Fashion Designer Creates Horticouture Dresses from Flower Petals and Leaves
December 22, 2013 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Tasmanian fashion designer Sandra Alcorn’s studio looks out onto “a slightly unkempt but enchanting garden.” Each season serves as new inspiration for Alcorn’s horticouture collection of tiny dresses and gowns she fashions from the garden’s flowers and other native flora.
“I often take a moment out from my work by stepping outside to pause for thought, feel the warmth of the sun or pick a few flowers,” reflected Alcorn. “It was in one of those moments that I created the first garden fairy’s dress.”
“As a child I called Fushias ‘ballerina flowers.’ The pretty petal tutus and stamens like slender legs in pointe shoes dangling on the bush a joyful delight to small eyes and hands. (Above.) My garden now is perfect for Fushias–I have several varieties flowering at the moment–and just sometimes I’m still drawn to pause and make a flower pirouette in my hand!”
Alcorn’s horticouture combines two of the designer’s passions, fashion and flowers, which she immortalizes as greeting cards. What began as a way for Alcorn to document a moment in her garden, has evolved into a method of sharing those experiences through her line of couture greeting cards. Each card features a photo of one of Alcorn’s botanical outfits, usually inspired by a memory or story of some kind.
“Hellebores have many names–Christmas roses, Lenten roses and Winter roses–which is the name that makes most sense in a southern hemisphere winter garden.” (Below), I also love the deep aubergine and green ones.
Since that first defining creative moment in her garden, Alcorn has cultivated her Garden Fairy’s Wardrobe into a collection that continues to grow “as does the enjoyment I get from creating them.” Part of that enjoyment she says, “comes from their ephemeral nature and the immediacy of being able to transform a design idea into reality in contrast to the hours to turn fabric into the same idea.”
“For ten days at the beginning of September, the David Jones department store in Elizabeth Street in Sydney celebrates the arrival of Spring with a fabulous flower show, now in its 28th year. The whole of the ground floor and all sixteen of the stores windows are given over to exquisite themed displays of flowers. The Enchanted Florence takes inspiration from the iconic colours and patterns of the designer Florence Broadhurst. More than 300,000 flowers from all over Australia were used in the display and the result was magical.”
“Aquilegia, Columbines or Granny’s Bonnet (above.) Mine have gone to seed after a showy Spring display. I love the variety of colours the flowers come in and their self seeding nature. The leaves are also such a pretty shape and I have used them for the skirt.”
“I have made several attempts to establish a pansy patch in my garden. Finding a spot that gets enough sun but doesn’t attract my dog to sit on it has been the challenge and finally I seem to have succeeded, planting them around the foot of my dogwood tree and getting more than enough to pick some for my Garden Fairy’s Wardrobe.”
“There is a sprinkling of japonica flowers in my patchwork hedge. I can’t decide if they’re early or late. The leaves are turning yellow or have already dropped and there is a rather impressive display of crabapples in the hedge too.”
“One of the dresses I’m working on for a client at the moment is in tulle finely embroidered with a lacy border of flowers and leaves that trickle down. The effect is similar to the hem of this Garden Fairy’s dress I made of native violets–they grow in tangled patches like Mother Nature’s embroidery embellishing the brick paths and sandstone steps in my garden.”
“I love the scent of sweetpeas and the abundance of colours they come in. I came across some growing in a park in Sydney, warmed by the sun the sweet smell permeated the air and drew me to where they were growing, reminding me I must find a sunny spot in my own garden for them.”
“The ‘wrong side’ of some fabrics is sometimes just as beautiful as the right side and can make a more interesting choice for a design. Cotton prints reversed can have a faded vintage feel, the reverse of some brocades show the pattern in bands of stripes, and jacquards can have a striking positive/negative effect that begs to have both sides showing. The underside of the Morning Glory flowers, above, revealed softer shades of purple and a pleat like texture that inspired a very different look.”
Alcorn’s Garden Fairy’s Wardrobe cards are available from her Petal & Pins store.