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The Difference Between a Corsage & Boutonniere

Updated July 18, 2017

Corsages and boutonnières add elegance to a celebration, wedding or formal dance. A corsage is worn by a woman, either on the left side of the dress or on the wrist, and the boutonnière is worn by the man on his left lapel. The colours and designs of the flowers either match or accent each other and unify the couple for the occasion.

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Definition of Boutonniere

The word, boutonnière comes from the French, but the English call it the "buttonhole." The boutonnière usually is one flower bud or single flower that can stand alone, or be surrounded by greenery, filler or ribbon. This is worn by a man. Traditionally the flower was looped through the lapel buttonhole on the left side of a man's tuxedo or suit coat. If the jacket does not have the buttonhole, then the flower is pinned on the lapel.

Definition of Corsage

The word corsage comes from the French word for bodice. Corsages are usually three or more clusters of flowers and can be arranged with greenery, filler and ribbon. The corsage is an arrangement of flowers worn by a woman on the left side of her dress. It can also be a wrist corsage, where the flowers are attached to a wide ribbon or elastic band worn on the wrist.


People started wearing wreaths and garlands in the Grecian-Roman era, and continued through the middle ages. In the 18th century the English adapted the practice and introduced the nosegay and boutonnière to help ward off evil spirits and repel infectious disease. It also helps ease the bad smells that were found in various parts of the culture. Eventually it became a fashion statement. In the 1940s, Hollywood leading men put on the boutonnière to go out and it caught on for a time as a gentleman's accessory. Now both boutonnières and corsages are worn at weddings, proms and other formal occasions.

Kinds of Flowers

In earlier decades the majority of corsages and boutonnières were made up of carnations and gardenias. Currently the popular choices include sweetheart (mini) or standard roses, orchids, lilies, stephanotis, tulips and other small flowers such as cornflowers and freesia. To make a fashion statement today, some men are designing contemporary boutonnières out of metal, herbs or "found" objects.


Most boutonnières should be as large as a golf ball. If the single flower is small, it can be enhanced by greens, berries, baby's breath or other filler. Most floral designers suggest a corsage be an odd number of flowers; either three or five, depending on the size of the flowers. An odd number is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

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About the Author

Nellene Teubner Plouffe is a writer who started her journalism career as a reporter and columnist for the "Orange County Register" newspaper in 1992. In 1995, Teubner Plouffe received a first-place award in column writing from the California Newspaper Publishers’ Association. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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