The Armistice and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson’s Corsage

“Re-enactors portrayed President Woodrow Wilson and his wife, Edith, at the signing of the Armistice on Veteran’s Day. The stunning five-flowered cattleya orchid corsage was in keeping with the First Lady’s style at high profile events.”  Photo Credit – Suzanne Feigley/Virginia War Memorial

“An estimated 600 people gathered at the World War "Memorial in Richmond, Virginia to witness a re-enactment of the signing of the Armistice. Even the most distant spectators could see the purple orchid corsage worn by Mrs. Wilson.” Photo Credit – Suzanne Feigley/Virginia War Memorial

It took six corsage pins.

Several dress rehearsals and sound checks later, re-enactors of President Woodrow Wilson and his wife, Edith, stepped up to the microphone. She was wearing an over-the-top orchid corsage – a five-flowered, frilly-lipped purple that even the most distance spectators could see. An estimated 600 people had gathered at the World War I Memorial in Richmond, Virginia to witness the signing of the Armistice.

Mrs. Wilson had been a fan of orchids ever since she started dating the widowed President in 1915. His wooing tactics are still legendary in the floral industry. Every day during their courtship, he would give his muse a fresh cattleya corsage.

For special occasions such as the World Series, she would wear as many as five flowers on her lapel. If the White House florist was lucky, the blossoms would all be on one stem and the corsage making would be straightforward though cumbersome. Otherwise, five individual stems would have to be assembled and it might very well take a staff of assistants to secure everything. Even still, a full box of corsage pins would have to be in close proximity.

The grower would also have to be particularly skilled in order to get five flowers on a stem. Not only would the plant have to be mature and well grown, but the genetics of the hybrid would have to allow for high flower count. The corsage in the Wilson re-enactment was a single spray of blossoms.

It has been 100 years since the Armistice was signed by President Wilson. Celebrations of all kinds have been taking place around the world but it was extra special for the Wilson’s home state of Virginia. The actors who portrayed the Presidential couple travel the country educating the public about this important time in American history and were provided by the Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Foundation in Wytheville, Virginia. .                              

For those who want to do a little re-enacting of their own:


  1. Cut the flower the day before and let soak in water in a cool room.

  2. Dry off stem and wrap in green floral tape for support. Set aside.

  3. Cut 15’ of similarly colored ribbon and make 6-7 pairs of loops. Tie the center tight with thin wire. Leave a foot of loose wire attached.

  4. Cut a few 4” square pieces of netting and slide onto the wire. Push to the center of the ribbon loops.

  5. Retrieve the flower and place the ribbon assembly onto the stem. Wrap together with green tape. Trim end.

  6. Attach to outfit with corsage pins. Orient the blossom in the direction that it grows naturally – with the lip at the bottom.

"President Woodrow Wilson and his then fiancée, Edith, attended the 1915 World Series. During their courtship, he gave her a fresh cattleya orchid corsage every day. For special occasions, she would wear as many as four or five flowers on her lapel.”  Photo Courtesy - CSU Archives/Everett Collection

Thursday, November 1, 2018 - 19:45