The magic of flowers – And why alternative fashion is frequently flowery!
Thursday, 27 June 2019 | Kate
Wandering around our garden the other night, on the evening of the Solstice, we were talking about the things that every human being seems to love, no matter where they come from, their background, their age or anything else. We all love a beautiful landscape – have you ever heard anyone say they hate a sunset, or can't stand a seascape, or never want to see another beautiful countryside view again? The same goes for flowers. We've never met anyone who says they hate flowers, can't stand the sight of blooms, would do anything to avoid the scent of roses. Have you? It looks like almost every human, if not all of us, is hard-wired to enjoy nature and love flowers. So why are we so fascinated by flowers, their scent, their looks? And how come flowers are the star of so much alternative fashion?
The history of flowers – They're amazing!
Humans have always admired flowers. They bring beauty to our homes, speak of romance, are used in rituals across the world, provide medicine and can be eaten. But they pre-date the human race by many millions of years. Flowers were here long, long before our ancient hominid ancestors first stood up and walked. Land plants have been around for about 425 million years. But there's very little evidence so far to reveal the ancestors of flowering plants and no continual fossil evidence to show exactly how they evolved. On the other hand a recently discovered fossil of a flowering plant, Archaefructus liaoningensis from China, dates back 125 million years and in 2015 a 130 million-year-old fossil Montsechia vidalii found in Spain turned out to be around 130 million years old. 2018 saw new evidence come to light and the resulting theory says the earliest flowers began to bloom around 180 million years ago. But there's also some evidence unfolding that says flowers may have been around as long as 250 million years ago.
Flower power – Vivid colour in a less colourful world
The modern world is packed with colour. It's everywhere, leaping out of our TVs, off posters, in shop windows. The traffic's colourful, people's clothes are colourful, furniture's colourful. Today's synthetic dyes and paints bring a wealth of colour to our everyday lives. But roll back time a couple of hundred years and the human world was a lot less vibrant. Only the wealthy could afford brightly-dyed fabrics, only the rich had paintings and books, and one of the only ways to get some colour into your life – at least affordably – was via flowers. In those days flowers must've seemed so much more magical, colourful, and awe-inspiring than they do in today's world where we're spoiled for colour and take it for granted.
Flowers and funerals are nothing new. They've gone together since prehistoric times. Archaeologists have discovered tiny fragments of pollen on top of a woman's tomb in the El Miron Cave in Spain, and many modern human societies still connect flowers with life and death. You can understand why the symbolism is so powerful, with flowers arriving, dying back and arriving again to symbolise rebirth. The ancient Greeks put flower crowns on the heads of their dead, and covered tombs with wreaths and petals. Blooms were a common sight in ancient Egyptian burial rituals, and Mexicans still use flowers to help mark the Day of the Dead, just like their Aztec ancestors.
Useful flowers – Eat flowers, drink flowers...
Did you know that broccoli, cauliflower, hops, cloves and capers are all either flowers or part of a flower? Saffron, which costs more than gold, is made from dried crocus stigmas. Chicken keepers feed marigold flowers to their birds to help the yolks of the eggs go a lovely sunny yellow. Dandelion and elder flowers make wonderful wine, and you can make fabulous elderflower champagne in just a week for next to nothing. Flower pollen collected from bees is a popular health food, and of course honey itself is made from flowers. Nasturtium, chrysanthemum and carnation flowers all taste fab, as do the daisy, rose and violet, And, of course flowers sit at the heart of every great perfume.
The language of flowers
Some flowers have meaning. When you assign a meaning to a flower it's called floriography, and the Victorians in particular loved using it. Red roses still symbolise love, beauty, and passion to this day. Poppies symbolise death. Irises and lilies are symbols of resurrection and daisies are a symbol of sweet innocence. Even today, if someone buys you red roses you know exactly what they mean without having to use words – you are loved.
Flower symbolism in alternative clothing
How come our alternative clothing, and the alternative clothes worn by people all over the western world, are so often decorated with flowers: embroidered flowers, appliqué flowers, printed flower designs? It's a beauty thing, of course. Flowers are endlessly lovely, so it's no surprise that such a large proportion of fabrics actually feature flower designs. We just typed 'printed dressmaking fabric' into Google and every photo that popped up at the top of the image search is of flower-printed materials. Flowers are everywhere.
Men and flowers
Flowery clothes aren't just for girls, either. Type 'men's flower shirts' into Google and you get a fantastic suite of photos of gorgeous flowery shirts. The same goes for men's shorts. Plenty of men wear alternative fashion featuring flowers or 'botanicals', and that means blooms are actually unisex. Check out our flower-covered alternative clothing Explore our site to discover a wealth of stunning flower-smothered alternative clothes, and make your summer go with an extra-colourful bang!