These ornate little trumpets are bouquetiers, also known as tussie-mussies or quite simply, posy holders. In the 1800s flowers were a popular gift and fashion accessory among the upper classes of Europe. Of course, a respectable lady didn’t want a drippy dress, stained gloves and only a fistful of wilted stems to show for it at the end of the evening so the advent of decorative holders became a must-have item.
Pieces of moss (mussie) were wrapped around the stems to keep them moist and in addition to the handle for carrying, many holders also included a pin to secure the stems in place and a ring on a chain – allowing the bouquet to dangle from the hand or chatelaine (belt clasp) when dancing. One example here even includes a fan of five ivory cards and a pencil to use as a dance card.
A selection of bouquetiers held by the Smithsonian are shown below. They average roughly 13cm in height and the chains were removed from the pictures so we could fit more into the print edition!
Follow this link to see all 604 bouquet holders in the Smithsonian’s collection.