FashionMuse: r – rosette

A French diminutive of rose.

Normally refers to a rose-shaped decoration or pattern.


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Comme des Garcons (S/S 2015)


Rosettes are all around us from architecture to accessories.  Based on the botanical rosette, the leaves and petals radiate out from the stem of a plant to create a formalized flower motif.  For centuries this has been carved in stone or wood for decoration on architecture and furniture, and on jewelry and clothing to form a decorative border or intersection.  A symbol of allegiance, achievement, esteem.

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Why the rose has become such a prevalent motif is not known for sure.  It more superstitious times it may have had something to do with the aligning of planets (and universal understanding and order)…Or to represent one of our oldest known flowering plants (they date back our early nomadic ancestors)… or as a symbol of balance and equilibrium. Over time they came to denote power and prestige and were an oft-used feature of celebration garlands, symbolic offerings and later religious celebrations.



Ancient Rose:

The rosette (rodakas in Greek) as a motif on architecture and pottery was was widespread throughout the ancient kingdoms from Mesopotamia (from 4th century BC) to Crete, Egypt  and Greece. It’s not known for certain what the pointed rosette symbolised but it certainly seems to be important. It appears throughout their cultural history; including on shell plaques, headdresses, temples and funeral pyres in India.  And even golden hair combs –  found on the burial crown of Queen Pu’abi (c. 2600 BCE)


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Mycenaean rosettes come usually in 6 or 8 or 12 leaves. They were made of gold and were used to decorate clothes of both men and women. They were also used in belts, earrings and rings, or as repeated motifs in necklaces and bracelets.


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Saintly Rose:

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Saint Rose of Lima with Child Jesus, Anonymous Cusco School (1680 – 1700)

St. Rose of Lima, often depicted with rose motifs and flowers to represent her reverence for religious duty, chastity and her exceptional beauty. Known as the patroness of embroiderers, gardeners, florists – she became known as “Rose.” because of her great beauty.  She is also saint of suffering – especially those who suffer ridicule for their piety (she lived a life of extreme penance, fasting, praying and wearing a silver crown of spikes and even burning her hands on one occasion) or family problems (her parents wanted her to marry, she took a vow of chastity and shore her hair until eventually they accepted her nunhood.)




Royal Rose:

A regal predilection for roses can be traced back to the Roman Rulers. Nero, (the hedonistic emperor, 1AD) reportedly like to tip tons of rose petals on his dinner guests and Cleopatra filled her rooms with rose petals to seduce Marc Antony (so that he would remember her for opulence and be reminded of her every time he smelt a rose).  Newly married couples were also often crowned with roses.

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The Roses of Heliogabalus by Alma-Tadema (1888)

Here we know the Tudor Rose – the emblem of the Henry VII.  The War of the Roses, a civil war in England from 1455-1487 was so called when the warring sides used a rose to depict the opposing sides. The House of York adopted a white rose (R. alba), the House of Lancaster decided to take a red rose (R. Gallica).  On winning the war Henry Tudor merged his white Lancastrian rose with the red rose of his bride (Elizabeth of York) and to create the Tudor Rose, the Rose of England.


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Plucking the Red and White Roses in the Old Temple Gardens, Henry Arthur Payne (1908)




Military Rose:

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“It is with such baubles that men are led,” so said Napoleon Bonaparte when he created the Legion of Honour (Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur) to recognise outstanding military service and citizenship.  The full quote; “You call these baubles, well, it is with baubles that men are led… Do you think that you would be able to make men fight by reasoning? Never. That is good only for the scholar in his study. The soldier needs glory, distinctions, rewards.” explains his rationale for awarding a prestigious rosette. Since then many other national armies have used rosettes with medals for courage; e.g. US Medal of Honour.


Society Rose:  Rose motifs and embellishments continued as a preserve of the wealthy and high-standing through to the twentieth century. Most often associated with the social elite; they were fashioned from the most expensive fabrics; silk and satin and tulle.


Show Rose: Of course today rosettes are most commonly associated with winning something  –  at the pony, dog, dance, gym club – or belonging to or supporting something – a political party, a national event, a sport.

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But it’s it’s long association with lasting love that has undoubtedly ensured the rose motif still has a place today.   A perennial favourite for many a beautiful bride; adorning her body – dress or headdress or jewellary

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or as an accent to the decoration; as floral posy, table piece, or even better a showstopping wedding cake.

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“I feel as if I had opened a book and found roses of yesterday sweet and fragrant, between its leaves.”  ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island





Featured image: Alexander Mcqueen Spring 2007



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