‘Sheila’ the floral lingerie-clad mannequin turns heads at Edmonton exhibit

‘Sheila’ the floral lingerie-clad mannequin turns heads at Edmonton exhibit

Fleur-de-Lise floral mannequin
Sheila the mannequin is on display at Fleurs De Villes at Southgate Centre.

A first-of-its-kind floral art exhibition has Edmontonians stopping to smell the roses—and smitten with a sexy, flower-clad wonder woman nicknamed “Sheila.”

Sheila is, in fact, a mannequin outfitted in vintage-inspired floral lingerie—the creation of floral artist Lisa Alary of Fleur-de-Lise. The St. Albert-based floral studio is one of 15 local businesses participating in the Fleurs De Villes exhibition at Southgate Centre.

Strategically placed leaves and foliage transformed Sheila from bare mannequin to a starlet in the finest floral couture.

“My inspiration was vintage lingerie from the ‘40s and ‘50s—the pointy cone bras that were the underpinning of the popular sweater-girl look,” says Alary. “The sweater girl look was a little risqué in their time, and I like being a bit of a wildcard florist when it comes to no-holds-barred design—a bit cheeky and edgy.”

Fleurs De Villes combines a love of flowers with great design to showcase top talent in the floral industry. Fleurs De Villes has partnered with shopping centres to host floral couture exhibitions in Vancouver and Victoria, and debuted at Southgate on April 19.

A floral designer with 16 years experience, Alary launched her home-based floral studio last year. She says she jumped at the chance to participate in Fleurs De Villes, which combines her love of flowers, fashion and fine art. Alary graduated from the Alberta College of Art + Design’s printmaking program before switching gears to flowers.

“Flowers smell a whole lot better than ink and toluene.” —Lisa Alary

Alary relied on her fine arts training to bring early sketches and concepts to life. Incorporating floral lingerie was actually suggested by Fleurs De Villes co-founder Tina Barkley.

“My initial thought was that that seemed so limiting. But I quickly gave my head a shake and thought, ‘Wait that’s not a designer’s thought. What can I do with that? How can I make it interesting and complex?’” Alary says.

She used flowers such as phalaenopsis, mini cymbidium and dendrobium orchids, ‘prado mint’ carnations and berzillia and 12 types of foliage to create Sheila’s garments. All told, she spent about 70 hours weaving, rolling and shaping the material to create an intricately detailed bodice and floral robe in partnership with sponsor David’s Tea.

Working with perishables like flowers is always fraught with challenges, particularly so when trying to ensure the lingerie is form-fitting and lightweight in appearance—with enough water and support to last a week-long display.  

The effort paid off as Alary won Most Original Design and Florists’ Favourite awards during Fleur De Villes’ launch party. The latter was particularly meaningful, she says, as it was a vote of confidence from Edmonton’s most talented designers.

“These are people I admire and respect the work of so much. To earn their respect is truly humbling.”

So, why Sheila and not Marilyn, Rita or Ginger? Alary says that during a similar floral couture event, the Maple Leaf Cup, she fumbled trying to move her mannequin. A fellow competitor advised to put one hand on the figure’s breast and another between the legs for maximum stability.

“I said, ‘Sorry Sheila, I know we’ve only just met, but …’ and it got several laughs. It was just the first name I thought of,” Alary laughs.

Fleurs De Villes runs at Southgate Centre until Sunday, April 23.

Fleurs De Villes exhibition

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