Corsages add the final flourish to prom look

Girls preparing for junior and senior proms have favored wrist corsages for the past several years.

Shades of pink, violet and blue are blooming in the closets of young women throughout the Capital Region.

That means their buds — ivory whites, lemon yellows and deep reds — are waiting at Patricia Whipple’s floral business on Michigan Avenue in Schenectady. When girls dress for their junior proms and senior balls, they take favorite guys and favorite flowers to the big dance.

Whipple, who owns Flowers by Randolph with son Patrick and daughter Debbie Whipple Roth, said teenagers are a big part of the spring rush that traditionally keeps corsage and bouquet shops busy during May.

“That’s your season,” Patricia Whipple said. “You’ve got Mother’s Day, you’ve got proms, you’ve got weddings, you’ve got Memorial Day.”

The prom kids will be in first. Whipple said girls preparing for junior and senior galas have been wearing wrist corsages for the past several years. The big bouquets of the 1990s — “We used to do tons of them,” Whipple said — are no longer in demand.

According to the Society of American Florists in Alexandria, Va., flowers for girls’ hair — and corsages pinned to an evening bag — are other prom trends. Jenny Scala, a spokeswoman for the society, said communication is key when considering and ordering corsages.

“Look for colors that will match her dress,” she said. “And guys can ask their dates what flowers they like. Try to order at least two weeks in advance. That way, if you want a special flower, you’ll know if your florist is going to have it.”

Splash of color

Patrick Whipple said girls like the wrist flowers because they’re so easy — no beauty wants to lug a dozen long-stemmed white roses to the dance floor. The smaller accessory also adds a splash of color to their gowns, and is durable enough to withstand the rigors of dancing and celebrating into early hours.

“Unless they hang their arms out the limousine going down the Northway, they’re not going anywhere,” Whipple said.

Mark Felthousen, general manager of his family’s three local floral shops and greenhouses, said freedom of movement is another benefit of the wrist corsage.

“They don’t pull on your fabric,” he said. “And a lot of the dresses don’t really support a pin-on corsage.”

Miniature flowers are generally used, and florists say sweetheart roses, calla lilies, orchids and carnations are leading choices. Kids will learn their favorite flowers may not make good prom dates. Felthousen said bulb flowers like tulips will blow open and fall apart during the evening. “Not every flower is a good corsage flower,” he said.

Debbie Converse, a designer with Dehn’s Flowers in Saratoga Springs, said flowers are attached to an elastic “wristlet” that can later be worn as a bracelet or as a “scrunchy” tie for the hair. Imitation jewels in purple, red, green and blue and extras like baby’s breath and pearly wisps are often part of the creations.

“Every single one is custom-made,” Converse said. “They’re not from a production line. Every one is made for the girl with her dress in mind. Of course, we never get to see the dresses.”

Converse believes girls who attend the proms always remember their flowers. “It’s the extra added touch that makes the night more special,” she said. “They’ve got their hair done, they’ve got their make-up done, they’ve got their very special dress and shoes. Flowers are the completing touch.”

Color counts

Felthousen said colors will differ from school to school. His female customers from Niskayuna High School often wear black gowns for their spring formals. In 2008, Rotterdam’s girls from Mohonasen High School decided sherbet colors were the right choice for May.

Patricia Whipple said florists help kids choose what flowers and colors will go with their gowns. “Some of them haven’t got a clue,” she said. “Others know exactly what they want.”

The guys’ boutonnieres are generally simple matters. Single white or red rose buds are pinned to lapels.

“A lot of times it will be one of the kids with one of their parents,” Patrick Whipple said. “Why? I think a lot of times, maybe the parents are still paying for these things and they want to be involved.”

Kids don’t usually forget prom flowers. Emily Bartell, 18, a senior at Niskayuna High School who works at the Felthousen store in Niskayuna, said corsages are among topics teens discuss before the big night. The corsages, she said, often become keepsakes.

“I’ve kept all of mine,” said Bartell, who has attended several Niskayuna formals. “It’s kind of like your memories from your prom.”

Felthousen prepares for disasters. Someone will forget.

“We usually make a few extra for the last minute,” he said. “It’s usually the mom who gives you the call.”

Won’t get left out

Patrick Whipple said he doesn’t believe the struggling economy will stop kids from making floral investments for their proms. He said they’re paying a lot more for limousines, tuxedos and gowns.

“It’s not like you can trim $100 off your prom bill by cutting back on your corsage,” he said. “That corsage is going to cost them $25, $35, $40. It all depends how elaborate you get. How much could you actually cut back? $10? For $10, they’re not going to bother.”

Patrick Whipple said people should bother with something that will look good.

“It pays to go with something nice,” he said, “because that prom picture or wedding picture is going on display, and the difference a nice wedding bouquet or a nice corsage makes in that picture … if you’re ever going to cut back at a wedding, don’t cut back on that bridal bouquet.”

Felthousen thinks kids who shop at his store for prom flowers will remember a positive experience. And many of them will be in the market for wedding flowers some day.

“They’ll come back when they’re older, and might have a few more dollars to spend,” he said.

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