What is the Peony?
also known as Paeonia or Paeoniaceae, is one of the world’s most popular garden
plant. Evidence have shown from the cenozionic1 era suggest that the
peony has evolved from about 60 million years ago when saxifragales2
plants were more widespread. (Source: RHS Genealogy of gardens). This flower is
mainly found in Southern and Central Europe, Asia, mainly found in China, and
the western parts of Northern America. (Source: RHS Genealogy of gardens)
Myth behind the Peony
Its name was taken from Paeon3
or Paean, helper of the God of Medicine, Aesculapius. In Greek Mythology,
written in the lliad, the poet Homer tells of Paeon’s healing of both Hades,
the God of the Underworld, and Ares, the Olympian God of War, and how
Aesculapius tried to kill him. (Source: Flora: An artist voyage through the
world of plants) It was also a symbol of poor luck and bashfulness in the
Victorian era due to another Greek myth about a nymph named Paeonia4
and the goddess Aphrodite. (Source: www.proflowers.com)
History of Peony
the Chinese chose it as the principle flower in the Imperial Palace Gardens.
The Chinese name given to the peony is ?? (m?d?n) or “Sho Yo” which translates to
‘most beautiful’. (Source: Herbaceous Peony
(Paeonia): Genetics, Physiology and Cut Flower Production of Global science
is also known as ??? (fùguìhu?), “flower of riches and
honour” or ?? (huawang), “king
of the flowers”. Missionary Buddhist monks brought this knowledge to Japan,
where till this day, it is known as the symbol of Prosperity and Wealth. Hence,
this is why many of their traditional wear and clothing have the peony printed
or embroidered onto it. (FIG 1&2) It is a symbol for spring and happiness
and is a commonly used flower during the Lunar New Year and can be seen in many
décor pieces during the festive season. Its’ colours add vibrancy to the
In the Peranakan culture the peony is one of the most
popular and loved flower, where it is mainly used in their household wares (FIG
8-12) and traditional wears mainly the sarong Kebayas and batik. (Source:
Sarong Kebayas, Peranakan Fashion in an interconnected world 1500-1950 )(FIG3-5)The
peony is also used in many prints on tiles(FIG 6&7) and motifs in the
Peranakan houses. It is also used in many architectures, especially old
conservation Chinese and Peranakan buildings found in areas such as Joo Chiat
Due to it being one of the symbols for happy marriage as
it is a sign representing the 12th year of marriage, (Source:www.ftd.com) the
peony is popularly used for weddings in the dresses, bouquet and decorations.
It is commonly used on laces of wedding dresses, and embroidery on the Chinese
traditional wedding dresses. (FIG 13&14)
Types of Peonies
Peonies come in many different types and species such as
Double, Semi-double, Anemone, Japanese, Double and Bomb. (Source: Herbaceous Peony (Paeonia):
Genetics, Physiology and Cut Flower Production of Global science books) (FIG 10-18) It comes
in various different colours such as pink, purple, blue and white. Colours such
as pastel colours or light colours are often taken from it. (FIG 15) The
anatomy of the peony includes the petals, stigma and stem can also be used to
get inspiration from it.
Has it been used before?
Over the years, many famous designers have chosen to use
the peony as their inspirations, such as Chanel, in their 2006 Haute Couture
and Spring 2015 Haute Couture(FIG18-20); Alexander McQueen, in their Spring
Summer 2015 Ready-to-Wear and 2017 Resort Collection. (FIG 21-23) (Source:
www.vogue.com)A Singaporean designer, by the name of Julie Yeo, founded her
brand “Lark and Peony”. Focusing mainly on the Chinese traditional wear, the
Cheongsam, many of her designs and prints has the peony incorporated into them.
(Source: www.straitstimes.com) (FIG 24)
Culture and trend Influence
Culture influences many things, like the current trends
and what people wear, and from culture, many different subcultures are born. (Source:
www.livescience.com) Cultures are different from each other all over the world,
but most trends are influenced from the different cultures and subcultures from
every part of the world. Trends changes throughout the years due to these
cultures, celebrity influence and seasons. Trends are different all over the
world, as many different countries have their own style in dressing. With the
haute couture designs, influence of its many intricate and unique details, as
well as using the peony as a design inspiration, ensures that the designs would
stay more or less evergreen, but at the same time being able to keep up with
the different latest styles and trends all over the world.
In this collection, the designs can be used as both a piece of
art, and for personal usage. This collection aims to provide for women aged 20
– 30 years of age earning a monthly income of €2000 – €3000, whose style is
more on the soft, feminine and elegant side, and has an interest in spring
representations such as flowers and flora designs. (FIG 25) Such styles include
bright and pastel colour schemes (FIG 26), topped off with a unique style that
stands out from the usual fashion during winter and autumn whereby the tones
are usually towards the darker and duller shades of colours.
(Source: WGSN.com) (FIG 28) Women who enjoy going for showcase or high-class
events are also this collection’s target audience.
Style and Inspiration
The style of this collection was formed and idealised
through various inspirations, research, and experimentation. For example, the
theme of this collection was based mainly on the different aspects of the Peony
such as the petal, the different kinds of peony and its anatomy as well as the
physical look of the peony and the history behind it. Whereas the style and
designs were inspired by the over-the-top and unique haute couture designs made
by famous couture houses, such as Chanel and many beautiful types of wedding dresses.
Experimenting and combining different aspects of various
materials, designs and styles, played a crucial role in this collection. This
includes mixing gowns and cocktail dresses together to give a blend of both
formal and informal and using the different forms of the peony to form many
silhouettes; making many occasional dresses that are not too extravagant but
still suitable for formal events; mixing around with different fabrics to
replicate the soft and elegant effect the peony gives off; layering the fabrics
replicate the style and volume of a fully bloomed peony (FIG 30); using a
can-can made from stiff gathered netting under the layered dress to give the
illusion of a more puffed up and flower-like skirt as well as the appearance
and the style of many Victorian dresses (FIG 29); finding fabric such as
various kinds of organza to show the texture of the petal of a peony; using
Chinese silk to give the garment a hint of the Chinese history; incorporating
subtle hints of its history like the kimono into the designs; and using prints
or embroidery to showcase the peony in the garment.(FIG 31 & 32)
Silhouette shapes taken from the peony can be placed at
different parts of the garment. It can be placed at the sleeve, the skirt part
of a dress, the top or the pants. This gives it a special and outstanding look
when the garment has a different silhouette straying from the usual silhouette
seen in many garments. When combining the silhouette with the mixture of gowns
and cocktail dresses it gives of a more unique and different style of garment.
This gives of the effect of a formal but not too extravagant dress.
Using fabric such as organza (FIG 34), chiffon (FIG 33)
and georgette to give off a shear and more sexy, but still elegant appearance;
experimenting with different neck lines to find the right style suitable for
many occasions and events for example a low cut neckline. Using fabrics like
silk or satin give the garment an elegant and soft look as well as modest look.
Fabrics such as stiff netting and organza give it a more puffed up look which
when sewn on to the garment and layered with other fabrics gives it a look of a
flower. Since organza is stiffer than chiffon, organza can be used to add
volume and texture to the garden by layering it will other fabrics. using stiff
netting fabric to make the can can by layering the gathered fabric together
will create a puffed-up underskirt for when the dress is put onto it, gives it
a puffed up look imitating the peony. With the stiff netting fabric, it can be
used also on the skirt layering it with various other fabrics like organza to
represent petals of the peony(FIG 35) at the same time making the skirt bigger
and more puffed up.
Apart from using only the peony, pearls or diamonds can
be used to represent the water droplets on the petal of the flower (FIG 36).
This gives it an expensive and elegant look, letting the peony live up to its
name, and being known as a flower that represents wealth and beauty. Using the
diamonds or pearls to cover up parts of the shear fabrics on the garment will
enable the garment to have a sexy but yet covered up look.
From the peony, many colours can be taken from it. Using
Pantone colours and pictures of various kinds of peony, many colours such as
pastel pink, purple and blue are taken from it (FIG 26). Using pastel colours
give off the effects of a soft and gentle look as well as a more feminine feel
to the collection. At the same time mixing the different colours together gives
it a unique and colourful look but at the same time a more subtle look as
opposed to brighter shades of colour like the neon colours.
Inspired by the history and mythology of the peony,
different styles such as Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Peranakan and Victorian can
be used. Incorporating traditional wears like the Cheongsam or Kimono and
mixing it with Greek and Victorian style will result in unique designs that are
neither too traditional or common. Using fabrics that are being used in
traditional wear such as the Chinese silk or Chirimen silk. Incorporating
subtle hint of the peony’s history would ensure that the garments will not look
to traditional and stray from its original inspiration.
Prints can be used to incorporate the peony into the
garments. Using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator many different prints can be
developed and printed onto different fabrics to give off different effects to
the print. Fabrics such as organza or chiffon when printed on gives a more
shear and faded look whereas fabrics such as satin or silk gives off a more soft
and delicate look. Using embroidery on the garment will not only produce a
two-dimensional illusion of the peony, but will also allow us to peep into the
Chinese, Japanese and Peranakan traditions and cultures since embroidery is a
skill required in most young ladies during the conservative period.
Apart from using prints to show the peony, making use of
different fabrics to make the flower itself and sewing it onto the garment will
give off a three-dimensional look to the design as well as a unique feel. By
using different sizes and placing it on different parts of the garment, the
peony will stand out more on the different silhouette, giving the garment a
more outstanding appearance.
The Peony, with its
rich history and mythology as well as its beautiful and unique appearance, has
allowed many inspirations and ideas to come about. Moreover, using the styles,
and obtaining inspirations from haute couture, this collection boasts elegance
and femininity. In addition, the usage of various fabrics and incorporating
miscellaneous details have resulted in the creation of luxurious and beautiful
garments, hence by allowing the peony to live up to its wondrous glory.