Staff at Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum are prepping for an unusual holiday exhibit that will open the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The exhibit is called “Avant Garden: Weaving Fashion and Nature Together.”

The show was inspired by the influence nature has on fashion and couture and will feature exhibits on textiles, plant-based fabric dyes, and plants used as the basis of clothing, for example, bamboo, rayon, and linen.

One display sure to capture people’s attention is the collection of “living dresses” the Matthaei-Nichols crew is putting together over the next weeks. At the end of September the dress made from succulents was really starting to come together. Staff attached sphagnum moss to a dressmaker’s wire form. Over that they began painstakingly to apply succulents in alternating swaths in the dress part. The pictures below tell the story best. We’re looking forward to the exhibit! Should be pretty cool.

Update, October 10, 2016: the succulent dress is nearly complete. Take a look:

Plants with exotic looks, such as succulents
and cactus, are all the rage. This dress is one
of six examples of “living couture” that staff at
Matthaei-Nichols are getting ready for the
holiday exhibit, “Avant Garden.” Not all of the
outfits will be made of living plant material:
some will be constrcuted with bark, cut
evergreens, and moss.
Matthaei-Nichols visitor services manager
David Betz helps horticulturist Carmen
Leskoviansky apply sphagnum moss to a wire
dress frame. The moss will help hold the
succulents in place and retain moisture,
ensuring that the living dress will be both
lightweight and easy to care for.

All the moss is attached to the frame. ready for the

Carmen begins applying the living plants.

After she applies the “hem,” Carmen begins
adding more plants in a whorled pattern.

Dress portion nearly done!