She can still do the Texas debutante bow “without teetering."
For the last 20 years, Southern designer Lela Rose has been making elegant dresses that are both classic and fun, sophisticated, but never frumpy. Thanks to an incredible eye for fabric, a love of bold colors, and a fearless aesthetic, she has become the go-to dressmaker for many stylish Southern women and fashionistas around the globe.
Rose is a Texas native, and an old friend of the Bush family (her father, Rusty Rose, was George W. Bush’s business partner). Even as children, Jenna Bush long-admired the older girl’s incredible sense of style, writing: “She had the perfect mix of girly edge and humor that kept me in awe of her high school maturity.”
Rose may have been born with a sense of graceful style, but the look and feel of her line was inspired by her Southern childhood. “Growing up in Dallas, women were turned out and dressed in color,” she told Southern Living. “Lela Rose clothing is known for being elegant, put-together, and playfully colorful. That aesthetic harkens back to Texas.”
Rose, who claims she can still do the Texas debutante bow “without teetering”, launched her eponymous brand in 1998, and quickly developed a fiercely loyal following in the South. Her clothes adhere to the “glamorous, but not prissy” style of many Southern women. “We grow up around ranches and hunting and farms and, as a result, we are Can-Do Girls,” said Rose, and her clothing reflects that.
While Southerners always loved her style, her reputation was cemented on a global scale when she designed the outfits worn by Jenna and Barbara Bush at their father's presidential inauguration, an event the whole world watched. The world liked what it saw, and Lela Rose became the designer of choice for stylish women everywhere. Later she started designing tableware, handbags, and accessories too.
She made the bridesmaid dresses for Jenna Bush Hager’s wedding and has dressed former First Lady Michelle Obama. These days it’s not just American royalty that wears her gowns—the Duchess of Cambridge has worn her dresses on official engagements, too.
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Luckily you don’t need the budget of a royal (American or British) to wear Rose’s simple yet elegant styles. Thanks to sites like Rent the Runway and Dessy.com, we commoners can wear her gorgeous dresses, too, without blowing our salaries at Neiman Marcus. Currently there’s a stylish, sophisticated Lela Rose dress on Rent the Runway for just $30, which would wow at any garden party, as well as an office-ready dress with a trendy peplum and classic good looks for a mere $40. At those prices, it will be as easy to dress up for the grocery store as to make a splash at a sorority reunion, summer wedding, a chic cocktail party, or even on date night.