Local flower shops prepare for Winter Formal

Star Staff Writer

Winter Formal for Custer County District High School (CCDHS) students is a big deal — from the hair, to the dress, and picking out the right corsage. Unlike the prom, which is only open to juniors and seniors, the Winter Formal dance can be attended by all students. For that reason, the two florists in town are gearing up for a long night getting everything just right. The big event is Saturday at 6 p.m. in the CCDHS gym.

Some students went in as early as the first week of December to order flowers. Two florists in Miles City — Creative Corner by Sandy at 801 Main St. and Family Floral at 911 Main St., have been taking orders all month in advance of the dance, which has a “VIP to NYC” theme this year.

“Most kids bring in a picture [of the dress], or a sample of the cloth,” said Rachel Brown, co-owner of Family Floral with her mother, Celiece

Smith. One student, inspired by Pinterest, brought in strips of baseball leather and stitching for the florists to incorporate into her corsage and

matching boutonniere.

Brown explained that while the men’s boutonniere is still primarily worn on the lapel of a jacket, the corsage can be worn on a ladies’ dress or wrist. She said many opt for the wrist, since they don’t want to pin it to their dress and put a hole in it.

“Some of the busiest days are Valentines and Mothers’ Day,” Brown said.

“Winter Formal is all different arrangements. [It’s] nice to do something different for everyone.”

As of Thursday Family Floral expected to be putting together 25 arrangements for CCDHS students to pick up Saturday.

Brown and Smith started running Family Floral in July of 2017. Brown said she jumped at the opportunity to do something she had always enjoyed.

“Seeing their smiles makes it worth it,” she said. “When you see flowers, you smile.”

Just a few block down Main Street at the Creative Corner, Sandy Anderson, Jillian Pawlowski, and Emilie Qualmann were in full swing preparing as much as they could in advance, so they would just need to add the flowers once they arrived on Thursday. They will be preparing 94 corsages, with matching boutonnieres, so breaking up the production stages is vital.

One of the ways the floral designers at Creative Corner were able to get ahead of the massive amount of work is a switch several years back to using glue for these types of arrangements. They can assemble a wire lattice, bows or ribbon — whatever each design calls for — several days in advance. They can then cut and apply the flowers much closer to the event, which keeps them fresh. Anderson explained that the longer the flowers are in water, the better it is for their appearance.

The traditional method of using wire and tape is time consuming, Qualmann explained. She demonstrated the technique, taking several minutes to wrap and tape a small arrangement; each piece starts with a flower and then is built upon as each piece of the arrangement is added. She noted that, when using this method, they had to start with the flowers, pushing the beginning of the process to Friday morning.

They endured some long days preparing for dances in years past. Anderson said there were no complaints when she proposed the switch to glue.

Anderson confirmed that many of the kids are driven to get something that is unique, often looking to Pinterest for inspiration. She mentioned that one girl had ordered a two-piece corsage that would be worn on her leg and her arm. Qualmann had already completed an ornate wire frame for the arrangement, complete with an elastic band to keep it in place.

“Some of (the students) want some neat and clean, and choose to save up for something more elaborate for prom,” Anderson said. The trio laughed, and Pawlowski said she thinks the mothers of freshman girls appreciate it when they steer their daughters towards something more traditional, and thus more affordable, for their first big dance.

Brown and Smith have chosen to prepare their corsages and boutonnieres solely in the traditional way, wiring and taping each element of the corsage or boutonniere as it’s put together. Brown said she prefers the wire because it’s more durable, especially if the kids get into the more energetic swing dancing or line dancing. 

Prices for corsages vary based on complexity and flower selection, but range from $25 to $50 and up at Creative Corner. The two-piece arrangement was closer to $125. Boutonnieres are much simpler, and their price reflects that, as they usually cost between $5 and $10. 

Family Floral ran a special this year, including both the boutonniere and corsage, for $50 per couple. 

Anderson said she had been hoping for some warmer weather for the students this weekend. She explained that flowers are actually quite sensitive to cold weather. They can turn white, sometimes black, and often wilt. Dance attendees will have to be careful how they protect their arrangements while outside.

“I told one girl, who will be wearing the corsage in her hair, that she’d have to put a plastic bag or something over it to keep it from freezing,”

Anderson said.

(Contact Austin Lott at mcstarreporter@gmail.com or 406-234-0450.)