Couture Flower Dress for American Flowers Week 2021
Every year right before July 4th, we join the Slow Flowers Society for a celebration of American Flowers Week! Together we celebrate American-grown flowers in all 50 states, and designers from all over the country are paired with local growers to create botanical couture fashion. This year, we were one of 12 designers selected to create a couture look for American Flowers Week! This couture look was SO much fun to create, and you can see all 12 designs (as well as the stories behind them) in this amazing, free flip book. They are all such wonderful creations, and I am so grateful to be in such an elite group of artists! Below, you'll see our final couture look.
Why Floral Couture?
There are so many great reasons to celebrate flowers with floral couture. For starters, dresses made out of flowers are STUNNING to look at! More importantly, they also elevate flowers as an artistic medium, and floral design as the art that it truly is. Projects like this allow us to really flex our creativity and show what can be done with flowers as an art form. These designs also allow us to highlight the various growing regions, seasons, and talented growers all across the country! It is truly amazing to see the botanical diversity and high quality of product in the cut flower industry here in the US. For many reasons, I prefer to use American-grown flowers. However, the biggest reason is that the quality and diversity are much better compared to imported blooms. I mean...just LOOK at these.
Couture Fashion Inspiration
For our couture look, Debra Prinzing of Slow Flowers asked me about doing a full dress made of hellebores. Hellebores are a very favorite flower of mine, so OF COURSE I said yes! I love hellebores because they are winter-blooming, and basically are the first things to bloom in my garden every year. For example, some varieties can bloom as early as January, and they continue blooming and changing colors until May and June. By contrast, our local “spring” flowers – tulips and daffodils – don’t even really start until late March. Hellebores can also bloom in the snow! And as a cut flower, they are quite rare and expensive, which makes me love them more. It’s uncommon to be able to work with them en masse because it would be so costly, so I jumped at this opportunity.
Debra paired me with Pamela Youngsman of Poppy Starts, who provides plant plugs to growers all over the Pacific Northwest. Pamela has a fantastic collection of hellebore plants that she offered to cut from, as well as a large network of other growers in the Skagit valley. Together, we looked at photos of her garden, as well as new varieties, to develop a color palette. I also knew I wanted to highlight the hellebore in its most exquisite and unexpected form, which was blooming from the snow. You can see her beautiful blooms above, and her beautiful face with our model, Tasia, below!
After that, I looked at couture fashion, and especially fell in love with the haute couture work of Iris van Herpen. I love so many things about this designer, including her avant-garde silhouettes, her obvious inspirations from nature in the way her garments move and flow, and her commitment to sustainability. Inspired by her designs, I realized that using only one flower meant that the structure of the dress itself had to look interesting, avant-garde, and futuristic. Then, I put together a mood board incorporating all of these elements: the sophisticated color palette of the hellebores, the snow, avant-garde silhouettes, and the futuristic feeling I wanted to capture. In my head, a story developed of a fierce visitor from another time and planet, who was searching for a place to plant more hellebores.
Making the Couture Look
I sketched a million couture ideas, but eventually settled on a silhouette with big shoulders, inspired by the blue and peach dress in the mood board. It had to be simple enough to execute but dramatic enough to make a statement! After rummaging through my closet, I found an old dress given to me by a friend that I hadn’t worn in ages. I used this dress as the base, took it in based on our model’s measurements, and added an encasement on the shoulders that I stuffed with poly-fill from the craft store (see below). I then glued moss over the dress fabric, and was ready to start gluing hellebores!
Incredibly, every single hellebore on this couture dress was hand-glued with cold glue. I estimate that I used about 500 flowers, or around 150 stems. I started at the top of the dress with that dramatic dark red hellebore, because it was so eye-catching in my studio. I definitely wanted to highlight the little cutout in the neckline with a bold color.
From there, I continued to work my way down the dress in an ombre color palette. I was so inspired by the way the hellebore tones blended into each other so seamlessly. Pamela had such beautiful flowers that it was really easy to make something gorgeous.
For the couture headpiece, I was really inspired by a look from Iris van Herpen, which you can see in the mood board (bottom right). In the videos of her fashion show, that head piece actually moves beautifully – almost exactly like a sea creature, which feels very alien. I wanted to replicate the feeling of this avant-garde, organically shaped crown, without it being a literal crown. I played a lot with scale on this couture headpiece, using hellebores from various stages of bloom to make bigger or smaller gradations. The base itself was made from rustic wire covered in silver bouillon wire, and the hellebores were simply glued on. I absolutely LOVE the way this came out!
Couture Photo Shoot in the Snow
At this point, we relied on our network of wedding and event professionals to round out the creative team. Somehow, I lucked out and found Tasia, our model, who no longer models professionally. But she still remembers exactly how to work a camera! I asked Missy Palacol to be our photographer, since she is one of our go-to photographers for product shoots. And I reached out to Luxe Artistry Seattle for help with hair and makeup, who assigned Deleana Guerrerro to us. We wanted Deleana to use her own creativity for this shoot, and she totally nailed it!! I love the petal-like effects she put in the makeup, and the fact that Tasia’s hair was perfectly done for the couture headpiece.
All of us headed out to Hyak Sno Park in Snoqualmie Pass, which still had plenty of snow in early March. I kid you not – it rained the ENTIRE time we were there, despite a week of bluebird days before and after. However, with lots of umbrellas, hand warmers, and a heated bathroom for Tasia to take breaks in, we made magic happen! We confused a lot of snowshoers and skiiers in the bathroom hallway, but we were so thrilled with the results of this couture collaboration.
This project is a pure celebration of Washington-grown hellebores, artistic collaboration, and haute couture fashion. I am so thrilled with how this couture look came together, and the incredible images we are able to share with you all. I want to thank our amazing team of collaborators for making my vision come to life, and trusting me to make something that no one has ever done before!
You can read more about this incredible hellebore dress on the American Flowers Website, in Flower Magazine, in Green Profit Magazine, or in the full, free flip book of all 12 designs from around the country. Happy American Flowers Week!
Our incredible team:
Tasia Baldwin, Model: @_tasiajb