Along with crocuses and daffodils comes another surefire sign of spring: florals in fashion.
The garden-party look is a seasonal classic, but there's been some updating this season. Look for artistic – almost abstract – brushstroke technique, or realistic, photo-style prints. Other twists include tulip-style hemlines and fabric petals adorning everything from tank tops to ball gowns.
Flowers, say designers, are an endless source of inspiration because of their delicacy, femininity and beauty. And it turns out many fashion insiders are gardeners (or aspiring gardeners), too.
The AP asked designers who are offering florals in their spring collections about their favorite flowers:
Peonies are also a favorite for Reese. She says she likes that they evolve from such a compact ball into lovely layers as they blossom. They’re also such a welcome sign of sunny days ahead after a long winter, Reese adds.
In her work, though, Reese doesn't restrict herself to springtime blooms. Many of her fall collections – including the one just previewed at New York Fashion Week – will incorporate florals.
“It's hard to point to a season where we haven't used flowers for something – either shape, color, print,” she says.
Florals are a staple of her own wardrobe, and she likes to mix them with other prints. “I'll wear florals and plaid, a striped sweater and a floral-print skirt, but sometimes there's nothing more beautiful than a spring garden dress.”
Carmen Marc Valvo
Flowers creep into his clothes all the time, but there have been two specific flower themed runway shows. One came after his treatment for cancer six years ago. He saw the rebirth of his peony trees as a hopeful sign, so he used pinks, chiffon petals and “dewdrops” of crystals. A few years later he blew up Georgia O'Keefe-style flowers as prints.
“I was fixated by the way petals moved and I started playing with organza like an origami rose,” Valvo says.
The highlights of Valvo’s actual garden include the Carmen rose – “for obvious reasons” – and his peonies. Those peonies have taken him on a roller coaster of growing, thriving, shriveling up and once again blossoming. His orchids are also finicky, but Valvo now has a greenhouse for them. “When they come back, it's very satisfying.”
Lonstein recently tossed the holiday paper whites and moved on to cut gardenias and honeysuckle in the spirit of spring. Later in the season, the hydrangeas she planted will blossom – she loves having their cut flowers in the house.
She also grows tomatoes, but is a killer of orchids. “I need to stick to the sturdier bushes,” she says.
You won't find watercolor florals in her designs either, but every collection has florals, including one Lily of the Valley print that was fashioned after her wedding bouquet. She says florals look chic and sophisticated when they're anchored with black or on tailored pieces.
“You don't want too much fabric,” she advises. “Try sleeveless or the top part of a dress that's floral with a black skirt or vice versa. If you pull one color out of the print and stick with it for the rest of the outfit, you'll have a nice balance.”
creative director at Talbots
“I'm a pink guy, but my favorite flower is an orange poppy,” says Smaldone. “I love how they’re both wild – with ugly leaves and hairy stems – and have a beautiful delicate flower.”
His thumb is pretty green, he says. “I like to get as tropical as I can in a non-tropical location. My garden is very green, organic and has things with big leaves. There are poppies all over the place to give a burst of color.”
He turned to a brushstroke floral print for Talbots' spring line, though, because he thought that approach was very optimistic – something the fashion world needs right now.
But whatever the climate is for style trends, flowers always fit in, Smaldone says. “You can do everything with them. They can fit into any trend: ethnic, watercolor, Impressionistic, pop art, you name it.”
Som is yet another peony fan and he also has a thing for green roses. There are some orchids in his house right now that he's trying to revive, but it's not going all that well.
“I wish I had a green thumb.” His spring collection had an underlying vibe of Japanese woodcuts – and he found that all sorts of floral prints worked with it. The range included big-scale flowers to 1940s'-inspired painterly blooms.
“A flower is eternally beautiful,” Som says, “and it really screams spring.”
Photo: Floral fashion designed by Tracy Reese.