Botanical couture first appeared on fashion runways, floral art displays, and flower competitions. The term aptly described awe-inspiring flower-based clothing of a ‘look but don’t touch’ variety.

Today botanical couture is often a buzzword for wearable floral art.

Botanical couture by Franςoise Weeks and Carol Jillian.
Photos: Nico Nordstrom

The results are equally beautiful, but the practical use and potential sales of these designs have grown exponentially.

How did these show-stoppers evolve from flower-draped mannequins to elegant event wear for weddings, proms, and special events?

Are you offering wearable floral art to your trend-savvy clientele?

Need more details?

We asked floral artisans Franςoise Weeks of Portland, Oregon and Carol Jillian of Austin, Texas for how-to tips on creating botanical couture.

Floral Fashionistas

The two floral fashionistas met to collaborate for a botanical couture photo shoot.

“It was a great experience,” shares Françoise. “Carol and I have a very similar sense of esthetic so it worked.”

Franςoise grew up in Belgium and Carol lived in Japan and Germany. You can see the international influence in their designs.

Rose Petal Bustier

Each ensemble started with a floral dress. Flower dressmaking is a time-consuming process.

Rose petal bustier by Carol Jillian.

It can take about 50 hours to develop and design a floral dress – planning, procuring, prepping. Only about 15 of those hours are actually for placing flowers.

Carol suggests experimenting with a bustier first. “I can make a bustier in a day – about seven hours.”

This bustier was adorned with white rose petals, but Carol cautions that roses can be wasteful.

“You can only use the large petals. The small ones deteriorate too fast and tear easily,” she explains. “Especially white petals.”

“You cannot make a rose petal design more than 12-hours in advance without it showing significant damage from dehydration,” Carol advises. “All the water-spraying in the world won’t help once the petals start shrinking or decaying.”

Carol and Franςoise both recommend using a less perishable product.

Natural Necklace

Franςoise is known internationally for her work. She travels the world teaching design techniques in hands-on flower classes.

She loves creating intricately detailed personal accessories from natural materials like delicate garden florets, foliages, berries, and seeds.

How-to Natural Materials Necklace by Franςoise Weeks.

Françoise’s focal design for the white dress collection was her lovely botanical necklace.

Supplies:

Instructions:

  • Cut two pieces of wire at different lengths.
  • Secure the pieces together with floral adhesive and bullion wire.
  • Adhere pieces of aspidistra leaves onto the wire’s top and undersides.
  • Glue the textural materials and flowers onto the aspidistra.

Botanical Bracelet

Françoise’s beautiful bracelet was formed on a flat wire base for comfortable wear.

Botanical Bracelet by Franςoise Weeks

Supplies:

Instructions:

  • Shape flat wire around your wrist and cut to desired length.
  • Cover both sides of flat wire base with foliage (aspidistra, salal, etc.)
  • Wrap leaves over the sides to prevent sharp edges.
  • Glue textural materials and flowers onto the base.

More Franςoise favorites? Designing Botanical Shoes and Purses with Franςoise Weeks.

Galax Bustier or Dress

Carol loves designing botanical shoes, but most of all she loves flower dresses.

Galax Dress by Carol Jillian

Working to showcase the integrity of a human shape without adding bulk to the body with the flowers is her greatest challenge.

“I construct my dresses from undergarments and felt. I wouldn’t recommend this. It’s time-consuming and takes practice to learn forming,” Carol says. “A finished plain bustier is a good starting point for those just learning to create the designs!”

 “A bustier can be purchased online from $15-100’s so be careful,” Carol advises. “Expensive doesn’t mean better in this case.”

She thinks Amazon.com offers the best prices. Choose a bustier that fits your client or model without spending too much on it.

“Afterward, unless you plan to peel off the dried-up materials, the bustier will be discarded,” she explains.

A bodice or bustier of Galax leaves can be made a few days in advance. To make a full dress, one can sew on a skirt directly to the bustier top.

Using a mannequin is a great help but isn’t necessary. A flat work surface will do. 

Supplies:

Floral Adhesive
Bind Wire (for decor only)

Flowers:

Galax leaves
Amaranthus
Foraged Berries and Botanicals

Instructions:

  • Hydrate by constantly misting designs with water as you work.
  • Place in airtight bag or large Tupperware to refrigerate between work sessions.
  • This allows you to break up work time so designs can last up to a week.

Carol recommends newcomers “Start with leaves!”  Galax is a good choice.

  • Begin with the bustier first. Work in sections.
  • The colors will change slightly as the design ages.
  • Working in segments incorporates the gradation of colors into the design.
  • Glue materials onto fabrics in a traditional corsage design style. 
  • Accent with delicate flowers on the day of or the night before. 

“Use glue sparingly, but enough that materials have sufficient hold to stay where you intended,” Carol suggests.

Stunning flower scarves – How to Create Fabulous Floral Fashion your Clients will Really Wear

Haute Headpiece

Franςoise is famous for her exquisite floral headpieces.

Haute headpiece by Franςoise Weeks.

They’re often formed on a wire armature for ease of design and wear.

Supplies:

Instructions:

  • Create headpiece base by shaping armature to fit one’s head.
  • Glue Cling Wrap over desired shape.
  • Weave Midollino sticks (through cling wrap) for movement & extra gluing surface.
  • Glue foliage on underside to hide mechanics.
  • Secure the base onto Styrofoam head with 3 or 4 corsage pins
  • Glue flowers and textural materials onto headpiece.
  • Secure on model’s head with long hairpins.

More headpieces? 4 Easy Steps for Creating Trend-Savvy Botanical Headpieces

Creative Collaboration

This was only my second time to collaborate, so I don’t have a lot of experience,” explains Franςoise, “But, I find creatively collaborating is fabulous when you work with someone you relate to.”

“I absolutely loved it!” exclaims Carol. “Not a lot of words were spoken. The unspoken words meant more than spoken words. We would look at each other’s work and adjust our own.”

Could you be inspired by a creative collaboration?

Are you offering wearable floral art for your weddings, proms, and special events?