Flowers have always been one of the most appreciated gifts from nature, given as tokens of affection, offered in religious rituals, brought home to decorate one’s dwellings and used to adorn oneself, as seen in ancient murals of the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. To assure a constant supply, they were even cultivated. They would be immortalized in art and would become perennial ornaments in fashion.
In China, flowers were woven in exquisite brocades and created in intricate embroidery. The peony, considered the “king of flowers,” was used to represent the juxtaposition of wealth and honor. The lotus, an important symbol in Buddhism, represented purity by virtue of its rising from the mud to bloom. Floral silks, a fashion statement during the Tang Dynasty, would spread to Europe by the 1400s and 1500s, fetching very high prices and becoming status symbols.
Flowers would also appear in lace, in the 15th century, born out of the desire to elaborate the edges of plain fabrics. Venetian laces and cutwork with elaborate floral forms became fashion staples, enriching the Italian coffers with sales to the rest of Europe. Venice guarded its secret methods strictly, however, so it took many years for the rest of the world to work out how to produce their designs.