A Little History on Corsages

At a consultation yesterday, I proclaimed that the grandmothers of the couple being married usually prefer pin-on corsages because wrist corsages are new-fangled, and the mother of the bride informed me that wrist corsages actually go way back.  I guess I associate wrist corsages with high school dances, so I always assumed they were a newer convention for younger folk.

This inspired some quick internet research.   Here’s what I found.

The Wikipedia entry for “corsage (bodice)” is pretty succinct.

“Corsage refers to the bodice of a dress. In the 19th century, corsage was a common term for a woman’s bodice or jacket.

In modern usage, corsage is often confused with a corset, but a corset is tighter. A bridal corset is often a corsage.

Originally, a bouquet of flowers, flower bud, or a bow was worn on the corsage between the breasts, hence the name corsage for a cluster of flowers worn on the breast, waist or wrist.

Recently, it is a cluster of flowers given to one’s date at a prom or formal dance to wear on either a dress or a wrist.”

The origin of the word is French, and comes from “bouquet de corsage” or “bouquet of the bodice,” referring to the blooms being tucked into a woman’s bosom (geez, I haven’t used that word in a while!).  Source: Online Etymology Dictionary.

By the 1900’s, corsages moved from the bodice and waist up to the lapel.  I’ve noticed, when pinning corsages on older women, they tend to want it pinned higher, more over the should than on the lapel.  Also, if left to their own devices, they’ll pin them on upside down, with the bow at the top of the corsage.  As you can see in this photo from the 1930’s, that’s how they were worn. And they were pretty gigantic, compared to today’s standards.

And here’s a photo from the 1940’s of a gardenia corsage.

I have to get back to writing up proposals, but hopefully I’ll have more time to research this in the near future.  I’d love to find photos of waist corsages.  BTW–I found references to wrist corsages from as early as the 1920’s.  Mom was right.  More soon!

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