Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Crazy Crafty: Christmas Corsages

My maternal great-grandmother died before my fifth birthday.  My memory of her - and everything else for that matter - is more than a bit foggy.  To the best of my recollection she was a warm woman who loved her electric organ, loved her giant, desert tortoise, Lollipop, and loved treating the kids in my family to cheese puffs from a cardboard canister, syrupy "juice" drinks from waxy, little bottles, and Sunkist Fruit Gems - favorites to this day (leave it to me to remember little beyond the treats she gave us).

I'm disappointed in our imaginations; "Great-Grandma" is exactly what we called her.
At least you can see one source of my sturdy build and substantial upper arm.
(Also, how's this for my first-ever attempt at free, online faux-toshop? )

I think it is impossible to be truly "fancy" in San Bernardino, CA - especially in the days when the town was just a sun-burned, suburban stop long Route 66.  However, as a member in good standing of the Order of the Eastern Star, my great-grandma had plenty of opportunities to wear formals (of her own design and making, of course).  Based on her photographs from the middle part of the 20th Century, it seems that every Eastern Star occasion warranted a fancy formal and one simply could not wear a formal without a corsage - particularly at Christmas.

Even in her waning years, she still donned a full head
of hair, her own(ed) teeth, and a Christmas corsage.  Between the
specs and the corsage, I'm, digging the pink and gold color story!

A Christmas corsage is exactly what it sounds like; overtly festive and overly large, it is like a prom corsage that has been kissed by 1,000 spastic elves.  Traditional features include metallic leaves, miniature ornaments, flocked pine cones, bells, berries, holiday figurines, miles of looped ribbon, and sometimes, just sometimes, flowers.  If you ever wanted to know what it feels like to be your grandma's Christmas tree, just slap on a Christmas corsage and you're halfway there.

"Christmas Corsage: Ideal for table decorations,
boutonnieres, gift wrap trims"

It is hard to say exactly why the Christmas corsage has fallen out of favor as the compulsory holiday accessory for women, except for the fact that on the whole they are cheap, gaudy, and usually quite massive.  Oddly enough, these are the exact qualities we seek when selecting our holiday apparel.

These examples of holiday corsages prove that while granny dear
was unique in many things - corsages were not one of them.
(Source 1, 2, 3, 4)

It is difficult to think of Christmas corsages as having an entirely-bad reputation; they have become so déclassé that they really have no reputation at all.  I don't think most folks would know a Christmas corsage from a tacky assemblage of fake florals and holiday trimmings...oh, right...  I suppose it is entirely possible that they are still a part of every festive woman's holiday ensemble in some areas of the world, but this year, I'm making it my mission to pin a little more wacky tacky onto the bosom of American womanhood.

The inspiration for my crazy crafting came from both the
photos of my great-grandmother and this lone, vintage
corsage that I had among all of my holiday hoardings.

Here is my recreation, using only materials that I had on hand.
Thanks to a few friends, I had the vintage bell ornament, miniature
toadstool, and Christmas tree.  I made the candy cane out of pipe
cleaner and the rest came from the flower section of my own personal
craft emporium.  I bound all of the wire and stems together with green,
velvet ribbon and dusted the whole thing with clear glitter.

Because I made all of the women in my life promise to wear a corsage this year, I decided that I had to make a few that were traditional and slightly more subdued in nature.

Somehow, they still turned out giant, glittery, and weird.

Figuring that any further attempt at making an understated Christmas corsage would be futile, I started deconstructing and reconstructing every bit and bob in my stash. 

This one started out as a few different tree
ornaments found at a local thrift store.

Elements of this corsage began life as a
holiday spray at the 99 Cents Only Store.

Like a wacky tacky take on the traditional primary colors,
I think aqua, red, gold, and silver might be my favorite
new holiday color combo. 

Cake toppers, tutti-frutti shoe clips, and a repurposed
flower bunch were the founding members of the
corsage I call, "California Christmas."

One never knows when miniature citrus fruit, roses, and
plastic, beach-party figurines will come in handy. 

Growing up in Southern California, I always made
like Bing and dreamt of a "White Christmas."

These days, I will happily take a California
Christmas every time; where else is it socially
acceptable to go for a tandem ride on a giant, vintage
ornament in the dead of winter wearing only a bathing
suit (a grossly-immodest bathing suit at that)?

How do you feel about Christmas corsages - or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa corsages for that matter?  Are you breaking out the glitter and the glue gun for some crazy holiday crafting this year?  Let us know what you're making.


Mr. Tiny


  1. Oh I LOVE corsages....I have a couple of them and want more of course. This month at work and church I have promised myself that I would wear a Christms brooch or Christmas corsage each day. :) Your great granny and I have lots in common....and I'm an Eastern Star too! Merry Wacky Tacky Christmas!

    1. Merry Christmas to you too! I'm glad to know that she was in great company - in corsages and Eastern Star!

  2. i looooooooooove corsages and collect them. I have been planning a post about my own grandmother and her corsages but well, it's on the list. Your great grandmother was lovely and any lady that has her own tortoise (and her own teeth) is okay by me. We must be related. I have those same arms.

    1. Ooooweee!!! Please move your corsage post to the top of the list; I'd love to see more REAL ones. Lollipop the tortoise was big enough to ride (as a small child) and outlived granny by many years! If I ever get a tortoise, it will definitely be named Lollipop II.

  3. I have no idea that it could exist!!!!
    Probably typically american... but why not?

    1. Americans always think of the tackiest stuff!!! I think you need to find/make/wear one this Christmas. Sylvain will love it!

  4. OMG, I must make one of these. So much better than a Christmas brooch!

    1. If you do, please share the results. I know yours will be magnificent!

  5. Oh! The women in your life are fortunate indeed! Gosh I just live for your updates as I commute home on this cold London bus! Moan!

    1. I might be willing to trade you for a short period of time; you come home to CA and I go to London. In some ways it seems like Christmas was practically invented in the UK!

  6. OMG! I remember my mom having Christmas corsages! That's so cool that you're making them for your family. Thanks for jogging that memory.

  7. Oh my those are terrific and I really dont think Ive seen one before. The woman in your life are super lucky, particularly whoever gets to wear california christmas!

    retro rover

    1. Thank you! Now that you know what they are, you'll probably see them everywhere; that happens to me all the time!

  8. P.S. - I LOVE your corsage creations! :)

  9. As an active member of the Masonic order, I am a Eastern Star! I'm also a past Honored Queen and Grand Bethel Girl for Job's Daughters. Maybe this is why I love brooches so much!

    1. My grandma has all of her mother's Eastern Star jewelry packed away somewhere. It would be awesome to go through it and document all the pieces!

  10. I never knew such a thing existed, these are GLORIOUS I say :D !

    1. Thanks! I've done California Christmas, maybe we need to see what FL Christmas looks like!

  11. I love them! I need to look though my Christmas doo dad box and construct one with wacky tacky inspriration!

    1. I know you have the makings for some awesome corsages. Pink and aqua!!!

  12. Just this past weekend, my friend and I were at a thrift store digging through the Christmas cast offs they didn't think deserved to be displayed at the front with the "new" nice stuff, and lo and behold we found two matching and in great condition Christmas corsages. One look and we knew this years outfits would be planned around these gems, regardless of what our husbands may think.

    1. How awesome!!! Vintage Christmas is getting harder and harder to find out in the wild. Like the centerpiece to a lovely table, your corsage should be the focus of your holiday ensemble - good thinking!

  13. the second picture down reminds me SO MUCH of my great aunt lena! I mean, pretty much the same face, but lena's hair was more dark grey than white! she didn't have a tortoise though. Do you have any photos of her with it?
    I'm a BIG fan of a christmas corsage! i have about 10? 12? I wear them up until christmas and keep them on a weird macrame tree hanging on my wall. I have been hoarding vintage christmas crafty bits all year because i was talking about making my own corsages and trying to sell them on etsy. maybe next year! I love the ones you made! i hope you get all the ladies in your life to wear one!

  14. I looooove Christmas corsages! Yours are fabulous, especially the California Christmas one. I totally wish that they would come back into style and if I had one, I would wear it a ton.

  15. As a child of the 60's I remember my mom having a few Christmas corsages. I wish I still had them.

  16. What fond memories. Even as a kid, I remember that all the girls in the family, including my mom would wear a big, shiny, Christmas corsage on our coats all through the season (late 1960's).

  17. Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for a Happy New Year!
    Bring you Good wishes of happiness.

    Sorry for greeting you earlier,, just don't want miss saying this.
    By the way, I'm clotee. It's my first time visiting your blog. I am blogger too, and now try my best luck to open an e-store. Nice to know you.