How to Make Charming, Historic Tussie-Mussies (& What They Are)

All you need is a posy holder and some pretty blooms to create a vintage-inspired treasure.

Published March 9, 2023
A small bouquet of blue lilacs in a paper wrapper.

If there was a competition for the most charming antique items ever, tussie-mussies would have a place near the top of the list. These little bouquets and their tiny portable vases, called posy holders, were popular throughout the 1800s, and they're still an adorable accessory today. They add the perfect nostalgic touch for weddings and special occasions, and you can totally make your own tussie-mussie if you have a few spare minutes.

What Are Tussie-Mussies?

Tussie-mussie history is actually pretty fascinating. Starting in medieval times (which could be pretty smelly), people carried small bouquets to help disguise and distract from the odors around them. People started to wear these tiny bouquets to protect them from disease too, which they thought might be caused by bad smells. During the 19th century, Queen Victoria (famous for setting all kinds of fashion trends like brides wearing white) began to use tussie-mussies, and they became one of the hottest fashion items of the era.

Fast Fact

The term "tussie mussie" probably comes from the Middle English word "tussemose," likely meaning a grouping of flowers and moss.

How to Make a Tussie-Mussie

You don't have to be a professional florist or crafter to make a tussie-mussie. These adorable bouquets are actually pretty easy, and there aren't that many rules about how to make them or what flowers to use.

1. Choose a Posy Holder

Silver posy holder, or tussie mussie

Before you make the tussie-mussie, choose a posy holder for it. If you already have an antique one, you're all set. Otherwise, look at antique shops and auctions to find one you like. These are some of the styles to consider:

  • Pin-on - Many posy holders pin on to a dress or lapel. Make sure vintage and antique examples have pins that function properly.
  • Clip-on - Some holders are designed to clip onto a chatelaine and be worn at a woman's waist. These aren't quite as useful today, since most people don't wear chatelaines.
  • Ring - One of the most charming styles is the ring posy holder. You could wear the tussie-mussie on your hand.
  • Standing - Some posy holders can be held for a while (at an event or special evening), and then you can unfold little feet to let them stand up on a desk or table.

Most posy holders are porcelain or metal, including sterling silver, pewter, or even gold. Some are enameled with colorful decorations or even set with gems. They're highly collectible.

2. Decide Which Flowers You Want to Use

Small bouquet of pink carnations in a female hand

There's no wrong flower choice for making a tussie-mussie, so don't stress about choosing something perfect. The Victorians assigned meaning to many different flowers, so it can be fun to go with that for your choice. For example, every color of rose has a meaning, so you could select one or more that say the message you have in mind. Or you could just choose what's pretty!

3. Gather Your Supplies

You'll need a few simple tools and supplies to make your arrangement:

  • Flowers
  • Greenery, such as ferns
  • Needle and thread
  • A yard of ribbon, satin on both sides
  • A yard of lace, at least three inches wide
  • Scissors
  • Floral tape

4. Start the Tussie-Mussie Bouquet

Studio shot of scissors, piece of paper and various dried flowers

The size and style of the bouquet will depend on the posy holder you have. In general, a tussie-mussie has about a five-inch stem, but it might be shorter or longer depending on the holder.

Select three blooms and cut them to the desired length. Remove any leaves. Wrap the stems together with floral tape.

5. Add Greenery and Smaller Flowers

Once the center of your tussie-mussie is assembled, you can begin adding greenery and smaller flowers. Cut the stems to the length of the other flowers and wrap these accents into the little bouquet with the floral tape. Continue adding greenery and smaller flowers until the tussie-mussie has a rounded shape. Wrap the stems in tape. From time to time, check to make sure the bouquet will fit in the posy holder.

6. Wrap the Tussie-Mussie in Ribbon and Lace

Red and white buttonhole flowers

Make a simple lace collar for the tussie-mussie by wrapping the lace around it right below the flowers. Use a needle and thread to sew it securely in place.

Then wrap the stems in ribbon and tie a simple bow. Let the ribbon ends hang down for a pretty touch.

7. Add the Tussie-Mussie to the Posy Holder

lapel pin vase tussie mussie boutonniere brooch

Keep your flowers refrigerated until you're ready to use them so they'll be nice and fresh. When it's time, insert them in the posy holder. If you're concerned they might fall out, use a small amount of floral putty to hold them in place.

Unique and Memorable Gifts and Decorations

Tussie-mussies make unique bridesmaid gifts or lovely tokens for spring and summer events like prom. If you create the bouquet yourself and choose a pretty posy holder, it will be a memorable gift for someone special.

How to Make Charming, Historic Tussie-Mussies (& What They Are)