Prom Boutonnière: A lesson in language and styleby J. Robbin Yelverton on May 13, 2011 at 10:19 am
The discomfort is obvious when the girls and guys come in to order their prom flowers. They really don’t quite know what to do with the word “boutonnière.” Most times, they don’t even know what it is. It sounds like something that happens at a rave party, a boot ‘n da’ ear. Many times, they simply mumble, “the flower that the guy wears”!
The boutonnière (say it after me, “boo ton ear”) has been with us since the 16th century. Initially, it was worn as a way of warding off evil spirits, bad luck and the occasional malicious demon! Sounds TOTALLY PERFECT for a high school prom!
The word “boutonnière” is French for buttonhole, which refers to where the flower is worn, the left lapel button hole of the jacket. The British still refer to the flower as a “buttonhole.” During the 18th and 19th centuries, it became an essential fashion accessory for the hippest most righteous dudes sporting the baddest most phat threads (American slang for “well-dressed and properly accessorized young man”).
The classic boutonnière as seen stylishly displayed on the debonair (Anglo French for “hip or cool”) lapels of Cary Grant, Fred Astair, Oscar Wilde and recently at the Oscars, Tom Ford and Forest Whitaker, consists of a simple white or for variety, red carnation. Later, the rose became the bud of choice.
Today’s boutonnière, or bout (boot) for short, has so many more options. This is especially true for proms. Just because it’s to be worn by a guy, doesn’t mean boring and plain! Au contraire! (French for “NOT”)
Let’s face it, which peacock is the flashiest? Not the single ladies! The simple bud or small bloom now comes tricked out with decorative wire, beads, feathers, ribbon and more accoutrement (French for “stuff”) than a top of the line cell phone.
When placing the order for a boutonnière, it is essential to know the color of the clothing it is to be worn on or next to (as in the date’s dress). Be adventurous with the selection of flower. It should be something that’s sturdy and can handle abuse. A rose bud, dendrobium or miniature cymbidium orchid, carnation, or even a cluster of berries and foliage make for excellent choices.
The key to success is size! In this case, bodacious (Southern for “big and beautiful”) is not necessarily better. A tastefully sized boutonnière doesn’t rip the lapel or dwarf the wearer. If it approaches something that Bozo the Clown would have worn, then you might need to re-evaluate.
Finally, how to attach it to the lapel? Originally, as earlier pointed out, the stem of the flower was simply stuck through the buttonhole in the lapel. Today, most jackets don’t even have buttonholes, so this has necessitated the use of sharp instruments like pins. This has frequently resulted in flowers flipping and flopping around and unfortunately even the shedding of blood! Thankfully, there are now wonderful little high-powered magnets that allow for less stress and no bloodshed. A small metal disc is attached to the bout. Then, once the bout is put in place on the lapel, the magnet is placed behind the lapel to magically hold the flower in place. Voila’ (French for “Ta-Da”)!
For such a small flower, so much useful information. Choose wisely my son, and you will be sure to catch the eye of every belle at the ball!