Plant Science = High Fashion

Karen Z. —  May 1, 2014 — Leave a comment

In the world of fashion, floral and botanical prints cycle in and out of style regularly—think Lilly Pulitzer in the 1960s or Christian Lacroix in the late ’80s. This year, flowers are big again: plenty of designers and brand names are offering up gorgeous flower and plant prints in dresses, shoes, scarves, handbags, and even trench coats for this spring, summer, and fall. Here’s a recent rave in the New York Times.

Saturday, May 3, is Members’ Double Discount Days in the Garden Shop. Members receive an extra 10% off regularly priced items.

Naturally, the trend has popped up in our Garden Shop, too, especially as accessories, like this floaty floral scarf…or a cluster of way-cute flower-shaped handbags…and in jewelry that makes a flowery statement, large or small. Pollinators and insects—bees and butterflies and ladybugs and beetles—have designers buzzing, too. At our Garden Shop, Bali-based Paula Bolton’s bee-and-honeycomb jewelry is thought-provokingly beautiful in sterling silver and 18K gold.

Mother’s Day gift ideas, anyone?

PHOTO: A gauzy, pink silk scarf with felted white 5-petal flowers.

A pink-as-a-flower silk scarf with felted wool blossoms can wrap neck, waist, hair.

PHOTO: Delicate crystal and sterling silver children's earrings in the shape of 6-petal flowers.

Found in our kids’ section, but go ahead and admit you’ll be borrowing these: Swarovski crystal flower earrings, in posts or wires.

PHOTO: Round, leather clutch purses with decorative roses in jewel tones.

Flower power that doesn’t overpower: a comment-worthy clutch

PHOTO: A collection of 3 rings in the shape of various flowers.

Bling the blooms: flower rings are big this season.

PHOTO: Silver loops with honeycomb interiors support sculpted metal bees on necklace pendants and earrings.

Handcrafted jewelry by Paula Bolton celebrates bees and their honey handiwork.

Nonetheless, I was gobsmacked when I walked into my long-time favorite clothing store in the city* and saw this top and skirt (pictured below) from designer Christopher Kane hanging on a mannequin. Its style couldn’t be simpler: a basic crew neck top and an A-line skirt, easy enough for every body to wear. It’s the “print”—and its message—that made me gasp.

His floral print celebrates science—in this case, botany. (In other pieces from the same collection, he highlights the process of photosynthesis. View his spring show here.)

Each flower in the skirt's print has a petal that waves in the breeze as you walk.

Each flower in the skirt’s print has a petal that waves in the breeze as you walk.

From a distance, the words and images are pleasing graphics, but look closely, and you’re startled into a flashback. That big, exploded graphic on the top is a stylized science textbook illustration, and those words are the names of the plant parts you learned about back in grade school: petals and sepals…anthers and ovaries…filaments and nectaries. With the shock of recognition, you start to test your memory, “Now how does a flower work again? And what was it that a nectary does?” A glance…and a gasp…and a conversation.

As with any art, the best fashion is that which pleases as it provokes thought. We think nothing of wearing a sweatshirt with a college name on it…or a baseball cap with a team name on it…or of carrying a handbag with a brand name’s logo on it. In doing so, we advertise what is important to us.

But how often do we choose to wear…a scientific fact? Or an item that advertises nature? Or an outfit that stimulates a discussion about learning?

PHOTO: Detail of flower part diagram embroidered on Christopher Kane skirt.

Detail of flower diagram embroidered on a Christopher Kane skirt.

The influences of cutting-edge fashion often take a few seasons to reach everyday fashion. Here’s hoping that plant science captures the imagination of fashion fans everywhere!

*Thank you, Adriene at Blake, who shared these photos.

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Karen Z.

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Karen Zaworski is a writer who likes to use as few words as possible, a photographer who still works with black-and-white film and a darkroom, and a gardener who actually likes to weed.

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