Flower Power

Discover how flowers have inspired fashions through the ages in “Flora” at Phoenix Art Museum

From April 13 through August 18, Phoenix Art Museum presents Flora in the Kelly Ellman Fashion Design and Orme Lewis galleries. Spanning the 18th century through the present, the exhibition features more than 30 botanical-inspired ensembles and accessories for women, men and children to trace the evolution of floral fashions throughout history.

Drawing exclusively from the collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Flora showcases historical garments alongside pieces by designers including Prada, Marc Jacobs, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Comme des Garçons, Charles James and Slava Zaitsev.

“We are delighted to present Flora to our Phoenix community,” says Amada Cruz, the Sybil Harrington director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum. “Flora brings together many timeless pieces from the museum’s fashion collection to showcase the breadth and depth of our holdings, and we look forward to sharing this flower-inspired exhibition with our audiences in Arizona.”

Presenting a wide range of historical and contemporary fashions, Flora explores how designers across centuries have interpreted flowers and the botanical world through their work. Garments from the 18th and 19th centuries will showcase traditional, realistic representations of flowers, whereas modern pieces will feature bold, abstract floral prints and silhouettes inspired by organic shapes.

Exhibition highlights include an embroidered leather coat and boots by Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton; a 1951 petal dress by Charles James; and a skirt and jacket by Slava Zaitsev, known for his colorful, theatrical designs often adorned with floral patterns and inspired by Russian folk costumes.

Flora also features objects recently acquired by the museum, including an ensemble from the spring/summer 2019 collection of Comme des Garçons, purchased with funds provided by Arizona Costume Institute, a support group of Phoenix Art Museum. The contemporary ensemble includes a slouchy, black tuxedo jacket paired with rose-print trousers, distinguished by their abstract, multidimensional silhouette suggesting a flower form. 

“Flowers are a beloved, classical theme explored by fashion designers throughout history,” says Dennita Sewell, the museum’s Jacquie Dorrance curator of fashion design. “With its breadth of historical and contemporary garments and accessories, Flora illustrates how the approach to representing flowers in fashion has evolved from realism and naturalism to abstraction, hyper-abstraction and hyper-realism.”

In addition, the exhibition highlights textiles and various embroidery and embellishment styles, illustrating the creative ways in which designers through the centuries have interpreted botanical forms in fashion. A linen suit by Prada from 2003 showcases raffia-embroidered rose buds on netting, the bohemian styling of a Givenchy couture dress from the 1960s is enhanced with a scattering of wildflowers, and a piece by Yves Saint Laurent features an all-over print of American Beauty Roses on silk crepe de chine.

Flora, organized by Phoenix Art Museum, is made possible through the generosity of The Virginia M. Ullman Foundation, The Ellman Foundation and Arizona Costume Institute.

PHOTOS: Marc Jacobs, coat and boots, 2002, leather with silk floss embroidery, 48 1/2 in., Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, gift of Arizona Costume Institute and Ardie and Steve Evans


April 13 – August 18

Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix

For more information, visit phxart.org.

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