Wearing flowers pinned to clothing dates as far back as Ancient Greece, when small bunches of fragrant flowers and herbs were worn at weddings to ward off evil spirits. During the 16th and 17th centuries, corsages and boutonnieres may have been a part of daily life to prevent disease and to ward off evil spirits, but over time, they became special-occasion pieces.
The word corsage comes from the French term bouquet de corsage, meaning a bouquet of flowers worn on upper part of the body (“corsage” meaning girdle, bodice in French), which was traditionally worn by women to weddings and funerals. Eventually, the term shortened to corsage in American English. In the early 19th century, corsages were regarded as a courting gift and were often given at formal dances. Traditionally, the gentleman would bring a gift of flowers for his date’s parents and would select one of the flowers to give to his date, which would then be carried or attached to her clothing, usually on the front of the shoulder. During the 1950s, some corsages were made with fruit and would be seen on hats for decoration. As dress styles changed, pinning the corsage to the dress became impractical, and wrist corsages became the norm.
Today’s corsages are similar to those made in previous decades, though generally smaller. It is still customary for a male to give his female date a corsage when attending a formal dance, but they are also sometimes given to a daughter attending a formal event by her parents or worn by the mothers and grandmothers of the bride and groom at a wedding. Wives and any surviving mothers typically wear corsages at Anniversary celebrations; generally, the flowers are the same as what was used at the wedding, with ribbons indicating the milestone, (i.e. silver for 25th, red for 40th). Florists recommend that the flowers be complementary in color to the attire, and corsages and boutonnières should be coordinated to indicate that a couple is attending the event together. Corsages are often dried and pressed to be preserved as mementos.