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"I sacrifice a rose each evening to my buttonhole: Roses are the Order of the Garter of that great monarch called Nature." In 1838, the French writer Barbey d'Aurevilly was so taken with the new fashion of gracing one's frock coat with a fresh blossom that he declared himself a "Knight of the Order of Springtime." The Boutonniere: Style in One's Lapel (Universe, $25), by Umberto Angeloni, chairman of Brioni, the Rome-based men's custom clothing house, affectionately relates the history of the buttonhole flower.

In breezy essays well illustrated with paintings and photographs, Angeloni and his collaborators make the case for "the importance of sartorial elegance in our daily lives." Imaginative guidelines are offered for choosing among gardenias, carnations, roses, camellias, and violets. And we learn that Oscar Wilde, a lapel-flower devotee, held an uncharacteristically earnest view of the boutonnière: "A really perfect buttonhole flower is the only thing to unite art with nature."


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