A Vintage Garden of Flowers

Imagine walking into an old shop in France, and there, in trays, boxes and on tables, are A Vintage Garden of Flowers. No, not the kind you plant and water, but the kind created petal by petal in workshops all over Europe for the milliner’s trade. To decorate hats or to be worn on a lapel of a favorite suit or dress.

A Vintage Garden of Flowers

Always in bloom, these flowers are not just for wearing, but create a personal, engaging display in your home. I’ve written about them before, antique and vintage millinery flowers have a long history. First created by 16th-century traveling haberdashers from Milan {it’s where the “millinery” name comes from} the flowers were so exquisite that at one time the Catholic church in Italy reserved the silk flowers made in Milan for itself to decorate church altars with.

A Vintage Garden of Flowers


Millinery Flowers of France

Marie Antoinette, the last Queen consort of France, loved millinery flowers. As a trendsetter, her fashionable way of wearing millinery silk and velvet flowers {often in elaborate hair styles} spread throughout Europe.

A Vintage Garden of Flowers

Paris became the heart of the millinery flower production.  Millinery flowers were first made in cottage worker’s homes, with a flower iron made to resemble a different type of flower petal or leaf. First sculpted of clay to be as realistic as possible, the irons were then cast in metal. To make each flower petal or leaf, the iron was heated to the right temperature and fabric, silk, velvet or cotton, was stretched over it and pressed into the shape.


Hand painted, and then assembled, these flowers rivaled their natural counterparts.  As demand for the flowers grew, by the 19th-century, millinery flowers were made in large factories with machines. Paris had almost 2,000 millinery flower factories employing thousands of people making the flowers for hats and corsages.

A Vintage Garden of Flowers


A Victorian Garden

During the 1800’s, hats of Victorian women were heavily embellished with millinery flowers. It’s rumored that Victorian fashion was so intimately linked with garden aesthetics that when a garden trend changed, the millinery flowers used on hats copied that change. But the flowers weren’t only used for hats, in the Victorian age and the early 1900’s they were used to decorate pillows and even furniture that needed brightening up! The millinery floral bouquets were very beloved for weddings, formal balls and holidays.

A Vintage Garden of Flowers

So back to that shop, filled with magical flowers….I have lots of antique and vintage millinery flowers in the shop right now.

Because of course I tried to buy as many as I could, and/or that would fit in our suitcases. They are of various ages, and in what I consider good condition for their age. The flowers were delicate things, and the ones that I bought are in very good condition for their age. But they are not new, so they have slight fraying perhaps, or may have some bends here and there. {Like me!}


A Vintage Garden of Flowers

A Vintage Garden of Flowers

antique French silk and satin millinery flowers

A Vintage Garden of Flowers

antique Millinery embellishments from France

Then we bought {and by we I actually mean ME!} some pretty incredible antique French ribbons, lace and clothing accessories. Once they opened those boxes, Mr. FGH had to drag me out of there after a few hours, because all of a sudden I wanted to be a lace and ribbon merchant! Goodness, I can’t describe the beauty of some of the lace pieces, most made by hand long ago. When I stand in a room surrounded by lace like that, I think myself an heiress or Duchess, with lace covered clothing made by hand to wear every day. {and a change of clothing for tea and dinner!} Okay, now you know i’m a little crazy.

There are some stunning and quite rare to find laces on the shop site right now. Like this Antique French gold metallic lace panel

and this one, which I’ve had in our collection for awhile. It is a large capelet, to wear over an evening gown. Can you imagine? It will also look fabulous on one of your favorite antique mannequins.

antique French Gold lace shawl

I’ll be adding more lace pieces this week, and probably next week, and more ribbons.
My favorite ribbons have to be the rare-to-find antique French watered silk ribbons like this one:

antique french watered silk ribbon

and this one:

antique French wide silk watered ribbon

And finally, I bought some of the hat molds from the shop. They will be available on the shop site by next week. It was a thrill to buy this collection of beautiful pieces of history. When I look at some of these things, my eyes still glaze over at the beauty of them!

SHOP Antique Millinery and Ribbons Here

Thank you for reading about my love affair with antique French millinery, lace and ribbons! Not everyone understands how I feel, most of my friends nod and say, “yes, that’s nice” – but YOU understand, right?!


Do you collect antique millinery flowers, lace and ribbons? How do you display or use them at home?




Shop for the best in French Antiques, furniture with the patina of age, vintage accessories to delight you and your family & friends, and French Country utilitarian pieces. Treasures that make your home fresh, beautiful, inspirational and above all uniquely yours. Visit our shop FrenchGardenHouse.com

19 thoughts on “A Vintage Garden of Flowers”

  1. I loved this post. So interesting. I would love to share this on my newsletter this week. Blessings to you.

    1. Thank you Renae! I hope you are having a blessed Thursday!

    1. Thank you Rita! I agree, even the best of today’s faux can’t compare {although there are some amazing flowers still being made for the very high end couture fashion designers…but they cost the earth!} Happy Thursday, friend. xo

  2. These are so beautiful, Lidy. Those pinks are especially fabulous and so perfect for Valentine’s day!

  3. Jeanie, I agree, the pinks are especially stunning. In person each one of these blooms is perfectly wonderful! Wishing you a beautiful day!

  4. Shannon@Belle Bleu Interiors

    Lidy, I adore flowers, and the ones you have shared this morning are so pretty. I can see why you fell in love with them along with the beautiful vintage ribbon. Happy Thursday, sweet friend!

    1. Happy Thursday Shannon! Like you I love flowers in every single way, real, in art, on walls, and especially the amazing antique hand made ones!

  5. donna augustine-nikpai

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm regarding an elegant lifestyle. I am so happy I found your site!

    1. Thank you so much! I love finding kindred spirits, friends who love the elegant more romantic side of life.

  6. YES, I have some of each. Love the flowers pinned on pretty dresses. Also an excuse to have multiple armoires to store them in !

  7. Lidy, love all your posts but, especially this one!
    Beautifully photographed and well written, it reminds me of the original Victoria magazine days. Grazie!

  8. Thank you so much Sunday! Coming from you that’s really high praise! Hope you are well and enjoying every day, friend. xo

  9. Awakening Wonders

    Thanks for the beautiful journey through loveliness!

    1. Thanks so much for your visit! I am so glad you enjoyed your time and all the antique treats today!

  10. Lidy, this post brings back such memories for me ~ my very first time in Paris discovering a darling petite shop filled with antique lace, ribbons, and millinery flowers; discovering the fabric district in Montmartre in awe of the buttons, tassels, ribbons, and fabrics; La Mercerie Parisienne in the Marais; a favorite needlepoint shop in the Viaduc des Arts; a darling millinery shop in Nice. You make me want to book a trip for spring. Your flowers and ribbons are spectacular.

    1. Sarah, what sweet memories you have! I hope you can convince one or more of your friends to book a trip!!

  11. Sharon Crigger-Stokan

    Oh my, Lidy! Thank you for transporting us to not only those sweet French millinery shops, but to your sweet finds from those shops! What treasures they hold! I could almost feel the luxury of the flowers and ribbons as I followed your links! Divine!

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