Sunday, 21 February 2021


now that is a word you do not hear much now days,

but back in Victorian times and before ladies wore them on their sleeve with the help of a few small but elaborate accessories, 

the nosegay, also known as a poesy or a “tussie mussie”, was one of the more discrete lady gadgets of yore that had multiple uses,

for one, if she was unfortunate enough to be born before the revolution of proper sanitation, the nosegay was to a lady essential, a small portable bouquet of flowers held together by a funnel-shaped poesy holder pinned to one’s dress or attached via a delicate chain, would not only help camouflage the unpleasant smells of the sewage-ridden streets, but also mask one’s own potentially-embarrassing odour during a time before daily bathing was encouraged, phew!

the term nosegay arose in fifteenth-century Middle English as a combination of nose and gay (the latter then meaning “ornament”), hence, an ornament that appeals to the nose or nostril. As early as the 1500s, this was its original and practical use, but in the 19th and early 20th century, the nosegay found a more covert and communicative role for eligible young ladies and their gentleman callers,

the use of flowers as a means of secret communication bloomed alongside a growing interest in botany, particularly among women, for whom plant collecting became a highly desirable pastime, encouraged by fashionable ladies magazines and periodicals, beginning in the late 18th century, a new wave of Enlightenment botanists had sexed up the study of plants,

if a lady received a nosegay or a tussie mussie from a gentleman caller, she had to be careful about how she wore the flowers on her dress, which was made possible thanks to the poesy-holder, or the “port-bouquet” as it was known in France (Porte – to wear, bouquet – a bouquet),

portrait of Julia Telyakovskaya, holding a nosegay, 1848. by Yakovlev, Gavriil, the closer she pinned the flowers to her heart, the better chances her suitor had at winning her over. The poesy holders, crafted in decorative floral shapes, were created to keep delicate and expensive silk dresses protected from water droplets,

the handle of the poesy holder bunched the wet stems of the flowers together and contained a piece of moist moss like a sponge, wound around the base of the bouquet stems (“mussie” refers to the moss). Scent-soaked cotton balls were also common, wedged into the poesy holders to keep the fragrance strong and some models could even be filled with water,

at a formal occasion, when presented with a tussie mussie (as it came to be known in Victorian England), the poesy holder also allowed a lady to keep the flowers suspended from her hand using a chain, so that she was free to dance unhindered,

and these posies and nosegays could talk, if you understood the language of flowers, illustration from Floral poetry and the language of flowers (1877), these “Talking bouquets” could contain numerous hidden meanings or compliments waiting to be deciphered by impressionable young debutantes and floral dictionaries became essential reading, here are a few useful translations for a crash course in the secret language of flower,

White rosebud: a heart untouched by love

Baby’s Breath: Everlasting Love

Calla Lily: Magnificent Beauty

Camellia: Perfected Loveliness

Daffodil: Unrequited Love

Forget-me-not: Memories

Gardenia: Secret Love

Gladioli: Sincerity

Jasmine: Cheerful & Graceful

Lilac: First sign of love

Lily: Purity of Heart

Orange Blossom: Marriage and Fruitfulness

Violet: Modesty

Sweet-pea: goodbye

so for this post it is sweet-pea!

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