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By Marthe Seydel

When the world hits another crisis, we tend to adjust our fashionable habits to unfortunate times. We all know that lipstick sales are a much-cited statistic for economic health. Some say that the ‘lipstick index’ is simply a renewed version of the well-known “hemline index,” which was brought to public attention by economist George Taylor in 1926, who claimed that stock market prices rise and fall in tandem with skirt lengths. But with the increasing popularity of using flowers in clothing and art, could this be the new index for economic health?

For years, flowers are playing a significant part in all the important moments of our lifes, and are in every event valued and appreciated. As described in the New York Times from 1882, even then there were several fashion trends in using flowers. Easily laid down on a napkin, or more formal as a corsage. But what about the use of these magnificent creatures of nature in art en fashion?

Let's do a little time travel. Although floral design originally started in ancient Egypt, for this we have to go back to Amsterdam in the 17th century, also known as the Golden Age. Imagine small streets, beautiful canals and people wearing crinolines and big white collars. During this period, flowers in paintings were reminders of the transience of all worldly things. But it was also an emblem of political influence, and of man's mastery of his physical environment. You can say that ‘flower power’ was invented by the Dutch. When we look at the paintings of Ambrosius Bosschaert, we can see that all of his vases are filled with domestic flowers, supplemented with new exotics: tulips from Turkey, dahlias from Mexico. The vase becomes a thrilling microcosm of the spread of the Dutch colonial network, a floral map, so to speak, of a nation's sphere of influence. Flowers are also used as a symbol for fertility. Furthermore, each flower has its own secret meaning. But the most notable meaning for the use of flowers is ‘power’.

Not only 17th-century painters have discovered the power of flowers. Since ages, fashion designers were inspired by them, using flowers in various ways. It’s hardly impossible to neglect the flower-trend that has been going around for quite some time now. In the 19th century, however, floral fabrics found less favor in clothing, but in the 1950’s the feminine print was blooming again. And also this season, it is flower power time. What’s the reason for this blooming trend? Dutch fashion designer Jan Taminiau loves to be inspired by nature. He wonders if we still accept nature the way it is. More and more technologies are developed to force nature into artificial ways. We can almost customize the colors of the trees, plants and flowers which we manipulate to our own idea. With this in mind, Taminiau designed five unique pieces for a big world horticultural expo in Holland. Photographers are also quite intrigued by the power of floral sights. Take, for example, Alfred Seiland’s “Hanging Gardens: When the Bloom is on the Line.” Seiland plays elegantly with the colorful dress full of flowers, against an even more colorful background full of almost mouthwatering nasturtiums.

Come to think of it, is the use of heaps of flowers in fashion and art purely aesthetic? Or is it indeed linked to the current times of crisis, used as a symbol for power: to show the world we can handle this unfortunate period of stock market crashes and economic stagnation.  And if you can’t see the wood for the trees, always remember that there is definitely a sumptuous bouquet of flowers at the end of the tunnel. ‘The flower index’ as a symbol for new energy.

Marthe Seydel, age 27, is based in Amsterdam. She studied Communication and Information Science at the University of Groningen, and currently works at a PR agency focused on fashion and lifestyle.

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