Thursday, 4 August 2011
The name of the rose
My first name, Rosalind, is derived from Latin, meaning ‘Fair and beautiful rose’. Rosalind is also a character in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’, and has been played by actors such as Helena Bonham Carter, Juliet Stevenson and Helen Mirren. The role is best known for requiring cross-dressing as a man – not a trait she and I often share.
My parents chose the name precisely because it was Shakespearean, although it could also refer to Rosalind Russell (an actress), Rosalind Franklin (a chemist), a rural Canadian town or a moon of Uranus. As far as I know, none of these places or people were pivotal in the decision making.
However, it was a second choice. I nearly ended up as a Rosa – until good family friends decided that it would be the name of their baby, born before me. So, it was either Miranda or Rosalind. My parents settled on the latter.
Many of you know me as Roz – a nickname that I seemed to acquire along with my scratchy secondary school uniform at the age of 11. Much like a haircut, my name has been chopped and changed over the years; losing letters and growing them out again. In the past I had been called everything from ‘Rozzie’ to ‘Rose’, before these derivatives were trimmed down to ‘Roz’. This was how friends, family and teachers referred to me, the full version only appearing on formal letters and in the school register.
Some cultures believe that if you know the name of something or someone, then you have power over them. And it must be said, there is a certain power in being able to identify the world around you and make sense of it. This is especially true when we are little. We learn words and their meanings; carefully repeating (and often mangling) them until they are right – and we know what they stand for. Our dear friends’ two year old toddler is currently making his way through this process, and every time we see him he is more articulate!
Although this is an important step towards growing up, there is sometimes a bittersweet side. Once the environment around us becomes finite, then the excitement in the simplest object can be dulled. Once we know what a teapot or a flower is, it can never again be anything other than that.
I talk of naming because I am starting to use my full name, Rosalind, again and am in the process of altering various online profiles. I am still happy to be known as Roz, but I feel I have maybe grown up enough to start inhabiting all three syllables.
This small change has also coincided with a definitive altering of my aspirations. When I first started this blog over two years ago, it was on the basis of loving clothes and wanting to (one day) train as a fashion designer. I left a minimal amount of text under the photos I posted, sometimes with a rather embarrassing sprinkle of smiley faces. Each post was carefully worked out around the outfit, while the writing, like a younger sibling, simply lagged behind.
Several events catalysed my decision to change what I wanted to do with my life, and to some extent, my blog. First there were people I talked to and worked with – who demonstrated the hardships of the industry, and made me re-evaluate whether this path would be for me. Then there was the small fact that I didn’t actually enjoy pattern cutting and sewing, as it made my back ache and I often ended up frustrated. Finally there was the scoliosis – which overtook everything else.
People are often asked about what events they might change in their lives, if they could. Perhaps surprisingly I wouldn’t alter my curved spine. It may have brought a host of problems, but it twisted me into a totally different direction. People might have seen me at my worst while I recovered from surgery, but I saw them all at their absolute best, which was a real privilege. The long winter months spent getting to grips with my new scaffolding spine were also intensely creative. The frustration spurred me on to write, to try to put my experience into words and, like a lepidopterist, pin down the fluttering images in my head.
This new found love of writing – something I had previously considered a gentle hobby – grabbed my ideas for the future by the ankles and shook them upside down. Putting pen to paper (okay, typing away at a computer) is now something I consider seriously as a potential career. I want to pursue it, work hard to develop it, and painstakingly learn the craft.
Funnily enough, I guess this dress perfectly illustrates how much has changed within the last year. I first featured the draped lines here, eager to showcase the piece I had customised at my work experience/ internship at a local fashion company last July. As I circled around the mannequin, pins in mouth, and a vaguely Peter Pilloto inspired silhouette in my head, I had felt that creating beautiful clothes was what I would devote myself to. That changed.
Alongside the passion for words, there is also the photography. Although I am still fascinated by the facets of fashion photography, it is now portraiture that really excites me. Irving Penn, Ida Kar, Hoppe, Horste and Sally Mann all sit on my photography shelf – the pages of their books well-thumbed, the soulful eyes staring out. Like writing, the camera captures and frames fragments of a story.
These photos were taken by my dad on a family walk to a set of hills that are much loved. On the journey, we realised that it was almost a year since we had scrambled over the rocks and picked bilberries among the heather. We were revisiting the same place, hardly changed, but seeing it differently, with a new set of experiences. The place was at once familiar and new. Much like my dress – thrown on that morning. Much like my name, tried on for size and found to be a more comfortable fit.
The hat is second hand (Kangol), as are the shoes, leather bag and ribbed top underneath. The belt is Jaeger from ebay.