Brown linen suit with pink boutonniere

I like wearing a boutonniere – or buttonhole – on more formal or celebratory occasions. Mostly, I think, because it is another opportunity to play with colour. Having come up with a pleasing combination of suit, shirt, tie and handkerchief, selecting a flower is one more challenge and chance for expression. 

I also like the fact that doesn’t seem that fussy. Unlike many other formal additions – double-breasted waistcoats, tie pins, collar pins etc – it seems like a light-hearted, playful item. That ever-present risk of taking yourself too seriously – or at least appearing so – is mitigated. 

The images here illustrate the range of appropriate colours. Despite the richness of colour elsewhere in this outfit – tobacco linen suit, blue shirt, green tie, yellow handkerchief – all three of these flowers work well. 

Cream (below, from a white hydrangea) is the most versatile colour for a flower. Because cream is rarely worn elsewhere, it will be a compliment to rather than a mere mimic of a white shirt or white hank. And even when there is no white present, as here, its lack of strong colour prevents it clashing with anything.

Brown linen suit with cream flower

Brown suit with blue flower

Cornflower blue (above, a lobelia) works by picking up the blue shirt and adding a stronger, deeper tone to it. It also highlights an important point: that you can get away with much stronger colour in a boutonniere than you can with other accessories.

That strong blue would have been out of place as a handkerchief, dominating all the other colours around it. But as a small, prick of inspiration, it is an attractive accent. 

Finally pink (shown top, scabious I think) is not reflected anywhere else in the outfit, but was a candidate for a tie or handkerchief. A reader suggested that last time in the comments, and while I considered it, personally I think that would have been too long strong a colour to work with everything else

As a boutonniere, however, it is perfect. Again, stronger colours can work here where they would not elsewhere. 

In closing, a small plea to keep flowers small, even at weddings. No one needs a massive, artificial arrangement that weighs down the whole lapel. Keep it light, keep it small and keep in natural.