A corsage originally referred to the bodice of a woman’s dress. Since a bouquet of flowers was often worn in the center of the bodice, the flowers took on the name “corsage.” Our modern sense of the corsage comes from the French “bouquet de corsage,” meaning “a bouquet of the bodice.” Although the placement of the flowers might have changed, the name stuck and is still used to refer to any small bouquet of flowers worn on the body.
Corsages are made from a small bunch of flowers or a single bloom. The corsage was originally worn at the waist or the bodice of a dress. Later, it became common to pin flowers to the shoulder or on a handbag. Corsages today may even be tied around a wrist, neck, ankle or worn in the hair.
The wearing of a corsage at weddings dates to the time of the ancient Greeks, who believed that the fragrances of flowers and herbs warded off evil spirits. Not only the bride but other females at the wedding held flower bouquets or attached them to their clothing.
It is common to give a corsage to the mothers and grandmothers of the bride and groom. Smaller corsages may also be given to godmothers or other females who are important to the participants. A corsage is traditionally worn on the left, since it is closest to the heart.
Corsages for Dances
In the 20th century, it became common for escorts to present their dates with corsages, particularly for formal dances and proms. As women’s dresses have changed to styles with spaghetti straps or no straps, it has become more common for women to wear the flowers on the wrist.
Mother's Day Corsages
Anna Jarvis spearheaded the development of an annual Mother’s Day celebration in 1907. Since her mother’s favorite flower was the carnation, it has become traditional to wear a carnation corsage on that day. According to FlowershopNetwork.com, florists promoted and made popular the custom of wearing a red carnation if one’s mother was living, and a white carnation if one’s mother had passed away.
HappyBirthday.com recalls the “candy corsage,” a popular tradition of the 1950s and '60s. A young girl might receive a “candy corsage” from her friends on her birthday. Decorated with candy such as lollipops, gum drops, tootsie rolls, bubble gum or lemon drops, such corsages were inexpensive to make and were held together with curly ribbon.