Originality is a myth. As the biblical book of Ecclesiastes sets it up, “There is nothing new under the sun” and as Lauryn Hill famously finishes it, “Everything you did has already been done.” When it comes to clichés of the closet, though, one might suggest our lady of good counsel, Miranda Priestly of the archdiocese that is The Devil Wears Prada, said it best and most sarcastically: “Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking.”
Yet, as the “darling buds of May” begin to show their faces, so too does a bloom of floral fashion seem unavoidable. Does eschewing the subconscious seed this season plants in us to be clad in blossoms actually make us any more original? Or is avoiding florals for spring not so groundbreaking after all? Could it be that taking pains to avoid cliché is equally, well…cliché?
Novelist Michael Chabon wrote that “it’s in the play with convention that originality arises, [not] in the rejection of convention.” In the same vein, wearing flowery fashion in the spring may read as purple prose, but the dexterity with which originality is achieved lies more so in the how than the what.
To that point, I think of the art of Henrik Simonsen, a friend of mine who paints the natural world. What could seem more “done” than yet another person painting pretty flowers and lush trees? Yet, Henrik’s paintings of nature are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before: They invoke his singular vision and as such evoke unique experiences in me, the viewer. He addresses the question of triteness in painting nature when he says on his website, “There is a lesson to be learned from how nature is able to vary simple forms infinitely.” In a meta way, the cliché itself — that is, nature as inspiration — holds the kernel of its own revolution.
So I reject the popular notion that wearing floral patterns in the spring is hackneyed. Instead, I embrace the idea that how you wear florals in spring is what determines their “groundbreakingness.” What better time than the month of May to mine nature for its inexhaustible bounty of inspiration, especially in that which concerns getting dressed? From one cliché, infinite possibilities!
“Grass, Little Flowers in the Grass”
These Marco de Vincenzo sandals are akin to actual flowers in the grass. While they appear to be the sole element of literal floral imagery in this outfit, the hemline of the Issey Miyake Pleats Please dress resembles the chalice of tulip upon closer look. The bag, one of a limited edition of One Six One, is the fruit a Spanish brand that finds inspiration in the mathematical phi number and its relationship to the Fibonacci sequence. The Phi ratio (or the Golden ratio, as it alternately known) is 1.618, and appears in much of what in considered to be intrinsically beautiful, both natural and manmade, including the number and spiral pattern of many flowers. The ubiquitous number is a cliché in nature, and yet is expressed with infinite variance. Every bag One Six One crafts retains this hexagonal form, but each limited edition is painted by a different artist, taking the formulaic and turning it into art. In short, the idea behind this look is abstraction of theme, extrapolation of the floral impetus until it is unrecognizable and of course, for a bit of fun and good measure, pitting all of that against the literal.
“The Reminiscence Comes of Sunless Dry Geraniums”
This top’s sleeve, the straight-edged, wide-legged silhouette of these trousers, color-blocked sandals, and an oversized pair of sunglasses that remind me of ones I’ve seen on vintage photographs of my mother: These elements are, in tandem, all emblematic of the sixties and seventies. In 2019 however, the clothes take on a modern life of their own. Wearing period-specific florals in current times is perhaps one way to circumvent the tedium of a supposed cliché. Sometimes all it takes for the old to be become novel is a transposition of it in time.
“Because a Camellia Can Change Fate”
In this outfit, I styled a turmeric-hued, heavy, guipure lace dress underneath a diaphanous frock emblazoned with checkered lines. The one dress short, the other long, and the shoes that turn the feet into a lotus flower: It’s your classic opposites-attract scenario. The merging of opacity with lightness, of severe straight lines with the cute curves of flowers, of patterns in varying genuses, is a fresh way edge up floral inclinations. This outfit represents boldly marrying all of one’s divergent impulses, yet averting a combined fate of cacophony by tying it all together with the thread of commonality that is color.
“A Girl Gets Tired of a Rose”
I could easily wax poetic about this Simone Rocha dress. I could talk about its asymmetric pin-tucking, or the fact that the embroidered pattern in front is similar but distinctly different from that in the back, or how the deft proportion of red to green saves the dress from looking like Christmas, but all that need be said is that the dress, on its own, is a beautiful rose. As it turns out, a girl doesn’t get tired of a rose; forcing originality is not always necessary, because there is plenty of pleasure to be found in simply liking what you like. Sometimes, just as “a rose is a rose is a rose,” a pretty dress is a pretty dress is a pretty dress, and all it needs to make it unique is you — your particular body, your singular presence — inhabiting it.
To quote, finally, the great nature poet, Mary Oliver, “You do not have to be [original]…you just have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” While the sentiment might sound saccharin, I genuinely do believe that you being you in whatever floral fashion you choose is enough to make it unparalleled. Besides, why run from the cliché of beauty?
Photos by Colby Blount.