Once a sweet surprise and often all white to go with any outfit, prom flowers have made the leap into the new millennium with glitzy embellishments, jewelry attachments and a world of creativity for the florists who design them.
No more scratchy, throwaway wristbands (unless you want one) and no more fumbling with straight pins as your nervous date squirms. Today's corsages don't even have to be corsages. Flowers can be worn on the head, upper arm or shoe, at the shoulder, on a necklace, as a ring or even stuck right onto a bare back or leg.
These days, flowers have taken their place as a key accessory rather than mere appendage handed over in time for photos before heading out the door.
“Everyone wants to be unique and different from someone else and that's a big deal, trying to do something different,” said Jasmine Snow, accessories editor for Seventeen magazine. “It's so cool to be able to try these new modern takes on using fresh flowers as opposed to just doing the normal.”
Attachments: Bangles, beads, multiple strands of rhinestones, fancy cuff bracelets in silver, gold or any wire creation imaginable have replaced the cheap wristlets of corsages past. Slap bracelets are also used as a base, easily painted or sprayed with glitter to match an overall look. Some florists stock options but invite customers to bring along their own jewelry.
“These days you can safely glue on so you don't damage the jewelry, and then the girl has something to keep after prom instead of us being 20 years later with dry old roses. You've actually got this bracelet or this necklace that you can look back at and go, 'Oh, that was so much fun,'” said Della Mendenhall, a manager and product developer at Gillespie Florists in Indianapolis.
Boutonniere holders (think ice cream cone shape) often anchor the traditional male floral in metal. They come in filigree, vine and many other designs. Magnet sets can be used to keep them in place, and they can be reused for high schoolers who plan to attend more than one prom.
Embellishments: Anything goes regardless of where you decide to place your flowers — and whether you're the one in a dress or a tux. Colored feathers, ribbons of different textures, prints and widths, and silk leaves can be mixed. Arrangements can have dangling strands of beads or rhinestones or bejeweled pins. And in a trend borrowed from the wedding industry, plant succulents and pods are used as accents.
And in some cases, the whole shebang is sprayed with glitter!
“Everything sparkly continues to be very popular. I've had a couple of girls, they just want glitter all over their flowers. I'm starting to see more personalization with their whole outfit,” said Tracey Foster, owner of Twigs florists in Yerington, Nev., and writer of the blog www.Promflowers.blogspot.com.
How about a glow? A company called Bioconst has come up with cut flowers that offer a blacklight effect when treated with its fluorescent formulation and combined with a UV device embedded in a corsage or boutonniere. Another company sells LED kits similar to tiny Christmas tree lights to arrange among flowers.
Placement: Wearing the prom arrangement on the wrist remains popular, but florists and designers support other placements as well, the head among them.
“I love doing hair flowers,” said Stacey Bendet of Alice & Olivia. “It's more modern.”
Gillespie and Twigs are among shops offering florals attached to rhinestone-studded tiaras, more relaxed bohemian headbands worn across the forehead or around-the-head wreaths.
“Or he can just pick some and she can pin them to her hair or a bun,” Bendet said. “Hair flowers are definitely a trend right now.”
She also suggests floral arrangements attached to purses or phone cases. Gillespie will make small arrangements intended for the toe or ankle strap of a shoe, either glued or tied on with ribbon, or hang an arrangement from a rhinestone-studded necklace that ties with ribbon at the back.
“How about a flower you attach to a chain?” asks Bendet.
Mendenhall said sales of corsage alternatives for prom, also including elaborate upper-arm cuffs on wire bases, are a small percentage of Gillespie's prom business in comparison with the wrist style. But she and Foster agree that corsages are far more elaborate, and prom planning has definitely amped up.
“Now girls, and their mothers, will spend countless hours on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram looking for prom corsage ideas, find something they like and try to find a florist who will make it happen,” Foster said.
Where does all of this leave the boys?
“I have guys coming in here with printouts of a webpage, saying my girlfriend gave this to me and she wants this and here's a picture of her dress,” Mendenhall said. “This is their biggest night of the year.”