Petal Power

Englishness and Floral Style

Paris led high fashion in the interwar years, yet affiliation with the romantic symbolism of flowers had long resonated as English national characteristic. In the interwar years, middle-class values were expressed through identification with country life and outdoor leisure pursuits. These were ideally played out against a backdrop of unspoilt fields and hedgerows, nostalgically associated with traditional rural England. In economic terms English textile design's reputation abroad was based on a floral tradition. Designer Arthur Wilcock noted that a printed pattern needed to sell enough yards to drape all the windows of Regent Street to make it worthwhile for the manufacturer. The cost of engraving printing rollers was very high so it made commercial sense for manufacturers to produce patterns which would find a ready audience and which responded to the public's enduring preference for traditional flower patterns.
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  • Flower Studies, Winifred Mold, ca. 1930 (SD10289)

    Harebells, anemones, sweet Williams and columbines were cottage gardens flowers commonly used in dress designs and furnishing chintzes in the 1920s and 1930s. The absence of a clear repeat suggests that this is not so much a finished pattern as part of a planning process, an example of the 'thinking on the page' for a dress pattern.

  • Advertisment for Tootal 'Luxora', 1936 (Middlesex University Advertising Collection)

    Advert for a dress fabric by Tootal Broadhurst Lee with an image selling fashionable floral femininity. The model's platinum blonde hair and red lipstick emphasise her glamour whereas the light bright cornflower blue and red pattern on her dress exude an air of youthful innocence. A similar blue and red pattern was designed by Madeleine Lawrence for the Silver Studio.

  • Design for a printed dress silk, Madeleine Lawrence, 1929 (SD1578)

    Poppies and cornflowers were favourites for dress cottons because of the richness of their colouring. Field poppies were symbolic of the wild fragility of nature; both flowers could be found in the summer months in English fields and hedgerows.

  • Design for a dress print, Madeleine Lawrence, 1939 (SD 937

    The Silver Studio daybook description for this design lists the flowers as 'Cowslip, Honeysuckle and Wild Hyacinth'. All these flowers could be found in the 'cottage' gardens which characteristic of the English suburbs in the interwar years

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