Spring is in full bloom at Phoenix Art Museum’s most recent fashion exhibition Flora, which highlights a variety of ensembles displaying florals in many forms and fabrics. Opening April 13 and on view through August 19, Flora will display about 70 pieces along with accessories including hats, purses, shoes and jewelry.

Dennita Sewell, Jacquie Dorrance Curator of Fashion Design at Phoenix Art Museum, said since the exhibition’s floral theme has come to the forefront of fashion and is very popular this Spring, it was the ideal time to showcase pieces from the 18th century to the present. “I think it will have a welcome reprieve of beauty and happiness in our world that is rather disrupted,” Sewell said.

Flora will showcase various flower motifs, patterns, textiles and silhouettes with pieces from designers including Marc Jacobs, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Comme des Garçons, Charles James and Slava Zaitsev. Sewell said a standout ensemble in the exhibition is a new acquisition by Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons from the Spring/Summer 2019 collection: a black tuxedo jacket paired with rose-print trousers.

George Halley, Evening dress, fall 1969. Satin, velvet, silk and organza.
Margaine-Lacroix, Wide sash or girdle embroidered with multi-colored taffeta roses, chenille and wooden bead embroidery, 1921.
Marc Jacobs, jacket and pair of boots, 2002-leather with silk floss embroidery.

“The piece is covered with roses, and the entire collection made a strong statement about women and how they look and their shapes and femininity,” Sewell said. “There’s been so many pieces that are quite lovely including a white leather Marc Jacobs coat and matching boots with silk floss embroidery in wildflowers.” Other pieces on view in Flora are a linen suit by Prada from 2003 with raffia-embroidered rose buds on netting, a 1951 petal dress by Charles James, a scattering of wildflowers on a Givenchy couture dress from the 1960s and a Yves Saint Laurent piece with an all-over print of American Beauty Roses on silk crepe de chine.

When patrons aren’t admiring the pieces, they can also view the unique installation design that complements each exhibition’s theme. For Flora, Sewell said, “we’ve collected all the Vogue magazines that feature Irving Penn photographs of flowers. In the December issue of Vogue from 1967 to 1974, he photographed a different flower and there was an editorial on that flower.”

Copies of that magazine will be part of the installation, which Sewell said is set up like a garden walk, where historical and modern pieces are grouped together according to the type of flora-inspired design – including roses, summer flowers and rare black and white flowers.

Sewell said it’s exciting Phoenix Art Museum is showcasing this exhibition because it’s timed to be current to what people are thinking about and what they might want to wear for Spring.

“I think there’s a lot of pieces that will make people imagine this topic differently, there’s naturalistic flowers, abstract flowers, they are embroidered, in lace, printed, woven… so even though it’s a very singular theme, it has so many variations.”

In addition, Sewell said, “I always think it’s really terrific to show off what a fantastic collection Phoenix Art Museum has and so this really shows all across the board, from the 18th century to the present, there are some really fantastic pieces here. It’s interesting to think about how each period has a slightly different take on this common and evergreen theme in fashion.”

Flora runs Apr. 13, 2019-Aug. 18, 2019 at the Phoenix Art Museum in the Ellman Fashion Design Gallery and Lewis Gallery. For more information and to purchase tickets visit: www.phxart.org/exhibition/flora