates of the Homecoming and Prom dances for all the local high schools are written on the shop calendar to ensure that the shop is well-stocked with spray roses in every color during those weeks.

Peach roses are paired with orchids and peach hypericum berries in this pretty corsage.

Red spray roses make a bold statement, especially when paired with black and white beads and ribbon!

Sometimes customers will specifically ask to have a corsage with made with flowers OTHER than roses. Such requests are happily accommodated and are usually filled using orchids. Customers who express a desire for "elegant" or "sophisticated" corsages generally receive orchids as well. 

Blush cymbidium orchids are paired with gold ribbon for a look of champagne elegance.

But just because spray roses and orchids are the standard flowers used in corsage work, it doesn't mean other blooms don't get a chance to shine! Lots of different types of greens can be used in corsages, too.

Bright pink nerines enliven this purple, black, and pink corsage made with spray roses and delphinium!

Delphinium, freesia, and dianthus (that mossy-looking green stuff) come together to make a beautiful blue, white, and green corsage.

Snowberries and silvery berzelia buds elevate this corsage with orchids and roses above the ordinary!

Delphinium, freesia, and hydrangea florets give this pretty corsage a lush garden appearance.

The non-natural decorative elements are important, too. Fena Flowers keeps a wide variety of ribbons, feathers, crystals, rhinestones, colored wire, beads, and other bits of bling on hand to jazz up corsages!

This corsage not only contains a two delphinium blooms and phalaenopsis orchid, but feathers and three varieties ribbon in shades of nude and buff to create a soft, elegant look.

Boutonnieres

Dance season means boutonnieres are needed, too! They are much simpler to make than the corsages, but Fena still tries to them some personality through the use of interesting greens, colorful ribbon wraps, and other accents. (True story: the author of this blog applied for a job at Fena Flowers the same day she placed an order for her prom date's boutonniere--a white dendrobium orchid with ivy leaves and a purple ribbon accent--more than a decade ago!)

A white rose boutonniere is the single most common boutonniere request...

....with red rose boutonnieres coming in second.

It's always fun when an order is placed for a different colored rose boutonniere, like this nice peach one!

Sometimes, just as with corsages, the customer will request something other than a rose. This phalaenopsis orchid with a gold stem wrap is a handsome alternative!

The Gallery

What follows are some corsage and boutonniere photos from the Fena Flowers archives. Homecoming season is pretty much over for the year, but be sure to keep Fena Flowers in mind when Prom rolls around!













Fena Flowers
425-825-8181
12815 NE 124th St, Suite K
Kirkland, WA 98034

Photography by c.creativity
Illustrations © 2012 by c.creativity



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