New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

‘The Orchid Show: Florals in Fashion’ beautifully experiments with flowers as inspiration and material

With bold orchid-covered outfits, New York Botanical Garden’s latest exhibit offers an inside look into the versatility of plants and fashion.
Designs by Kristen Alpaugh. (Photos by Isabella Bernabeo, collage by Matt Petres for WSN)

At New York Botanical Garden’s “The Orchid Show: Florals in Fashion,” guests are treated to an oasis of creative and bold botanical outfits. An ode to natural beauty, the exhibit not only highlights the versatility of flowers, specifically orchids, but how they can inspire flourishing art. The featured artists include sustainable designer Hillary Taymour of Collina Strada, botanical artist Kristen Alpaugh of FLWR PSTL and NYU alum and designer Olivia Cheng of Dauphinette

As you enter the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, you are greeted with earthy and experimental looks popping out from the sea of verdant green, yet still blending in with the plants. The first room showcases works from Dauphinette, with five mannequins on top of a sparkling lake and a tropical backdrop. The outfits included many floral designs reminiscent of Dauphinette’s typical upcycled pieces. 

In the display, vines and succulents mimic hair, jewelry and headpieces, helping each mannequin camouflage into the tropic environment. From resin-dipped pink and white flower buttons on a mini tank top dress to a short red dress embellished with green beatles, nature was both a source of inspiration and material.

In the following rooms, the exhibit switches to a more educational lens, highlighting the different flowers used in the outfits and inviting visitors to learn more about the plants. It explains how some orchids grow on trees in more humid conditions while others flourish in colder, aquatic habitats. Understanding the science helps you appreciate the flower-centric pieces at the end of the exhibition even more.

In the last few rooms, guests are finally introduced to designs from Hillary Taymour’s Collina Strada and Kristen Alpaugh’s FLWR PSTL, which exemplify how multifaceted these florals can be. The star of the exhibit is FLWR PSTL’s large centerpiece, titled “Divine Nature”. It features a mannequin held high in the sky by her dress filled with vines and purple orchids. Resembling the figure of a goddess, the mannequin has two large, purple petals and an array of vibrant, green leaves that create an eye-catching silhouette emerging dramatically from a succulent and floral robe. Its grandeur makes it hard to believe that the outfits are made of plants.

These bold styles are also evident in Alpaugh’s four smaller designs as well. With bright colors and interesting textures, these plants become a tool for Alpaugh to realize her art and give everyday styles a floral touch. A mannequin wears a puffer coat of patchwork squares made from dried orchids handpicked and cast in resin. She took inspiration from stained glass and her grandmother’s heavy patchwork quilts.  

In “Victoria,” the mannequin wears a top decorated with light pink orchids and a lilypad skirt filled with water, orange fish and purple orchids. Alpaugh drew inspiration from her 10 years of training in ballet, turning lily pads into tutus. 

Another figure displays a twist on formal wear, dressed in a translucent suit adorned with white and purple orchids and a large, golden leaf acting as a boutonniere. The last mannequin of the designer’s pieces features a more casual look. Orchids are adorned everywhere throughout the outfit — purple and white ones as headphones, as buttons on shorts and created into knee high boots. 

Closing the exhibition are Hillary Taymour’s five designs, immersing visitors in a not-so-human world with animal-like creatures for mannequins. Sprouts emerge from cloth dresses, leaves double as skirts, grass acts like thread and bouquets become gowns. The contrast between the strange mannequins and the innovative designs makes the florals feel otherworldly. The designs add a playfulness to the exhibit that perfectly captures how dynamic these plants are, effectively bridging nature and fashion. 

To catch this exhibit of outstanding orchids, head to the New York Botanical Garden before it closes Sunday, April 21. Tickets to the show are $31 for students, but worth the price for plant parents and fashion gurus alike.

Contact Isabella Bernabeo at [email protected].

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