'Fashion in Bloom' at IMA 

Spring has sprung at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The IMA's featured exhibit, Fashion in Bloom, features 25 garments spanning from the late 1700s to 1970 - all inspired by floral motifs and design. A constant theme in fashion design, flowers have informed and influenced the feminine silhouette throughout the centuries. A silk gown from 1760 literally and figuratively blossoms around the feminine form. Tiger lilies, tulips and other succulent plumage spread across the robin-egg blue silk damask. The flower design is realistic and natural, mimicking the rustic English gardens. The floral motif takes figurative form in the dress' billowing back pleats as they unfurl to the floor. Wide, soft-flowing sleeves and a large-hoop panier further soften the silhouette and radiate around the female form.

In the early 1800s, the waist line rises, the weight of fabric drops and the floral motif is more intricate and focused. A French silk gown from 1815 features light-weight silk and muslin and short-capped sleeves - decidedly breathable and airy. Delicate lace peeks through the capped sleeves and across the bodice. Deep fuchsia gauze weave strips radiate around a central floral spring, creating an intricate band of chenille roses.

A dress from 1906 epitomizes the organic and highly stylized forms of Art Nouveau. Intricate rouching and hand pin-tucking create an organic and ultra feminine appeal, while the floral design of the dress features strong and dramatic curves - tiger lilies "whiplash" across the dress in true Nouveau form. These lilies are supple and stylized, appliquéd and cutout intermittently across the soft and gauzy fabric in blushing pink.

A French evening dress from the 1920s features exotic tiger lilies and spindly vines as they climb up the shapeless and tubular form of the Flapper-era. Like the women of the roaring '20s, the flowers on this dress are irreverent and wild. The hemline approaches the knee as a large art deco brooch gathers soft sheer fabric at the center of the torso.

From the late 1960s, Bill Blass' hippie-chic dress and coat features vibrantly orange and stylized ganzias and lotus that adorn a brilliant purple over-coat. Perfectly tailored, the clean lines, mixed textures and sharp Nehru collar combine sophistication and the "summer of love."

To see how flowers have informed fashion throughout the centuries, visit the Fashion in Bloom exhibit through Jan. 31, 2010. For information, call 317-923-1331 or go to www.imamuseum.org.

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