Lela Rose: A Designer for the Ages

Editor-at-Large Jenna Bush Hager looks at fellow Texan Lela Rose's timeless Southern style.

Designer Lela Rose
Photo: Olivia Locher

Growing up going to Texas Rangers games, I did what many little girls do when bored: I distracted myself by marveling at stylish older girls.

My most earnest admiration was for Lela Rose, daughter of Rusty Rose, my father's business partner. She had the perfect mix of girly edge and humor that kept me in awe of her high school maturity. "Lela marched to the beat of her own drum, often to the consternation of her teachers and parents," says Deedie Rose, her mother.

My adoration of Lela continues today. Now a designer, she is also a stylish and gracious hostess, an ability that informs her fall line of intricately cut frocks and evening gowns. When asked how she keeps her Texas roots close, she says: "Well, I am frying two chickens this weekend, so I guess through food. Oh, and margaritas, which I drink plenty of." Fittingly, Lela launched a collection of tableware with Dallas department store Neiman Marcus this year. Next, she'll dive into handbags and accessories.

But it is her innovation in design that really amazes me. Since launching her eponymous brand in 1998, Lela has kept us all intrigued with her use of embellished fabrics, whimsical prints, and left-field constructions that manage to remain classic and undeniably feminine. Through her ready-to-wear and bridal lines, Lela dresses women of all ages. She made the bridesmaid dresses for my wedding and has dressed First Lady Michelle Obama and The Duchess of Cambridge.

For those without a royal budget, Lela's bridesmaid designs with The Dessy Group (dessy.com) run under $200 and are trendy enough for cocktail and holiday parties. She has also partnered with Rent the Runway (renttherunway.com), so anyone can wear a Lela Rose dress to an event for as low as $40.

Her muses are the women in her life: her 8-year-old daughter, the 20-year-olds who work in her studio, and her family matriarchs. "My mom and grandmother have been my biggest inspirations," Lela says. "It's not about age, it's about your mind-set. What makes any woman feel good? Easy pieces—and color!"