The right corsage can elevate your date, but the wrong corsage can really crash your party. Avoid a style bomb at prom with our suggestions for unique yet timeless corsage selections.
The Mystery and History of the Corsage
The custom of wearing a corsage is a tradition that harkens back to ancient Greece when women wore flowers for protection against evil spirits and as a good luck charm. Wearing corsages and boutonnieres was also popular in Victorian times because the accessories allowed the dancers to smell nice and fend off illness.
Back in the Victorian era, women wore flowers on the bodice of their dresses, and these flowers were called, “bouquet de corsage,” which is a French phrase that translates to “bouquet of the bodice.”
Since deodorants and antiperspirants didn’t really take hold until a bit later, smelling nice was a concern in the early days of the corsage and boutonniere.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, boutonnieres and corsages may have been worn every day for smelling nice and fresh, but as time went by, the practice was limited to formal occasions.
The corsage evolved over time. First off, the original phrase was shortened to just the word corsage, and the placement of the corsage migrated as well. From the bodice of the dress, the corsage placement moved to the shoulder straps. When styles changed and spaghetti straps and strapless dresses arrived on the scene, the corsage embraced the change and went to the wrist.
It used to be tradition for the gentleman to pin the corsage to his date, but these days just because you may be dateless doesn’t mean you have to go without a corsage. If you are going to prom with friends, you can all pick out your own corsages or buy them for each other.
The corsage goes to show that an old tradition can stick around and stay relevant if it is willing to adapt and change with the times. We can all learn something from the humble corsage and smelling nice while warding off evil spirits and illness is not a bad goal, either.
Corsages by Type
A corsage is a small arrangement that is typically made up of two or more focal flowers nestled with greenery or filler flowers and is usually made using hearty flowers capable of withstanding the evening’s festivities without wilting. Corsages can also be adorned with beading, ribbons, gems or other eye-catching elements.
Choosing a corsage depends on a variety of factors. Color is important but not the only aspect. Corsages can have materials besides flowers. Ribbons, jewels, pearls and glitter can all add depth to a corsage. If you are someone’s date, the corsage and boutonniere can be coordinated.
The wrist corsage, also known as the bracelet corsage, is the most popular prom style. A wrist corsage is a small arrangement, usually three or four flowers or perhaps even a single flower and is typically worn on the left wrist.
The popularity of wrist corsages might be because they are comfortable to wear, and there is not the element of the potential danger of damaging the gown that the pin-on types have.
Wrist corsages match most styles but should be avoided if the dress has long sleeves.
Pin-on corsages are the traditional style of corsages that are meant to be pinned on the dress and are perfect for gowns that have straps. Avoid using this type of corsage if the dress is made of a delicate fabric as the pins could damage it. Dresses with thick straps or dresses with sequins or embroidery are good options as the pinholes will just blend into the dress.
However, if you or your date are smitten with tradition yet worried about damaging the dress, there are faux pin-on corsages that use magnets.
Aside from the two most common types of corsages, there are a few other options for corsages. There are ring corsages for making a unique statement with a smaller piece that usually features one or two small flowers attached to a ring. Whether delicate and dainty or ostentatious and bold, ring corsages are guaranteed to get you and your manicure noticed.
For those who want more flower power, there are armband corsages. Armband corsages can be artistic and sculptured to complement one’s dress and the shape of one’s arm. They can be intricate or simple, but either way, they create a bold look. Make sure that the armband corsage will be comfortable before committing as the additional flowers make them a bit more costly than the other corsage options.
Hand corsages or nosegay corsages are carried in one’s hands. This type of corsage is not as popular because it must be carried, but it allows for more flowers to be added since it won’t weigh down the wrist or the dress.
Putting on the Glitz
Once the corsage is selected, part of the process is presenting it and putting it on. When presented with the corsage, one should ask if one’s date would like it pinned. If the answer is yes, how to put on the corsage will vary depending on the type of corsage.
For the wrist corsage, the date should be asked which wrist, even though corsages are typically worn on the left wrist. Once a wrist is chosen, the wrist corsage is simply placed by sliding the elastic or bracelet around over the hand, placing on the wrist and straightening the flowers.
For the date with a pin-on corsage, a little skill is required for placing the corsage. Like the wrist corsage, these corsages are typically worn on the left.
Take the corsage pin in your right hand and place the corsage against the dress, just below your date’s collarbone using your left hand. With the left hand, lift a small bit of material away from your date’s skin and run the pin on the left side of the flower as you face it. Go behind the dress through the thickest part of the stem. Then thread the pin back toward your date and push the pin back out of the dress.
Make sure the corsage is secure and positioned correctly. If the flowers are very heavy, use two pins in an X formation. The pin will always go over the stem of the flower, not through it.
The Flowers in the Context of the Corsage
Flowers have their own special language, so a corsage can communicate a sentiment by the selection of flowers. Some popular flowers for prom are Alstroemeria, which means devotion and friendship, baby’s breath, which means everlasting love, calla lily, which means magnificent beauty, daisy, which means innocence and orchid, which means beauty.
For a hardy, budget-friendly flower, carnations come in different colors and are associated with love, affection and admiration. If you plan to dance until dawn, carnations should be on your list.
Roses are traditional for a reason. The different color roses lend variety and depth of expression, considering that each color has a different meaning. Red roses are love and passion while yellow roses are for friendship. Purple roses are for love at first sight and white roses are for innocence.
When choosing white roses or gardenias, know that these flowers bruise easily and may even develop brown edges, so that should be a consideration.
For Those Who Seek Unique
Traditionally, corsages featured one kind of flower with ribbon and a filler like baby’s breath. Modern designs are a mix of textures, colors and different flower types, greens and other elements. For a monochromatic look, choose several shades of one color and different flowers to complement the hue. For a more natural look, one main flower can sit center stage around greens and fillers.
The most unique and popular corsage options for prom are all about customization and adding a personal touch.
Jewelry corsages can consist of an elaborate floral bracelet where the bracelet becomes a keepsake or elegant floral corsages with jewelry added into them. These pieces will accentuate your dress, and why not? It is your night to shine.
For a modern, avant-garde corsage, consider using orchids. These unique flowers come in gorgeous colors and shapes. Perhaps even more important, they are lasting and can take the heat, so you won’t have to take it easy on the dance floor.
Ways to Amaze
Add rhinestones to the flowers of the corsage and/or sparkling accents to the band, bracelet or ribbon. You can also opt for one giant bloom as your corsage focal point flower. This can give you a dramatic burst of color or a neutral accent.
If you don’t want to go overboard with color, you can keep the main bloom more neutral and add smaller bursts of color with the filler.
Gems, pearls or other embellishments can be added to the center of certain flowers, and nontraditional blooms like pansies or mini sunflowers can give a corsage a personal touch.
Remember that you are not only matching your corsage with your dress. The best corsages match with the wearer’s personality. The corsage doesn’t have to match the precise color of the dress, but it must not clash.
Special ways to add dimension, personalize and modernize a corsage include - jeweled beads, lace, ribbon, gems and even small, symbolic charms like an arrow or heart.
For more natural ways to add depth to your corsage, consider cotton, burlap, twine, berries, evergreen, herbs and grains. These additions to your corsage can be a lovely alternative to the standard greenery.
For options to personalize your corsage, our florists at Daniela's Flower Shop II in New York, NY would be delighted to work with you to make your prom dreams a reality.
Succulents and air plants are having a moment and can add unexpected texture and depth to corsage designs. One great thing about succulents is that they are versatile. They are popping up in arrangements that are so varied that they can be classified from bohemian, classical, whimsical and elegant. Who knew one plant could be such a chameleon?
Even better, succulents can live without water for days, so the corsage could be created ahead of time. Succulents can easily be paired with lavender, protea, berries, cotton and Eucalyptus, among others.
As the corsage itself taught us, sometimes traditional is best. Roses are a traditional option, but you can modernize them by having your florist dye them or add crystals to their petals. Don’t worry about getting dye on your dress because buds get a special dye technique that involves injecting the hue intravenously into the stem.
Keep everything one color to make a powerful statement.
People are gravitating toward blue designs, and bright colors are having a moment. Metallic glitter will get you noticed, and these are all ways to add a final, memorable touch to the overall prom look.
For those with a love of words, why not celebrate your appreciation for the written word with a corsage? A book corsage layers pieces of a novel into a flower-like shape. You can also opt to surround it with greenery, but the paper flower will be a lasting charm you can keep forever.
If you aren’t into books but have a genuine love of song, request the same style as the book corsage but substitute sheet music instead.
No Outside Food or Drink
Although there is a fad involving people wearing croissant and chicken corsages, these sorts of corsages seem to contradict the intention behind the tradition of the corsage and are best left on the buffet table.
Nothing to Sneeze At
If you or your date have allergies, don’t worry, you don’t have to miss out on flowers. There are hypoallergenic flowers that produce very little pollen, so you can enjoy the petals without the pollen problems.
Some hypoallergenic flowers to consider are carnations, hyacinth, orchids, tulips, snapdragons, irises, roses, cactus, peonies and yarrow.
Caring for Your Corsage
When it comes to increasing the longevity of the corsage, handle the flowers as little as possible. Keep it in the refrigerator for as long as possible. Ask your florist to spray the corsage with a preservative. Also, practice pinning prior to prom to avoid any incidents.
Once you are in your prom attire, you will love the scent and gorgeous accent that a corsage creates, but unlike the Victorians, at least you and your date (if you have one) probably won’t be worried about evil spirits or foul odors. That way, you can focus on feeling awesome and savoring the moment and all that prom represents.