Floral Prints Need Attention Or They'll Wilt

The ’90s were, in general, a terrible time for fashion. There is something so offensive about the decade’s frumpy minimalism, square-toed ankle boots, and embrace of themed sweaters. The other day I was watching “Blossom” and I was struck, almost physically, with the greatness of Joey Lawrence and the hideousness of Six’s floral jumper.

As I looked more closely at Six’s jumper, I realized, with the nauseating clearness of direct exposure, just how horrible it was. It had red and black flowers, vines, and polka dots. It had several buttons on it that served no functional purpose. It even had a matching sunhat with cherries, which just made no sense; Six is not a 65-year-old English dame/gardener, but Blossom’s highly annoying friend who was inexplicably named after a number.

Watching this fine television show reminded me that I, too, had a floral dress in the ’90s—in fact, I had several. One particularly excellent dress had a portrait collar with inspirational sayings embroidered on it. I wore it on picture day in first grade. There is nothing like a garish floral print to make one’s white eye patch pop.

This season, defying all logic and reason, designers as diverse as Dries Van Noten and Dolce and Gabbana are delivering their takes on the floral print in a way we haven’t seen since Madonna strode around in a cone bra. More surprisingly, I do not hate it; I love it with a wild and untamed passion. Balenciaga is showing an entire line of highly architectural minidresses in disparate floral prints. Gucci is showing a collection with gigantic white and yellow flowers on diaphanous black backgrounds. The effect is utterly modern and chic and does not remind me even slightly of the horrible florals of my youth.

How can the women of Harvard pull off florals without looking like Six, while at the same time trying to seduce Joey Lawrence? The answer: I don’t know, because no man currently attending Harvard is as excellent as Joey Lawrence. What I will say is that the silhouette is the key to wearing florals in a way that does not resemble Meg Ryan or lay-person faculty at a Catholic school. The silhouette of your floral frock must be extremely trendy and well-tailored. It may not, I repeat, have a portrait collar. Hard-edged accessories also work well to dampen the unfettered whimsy of the look.

Despite my current love of the revived floral trend, I am still rather down on the entire ’90s aesthetic. I am sure that the entire decade will eventually be revisited and everyone will duly love it again and think that clogs and Winona Ryder are really awesome, but I hope this is not in my lifetime. I do wish I dated Joey Lawrence, but that can wait until I am of the marrying age—in other words, as soon as I can fly to California.


1) Try one article of floral clothing. You don’t want to end up looking like Hillary Clinton in the White Water years, as that was not fun for her—or you, for that matter.

2) Pair your floral item with something a bit more hard-edged, like a leather jacket.

3) Don’t wear clogs!

—Columnist Rebecca M. Harrington can be reached at