What: 1970s Maxi Dress
Where: Handed down from Woolley’s Grandma
History Behind the Garment
Floral patterns have been around for hundreds of centuries in western culture. They are often thought of as a symbol of femininity and a representation of the natural world.
Floral textiles are believed to have originated in Asia and have taken on different meanings in different cultures. For example in Japan the chrysanthemum represents the sun and is a symbol of the royal family, while in China the lotus represents purity. In Victorian England the daffodil was thought to convey chivalry, the gardenia -joy, and the iris represented inspiration.
Why is it that patterns such as polka dots come in and out of fashion but every spring floral textiles will undoubtedly resurface? It is unlikely many of us are aware of the symbolic nature of these flowers and pop on a daffodil patterned top when we want to convey that we are feeling particularly chivalrous; or when spring arrives we feel the need to emphasise the fact by wearing garments with flowers on them. Maybe there is no hidden meaning behind floral patterns’ continuing popularity other than the simple fact that flowers are beautiful.
Story Behind the Garment
This is loosely based on a true story….
Louisa was wearing this dress when she reluctantly attended a picnic with her sister. She had been hanging on the outer rims of the group, staring into the distance pretending to be deeply fascinated with the surrounding trees in the hope that nobody would talk to her. Her self imposed isolation was not meant to be as she kept accidentally catching the eye of a tall lanky man. As he approached her with an overly confident swagger, she took in his all too snug suit with distaste. While he talked to her she pretended to be interested in what he was saying, all the while staring transfixed at a blob of strawberry jam wobbling about on his shoulder, wondering to herself how it could have got there. He clearly thought it was going well because he asked her if she would like to accompany him on a walk. Louisa shrugged her assent, deciding it couldn’t be worse than lingering around a group of people pretending to be fascinated by trees. At one point the man stopped suddenly and asked her if he could kiss her, and excitedly did so before waiting for a reply. Unfortunately in his enthusiasm he had forgotten he was smoking a cigarette. He almost got away with it as their tightly pressed lips secured the cigarette in place but as they parted the cigarette transferred over to Louisa, precariously balancing on her bottom lip. It hung there for a moment, then dropped in what seemed like slow motion as they both watched to see if it fell on Louisa’s lovely dress. Thankfully it missed. The man was mortified he had ruined what he had hoped to be a beautiful first kiss. In his distress he apologised profusely but for the first time Louisa really looked at him. She saw his kind, gentle nature and eagerness to impress her in his endearingly clumsy and dorky manner. Six months later they were married and they remained so for another forty years till he passed away.
Woolley and Cotton xx
Illustration By Carrie Chilton
Photography by Haley Kigbo