Violets & Pansies in Lolita
This month’s theme for Bibliotheca is florals. I initially wanted to write about the language of flowers, but Mukashi no Sewing already had by the time I sat down to write, so I decided to just focus on one flower: the violet. When I think of violets, I typically think of Viola sororia, the common blue violet, or of potted Saintpaulia, African Violets. However, scientifically, Viola includes both violets and pansies and many of the lolita prints labeled violet or viola have flowers that I would think of as pansies, so I’m combining the two together here.
I’ve gathered a few violet and pansy prints here, as well as some interesting trivia about pansies and violets. Please note that while I’ve paired the trivia with individual pieces, in most cases there is no official association between these things, and I am not suggesting that the designers necessarily ascribed the same meanings or symbolism to any of these particular pieces.
Emily Temple Cute ~ Violet Tea
ETC’s Violet Tea series features canisters of tea and candied violets with spoons holding additional flowers. Violets are edible and have been candied in sugar since at least the mid 1800s. If you are interested in trying it at home, all you need are clean violets, eggs, powdered sugar and patience. Commercially, Toulouse, France was once known for producing candy violets, though it seems the trade has fallen out of favor. I could not find much information about Dedieu Candi Flor, who, in 1986, was the only candied violet company still operating out of France.
Innocent World ~ Violets Inside Mansions
IW’s Violets Inside Mansions series features baskets of fresh flowers in a stiped wallpaper type pattern with swaths of flowers about the hem which feels decidedly like something out of Victorian mansion house. Floriography, the language of flowers, was wildly popular in the Victorian era. Le langage des fleurs written by Louise Cortambert, under pen name Madame Charlotte de la Tour in 1819 is often credited as the first dictionary of floriography. The book is organized by season, and speaks about the flowers of each season. However, in the back there is a list of the flowers and their meanings. This print features both white and traditionally purple violets. In Le langage des fleurs, violets are listed as meaning modesty, while white violets are listed for candor.
Innocent World ~ Antique Violet
This series also features am almost wall-paper-esque top section and the bottom section specifically references the language of flowers, though it uses the terms ‘faithfulness’ and ‘modesty’. While faithfulness is not in Le langage des fleurs specifically, it is a meaning that was associated with violets at some point during the Victorian era.
Violets are also the birth flower for the month of February due to their association with Valentine’s Day. Tradition has it that St. Valentine used ground up violets for ink when writing letters while in prison. This may have contributed to the association with faithfulness and everlasting love. The shift away from violets for Valentine’s day and towards roses seems to have taken place around the 1930s.
Innocent World ~ Young Maiden’s Violet
This print features nosegays of traditional wild violets, bound together with yellow ribbon, which the designer says is supposed to represent happiness.
In addition to their meaning in the language of flowers, violets also are associated with lesbian love. This association is often attributed to the poetry of Sappho, like this excerpt from a poem where she speaks of a love lost:
If you forget me, think
of our gifts to Aphrodite
and all the loveliness that we shared
all the violet tiarasSappho
braided rosebuds, dill and
crocus twined around your young neck
In 1926, playwright Édouard Bourdet’s The Captive led to boycotts and calls for censorship when it depicted one female character sending another a bouquet of violets. This resulted in some young women wearing violets in protest. The play was eventually shut down by the office of the New York District Attorney in 1927, but supposedly tanked sales of violets at American florists due to the association. This aversion to the queer association with the flower may be in part why violets lost their place as the primary flower for Valentine’s day.
Metamorphose ~ Violets Bouquet
This series also brings us baskets of violets like Innocent World’s Violets Inside Mansions, though they are much more playful and there are pansies mixed in there. The violets pictured have an old fashioned art style and nod back to the art of vintage birthday cards.
In fact, I’d be quite surprised if the last card pictured here wasn’t used as a reference for the flower basket in the dress, seen in the center panel at the bottom here. The two are not identical, but the shape of the basket and placement of one of the ribbons are quite similar.
Angelic Pretty ~ Sugar Pansy
This is one of the few series featuring pansies that is actually named pansy and not violet. This is a custom border print made by AP that features large pansy flowers and ribbons. The print isn’t really arranged into any sort of real physical form, all the flowers are facing the viewer more or less with greenery behind to fill the extra space. Interestingly, AP tiered the skirts of pretty much all the cuts which breaks up the stripe behind the flowers. Pansies aren’t in Le langage des fleurs, but contemporary sources ascribe a meaning of romantic thought to the flower. The flowers themselves in this print are more fantastically colored, with the placement of the lavender and pink in the individual blooms falling somewhat oddly compared to the way real flowers tend to be colored.
Angelic Pretty ~ Sweetie Violet
This print primarily features pansies, though it does show sugared versions being used to decorate cupcakes. It’s interesting that this one is called Violet when the older one above was called Pansy! However, the flower has gone by many names. In Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the flower is called love-in-idleness, and is used in love potion making.
Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell.A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act 2 Scene 1
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before, milk-white, now purple with love’s wound,
And maidens call it “love-in-idleness.”
Fetch me that flower; the herb I showed thee once.
The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.
This print was released in 2014, and was one of AP’s earlier forays into making their own all over floral prints. In the first decade or so of the brand, they used more commercially available florals, but they ran into situations where they would be using the same fabric as several other brands in the same season, and of course, commercially available floral fabrics are often readily available to people who would knock off AP’s work. I can’t say for sure that’s why they moved towards making almost all their florals in house, but I do wonder if it didn’t have some impact.
While the flowers in this print are also a bit fantastically colored, they are more true to real flowers, with the majority of the them showing placements of the colors that could theoretically occur in natural flowers.
Emily Temple Cute ~ Pansy Print
This print also features pansies, though they are large and more pop-art than many of the other examples we have looked at so far, This one also has cursive text around the hem which seems to reference the language of flowers again. It’s hard to make out the text but the bottom two lines (which are only visible on some cuts) seem to say ‘all things that ease the memories, loving thought and souvenirs” (fairly certain on that one) and then the bottom line is something to the effect of hearts of loves violet??? “modesty” hence the term “shrinking violet”‘.
So, we have Modesty, from the language of flowers, but also the term shrinking violet which is an insult dating back at least to the 1820s for a young woman who is overly timid (or, used in the inverse as a backhanded compliment, a young woman who is perhaps a bit too brash). It most likely is just meant to be decorative text, and I would guess it was copied from somewhere, though where, I’m unsure as nothing comes up when I search it in quotes.
Baby the Stars Shine Bright ~ Happy Easter
There is a lot going on in this print, so if you didn’t immediately notice the violets, you are absolutely forgiven. This print features traditional wild violets in the garlands as well as under the frame with the two rabbits. In Catholic symbology, violets are a symbol of the Virgin Mary’s humility, and in Catholic tradition, it’s said that violets bloomed outside of her window when she spoke the words “Here am I, the servant of the Lord,” (Luke 1:38) to the angel Gabriel after he had told her that she would give birth to Jesus. Easter, in the Catholic tradition, is the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection. So the violets in this print bring us around full circle from the annunciation to the resurrection. As far as violet prints go, it’s not one of the most memorable, however, it is rather unique in it’s use of violets as a religious symbol.
Emily Temple Cute ~ Queen Marie Fragrance
Queen Marie in this print is Marie of Romania, daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. As a child, she summered at the Palace of San Antonio in Malta where there was a bed of Russian Violets planted by her mother. She married Ferdinand I of Romania in 1893, and in 1897 he contracted typhoid fever and after a time they moved to Peleș Castle for him to recover. While there, Marie took up gardening and walking with her children gathering flowers.
She became known for loving violets, and in 1922 she became the face of a line of beauty products, including perfume sold under the name “Mon Boudoir” which had notes of violets, iris patchouli and sandalwood. This was quite significant, as prior to this, no member of the royal family had appeared in advertisements.
When she died, legend has it that the castle smelled strongly of violets, and every summer, legend has it that the scent returns. The perfume itself was re-released for the 100th anniversary and is still for sale, though it costs a pretty penny at $285 a bottle.
The Emily Temple Cute dress print features far more elaborate perfume bottles than the actual perfume was sold in, along with old-timey pansies, roses and shoes.
And with that, I think it’s time to conclude our stroll through the violet and pansy gardens of lolita fashion. I hope you enjoyed the violet & pansy trivia, and let me know in the comments if there are any violet or pansy prints you love that I left out!