The Gardens are in Bloom and so are the Dresses

The week of April 20th through the 27th marks the 80th Historic Garden Week put on by the Garden Club of Virginia. The club exists to celebrate the beauty of the land, to conserve the gifts of nature, and to challenge future generations to build on this heritage. The headquarters for the Garden Club of Virginia are located right here in Richmond, in the historic Kent-Valentine House on the corner of First and Franklin Streets. During the eight days of Garden Week, the Garden Club gives over 250 home and garden tours statewide. All tour proceeds fund the restoration and preservation of Virginia’s historic gardens. The proceeds since the club’s inception in 1929 total over $14.5 million and have restored gardens at more than 50 properties.

In celebration of Historic Garden Week, the Costume and Textile Collection of the Valentine presents floral dresses and their history.

This World War II evening dress from 1942 is delicate in its design and floral print.  It features cotton fabric that made the dress breathable during summer nights, a sweetheart neckline, and what could be carnations as the floral print. In floriography, or the language of flowers, a red carnation symbolizes deep romantic love.

Prince Romanoff designed this light blue evening gown with a burgundy floral motif in 1958. The dress is made from silk taffeta and showcases an asymmetrical drape. The flowers on the dress resemble small burgundy roses, which symbolize unconscious beauty.

Poppies typically symbolize imagination and this evening gown is definitely like something out of a dream. Designed by Philip Holitar, a notable fashion designer of the 1950s, the silk gown features a strapless neckline, a large bow, and a bustled train.

In the time of the Vietnam War, Allen Ginsberg coined the term Flower Power to stand for passive resistance and non-violence. Hippies embraced this symbolism and began to adorn their clothing with flowers and wearing vibrant colors. This quilted silk dress circa 1965 screams Flower Power.

The Flower Power theme is carried over to the 1970s as can be seen in this dress below. However, the popularity of disco echoes in this 1970 dress as well and would have been perfect for boogie nights. The polyester knit evening gown calls attention to the exquisite floral motif, standing collar, rectangular, and gathered panels.

Vera Magdeeva
Costume & Textiles Intern
Valentine Richmond History Center