- Nov 26, 2016
- central NC
When I first came across the tussie-mussie, I expected it to be a reference to a Southern belle throwing an old-fashioned hissy fit. I was wrong! The tussie-mussie is a small flower arrangement compiled of fragrant herbs and blooms and was originally created to ward off body odor and poor sanitary conditions. In other words it’s a small bunch of flowers that smell delightful. Tussie-mussies were all the rage in Victorian times.
Lawyers were among the first to use these arrangements to ward off germs from defendants. The fad quickly caught on and soon everyone was donning a “tussie-mussie.” Suitors brought tussie-mussies to young ladies filled with flowers symbolizing subtle sentiments. This type of communication was called the language of flowers or floriography. A pink rose tussie-mussie symbolized friendship. A red rose tussie-mussie symbolized love.
The origin of the word tussie-mussie is somewhat mysterious. Many believe it comes from an older word, tus or tusse, which meant a knot of flowers. A proper tussie-mussie is always carried in a cone. In Victorian times, this cone was often made of paper.
A tussie-mussie should not be confused with a nosegay. While a nosegay is also a small bouquet of flowers that is tied together, it is not a gift and it is not placed in a cone. The word nosegay is a compound word that means something pleasant or bright for the nose, an accurate description of the original purpose of the nosegay.
Tussie-mussies were quite popular with Victorian era brides. Many tussie-mussies had a long chain with a "finger ring" which allowed a woman to hold on to her flowers while she was dancing. These examples also had a nail or pin which kept the flowers inside the holder even when it was held upside down.
Other tussie-mussies only had a ring incorporated into the end or a simple decorative ornament. Kate Middleton carried a bridal bouquet in the style of the Victorian tussie-mussie when she married Prince William.