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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Wild English Rose--Summer to Fall Beauty 2012

I have been contemplating lately the persona of the "English Rose".  I think I was inspired by the floral patterned jeans I've been seeing in fashion magazines. Denim is back in a big way, especially colored denim, one of the 80s trends that is actually quite fun even for those of us who were in high school then and are generally alarmed by the come back! Just please, avoid the neon unless you are a teenager. For us stay-at-home mothers especially, casual trends like denim and flat shoes are so welcome. I would, however, also avoid the chambray shirt if you are not quite young, which in my opinion could look a little dowdy, a little too soccer mom-ish. 

But I'm really not here to recommend any particular style. I think we all need to just figure out what flatters our figures and fits our unique personalities and lifestyles and dress accordingly. I am seeking instead to define a quintessential type of beauty that I personally would like to emulate, and that is the classic English Rose, in a certain wild variety. This is the lovely woman with a porcelain complexion (if she is white), clear skin with a soft rosy or peachy glow. The word radiant comes to mind. She looks fresh and innocent (though polished), yet there is a wisdom in her eyes and demeanor, and you just know that you cannot get anything past her. She can see into your soul. She is interested in other people. Even at a crowded party she will draw you close to her and into her secret world, where she wants to know all about you. She only talks about herself if she is asked. She is the "woman of repose" who Sarah Ban Breathnach describes in Simple Abundance.

The original wild English rose was Emma, Lady Hamilton (1765-1815), a courtesan turned aristocratic wife of Sir William Hamilton known for her unrivaled beauty and passionate affair with war hero Lord Nelson during the French Revolution. A favorite muse of artists, she was a creative, artistic force herself, and held immense political sway. In true Shakespearean fashion, after a glamourous, romantic life of abundance, she died destitute and obese. This air of tragedy sometimes surrounds the Wild Rose, but we sigh nonetheless.


Emma, Lady Hamilton by George Romney

Though elegant and in no way course, the Wild English Rose sometimes has a whiff of scandal around her, like Queen Elizabeth's younger sister, Princess Margaret. Or she is in some way unconventional, eccentric, or quietly rebellious (the perfect description of homeschooling mothers!). She can be glamourous, but in her looks and demeanor there is a certain restraint, a wry sense of humor, the feeling that while it looks calm and has been dormant for years, this volcano is still nevertheless a volcano, and there is always that chance it could explode, quite unexpectedly.


 Princess Margaret Rose


In the world of film the Wild English Rose takes on daring roles, or plays women that were unconventionally brassy for their times. Think Kate Winslet's Rose character in Titanic, Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, or Julia Ormond in Legends of the Fall.  This type of beauty has its counterpart in many cultures: the sweet, natural beauty with the glowing complexion, unfussy but never a wallflower, who has that untamed streak about her, who dances to the beat of her own drum. She is a study in paradox. She is an enigma. And no one can resist her quiet charm, whether men, children, or other women. She does not inspire jealousy, only admiration, and this is because of the warmth and intense devotion with which she regards others. Salma Hayek is such a Wild Rose, as well as Halle Berry and Zhang Ziyi.


 Kate Winslet in Titanic


In the literary realm we have the likes of Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, and the Bronte sisters, Charlotte and Emily. They were writers of great genius at a time when women did not usually enjoy such a profession. Emily Dickinson was known for wearing all white in brilliant opposition to the dark fashions of her times, and many of these women never married.


 Keira Knightley in a film adaptation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice


So perhaps you would enjoy contemplating the Wild English (or Hispanic, African American, Chinese, etc...) Rose in yourself and see if you can cultivate that certain (almost seemingly lost in today's world) essence of a Lady who is proper and gracious but who exudes that sense of "one unto herself", she who is self-possessed and quietly confident, who speaks up when it counts and avoids needless chatter when it doesn't; who has a commanding presence clothed in softness; and who just might, some night when the moon is full, run with the wolves.

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