Flower Power: Flora in Fashion

Flower Power: Flora in Fashion opens at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio in Lancaster on February 4, 2023, showcasing humankind’s relationship with our natural environment in an exhibition of historic flower-patterned clothing.

Explore humankind’s relationship with nature through the clothes we wear. Historic dresses, jewelry, shoes, hats, and other flower-patterned apparel appear in the Upper Gallery. It’s complemented by Botany in Buttons, a display of collectibles from the comprehensive Ann W. Rudolph Button Collection in the Lower Gallery.

Flower Power: Flora in Fashion displays women’s garments, shoes, and accessories drawn from the Historic Costumes and Textiles Collection at the Ohio State University. All of the items in the exhibition feature flower-inspired designs or plant-based materials and highlight the age-old connection between plants and clothing.

“The natural world has been an inspiration for clothing and textile designs since humans started decorating textiles and wearing clothes across cultures and geographies,” said Exhibition Curator Gayle Strege, who also serves as curator of the Historic Costumes and Textiles Collection at the Ohio State University. “Floral designs are timeless and universal, and plant materials play a large role in our production and ornamentation of cloth and clothing.”

The exhibition features fashion designs across the range of 20th- century art movements, including naturalism, modernism, abstract art, and pop art. The garments and accessories also display a range of the era’s textile techniques, notably supplemental warp, woven warp print, and embroidery. In addition to featuring floral patterns, the items in Flower Power are made of cotton, linen, hemp, jute, pineapple, raffia, palm leaves, tree bark, and other botanicals.

Among the garments in Flower Power: Flora in Fashion is a white floral lace dress worn by Ladybird Johnson, wife of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1971 at her birthday party at the Argyle Club in San Antonio, Texas. Also in the exhibition are several dresses and accessories from the Lancaster area, including some worn by the former residents of the Reese-Peters House – the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio’s home, two lavishly beaded 1930s-era purses, and a garment with exquisite Caribbean lacebark. A pillbox-style hat worn in the 1960s by Annie Glenn, wife of Ohio senator John Glenn, will also make an appearance.

Running concurrently with Flower Power is Botany in Buttons. The exhibition features hundreds of items from the Ann W. Rudolph Button Collection, a comprehensive collection of historic buttons and related artifacts within the Ohio State University Historic Costumes and Textiles Collection. Visitors can enjoy the floral designs of hundreds of buttons made of glass, metal, ceramic, bamboo, vegetable ivory (tagua nut), and other media. Also included are ceramic buttons made in Satsuma, Japan, a city known for its fine ceramics, and some with Royal Copenhagen and Crown Staffordshire maker’s marks.

The public is invited to events associated with Flower Power: Flora in Fashion:

  • Curator Talk with Gayle Strege, curator of the Ohio State University Historical Costumes & Textiles Collection, Sun., Feb. 5, at 2 p.m.
  • Button Bugs – Young hands will be busy turning buttons into bugs of their own design. Instructor Lisa Schorr, director of art education at the Wendel Center for Art Education, offers learners expert guidance. Meanwhile, adults can visit our exhibit of buttons in the lower-level gallery. Saturday, March 4. 1-2 p.m. $10.00. For ages 5-9.
  • Silk Scarf – Ignite your sense of design and indulge in your own favorite colors to create a unique scarf. Not sure what your style is? Don’t worry; instructor Lisa Schorr will guide you through.  Saturday, March 25, noon-2 p.m. $35/$30. For ages 15-adult.
  • Flower Arranging with Bluegreen Gardens – A colorful assortment of fresh-grown American flowers is your canvas as you design a fresh flower arrangement inspired by a piece in Flower Power: Flora in Fashion. Instructor: Elizabeth Fox Zawislak, owner of Bluegreen Gardens in Lancaster. Saturday, April 8, 1:30- 3 p.m. $60, all materials provided. For ages 14 & up.
  • Tataki Zome – Color your world with the ancient Japanese art of tataki zome, or “flower pounding,” gently hammering dyes from flowers and plants to create designs on fabric and paper. Tataki zome is a safe, easy, and environmentally friendly way to make vibrant art from the colorful beauty of botanicals. Saturday, April 15, noon-2 p.m. $35/$30. For ages 15-adult.

All programs and classes will occur at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio’s Wendel Center for Art Education. For more information, visit www.decartsohio.org or call 740-681-1423.