Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Summer dresses inspired by the garden





 Foxgloves in my garden
The wild strawberries are returning
The garden is blooming and, with the good weather (since replaced by wintery rain) women in London are turfing out the floral frock. You feel feminine, fresh, cheerful, even a little giddy, in a flowery dress, bare legs and open-toed sandals.
Nature has always influenced what we wear, and our secret garden is starting to infiltrate my wardrobe. But why stick to flowers? Just as with the garden, I like to mix it up, flowers and vegetables together, so I had a tomato dress made by my dressmaker Ruth Bennett (bbetty23@hotmail.co.uk)

This is my newest dress
This is my oldest dress, which I bought at a thrift shop in Los Angeles when I was 21. It dates from the 1930s. At the time I called it my 'bomb' dress, the one I'd like to be wearing if the bomb dropped. 
I recently gave a talk at the V & A Reading rooms where I was told I could choose two books as a gift. I chose this wonderful book detailing the history of the flowery frock during the 20th century from Horrockses to Ossie Clarke's collaboration with Celia Birtwell. Even during the rationing of the war, women wore florals. Perhaps when things are grim, you turn for inspiration to the timeless and natural bounty of this planet, to the garden.
Sometimes we prefer small intricate prints, other times we want large and blousy blooms. Flowers have symbolic meaning also, according to culture or nationality.
But most importantly the flowery dress can be a language with which the wearer can subtly announce how they are feeling that day. Today I might want to wear bright cartoony dahlias, but for the evening I may don a silky fabric adorned with dark red roses. On other perhaps quieter, more subdued days we will choose to dress covered with tiny muted sprigs Laura Ashley style.
I bought this Monet inspired 'nymphéa' flowery shirt in Bologna. I love the fabric covered buttons which remind me of Biba.
I love also to cook with flowers. Zia Mays and I are hosting a Secret Garden Club on the subject of edible flowers on the 24th of June. Book here for Zia's workshop on growing and identifying edible flowers and my edible flowery supper. 

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