Sunday, 12 April 2015

Pretty in pink. Isn't she?

This is pretty...

although my poor camellia has taken quite a buffeting in today's rain and high winds. 
And I do think she's very pretty. Beautiful, even. 

As for me, I'm loving my pinks this weekend, but pretty? Now, there's a question. 
I've been thinking about that word.

Pretty - of a person (especially a woman or child); attractive in a delicate, graceful or simple way, without being truly beautiful.

1970s Richard Shops* maxi dress and sandals - Ebay
1960-70s raffia bag and bangles - charity shopped
1970s pendant - vintage fair
* Any Brits of a certain age remember their 1970s adverts? 
"Richard Shops are filled with all the pretty things, soft and lovely pretty things to wear. Hey there, pretty thing, make the world a prettier place. Come pretty up, and buy your clothes from Richard Shops."

I think any word used almost exclusively to describe girls and women is worth questioning. 
Does being pretty matter?

I don't think I worried about it as a young child. 
Looking objectively (if that's possible) at old photos of me, I think I was quite a pretty little girl (I'm the smaller, fairer one in these pics). I certainly didn't feel a terrible lack of confidence or low self-esteem based on how I looked.

That came later, with adolescence. There are few photos of me from that time, I was horribly self-conscious and camera shy.
I did so want to be pretty. Pretty girls were popular and desirable. I knew I was clever, but I would have traded my good grades for being pretty any day.
1960s huge palazzo pants (cut down from an ill-fitting jumpsuit) - Ebay
Top, waistcoat, shoes, bangles and 1960s vinyl shopper - charity shopped
1960-70s Sheffield-made steel pendant - flea market

If conventional prettiness requires a lightness of touch, graceful girlishness, a delicacy or sweetness which we associate with childhood or youth, then I could never be described as pretty. My features are strong and heavy. And while that caused me heartache in my teens and early twenties, I eventually learned that prettiness is just one way to be attractive.

So how would I describe myself now? 

Well, it varies, but generally, I like to think I look striking. That is due in no small part to how I dress, of course. As my lovely friend Vix always says, a flamboyant outfit is a great distraction from blemishes or a bad hair day. Confidence helps too.
And Patti wrote a thoughtful post last year about the merits of the word handsome to describe women. Beauty may be out of my reach, but I hope for handsome!

While I am happy to describe my clothes, jewellery, prints and colours as pretty, I don't feel it's a word that has anything to do with me.

Looking through the family photo albums my Mum has lent me, I picked out this image of me as a child which I really like.

1969; I'm 5 years old. 

I look confident, possibly a bit arsey and challenging. I'm squinting in the sun (still do that),
 and probably wanted to get on with playing in the pool rather than pose for a photo. 
Not particularly sweet or cute, but that kid looks like me. And pretty or not, I like that kid. 
Pretty or not, I make the best of what I have, and I like that too.



Judy C said...

I don't think I've ever thought myself pretty enough. I always looked at others as prettier, more gracious, nicer, smarter, etc. But pretty was my real goal. I'm almost 70 and still trying. I'd love to have your way with fashion to help me.

Lesley Extance said...

A wonderful post Curtise very interesting ! and you have some lovely pieces there , have a good week best wishes x

Miss Magpie said...

I'm with you, I like the idea of being striking especially as I get older.

Sadly I have never grown out of feeling awkward when my photo is being taken!

Vix said...

Pretty always sounds a bit wishy washy and wet to me, the feeble blonde princess in fairy tales who simpered and relied on men to rescue her. I was never a pretty child with my eczema, limp and braces. My Mum always told me that I could make myself interesting by dressing differently and that was far preferable.
You were a lovely child, that last picture captures you perfectly, feisty and fabulous. More old photos, please!
Gorgeous pink outfits, the altered jumpsuit rocks and the Richards Shop dress is a beaut. I don't recall the advert but I do remember the hours my brother and I would have to endure in there while Mum tried on the contents of the shop.
Ace post!
Love you! xxxxxx

Liz said...

Pretty is not a word that's ever been used to describe me. But as long as my friends and family love me for who I am, then I am happy!
Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

Patti said...

This was my life: " I knew I was clever, but I would have traded my good grades for being pretty any day." But not now - I love keeping my wits about me as the years take away the superficial "prettiness". I love the words "striking" and "handsome" for women (and for men too). You are, ahem, very striking in pink! xox

Fiona said...

Not only do I remember that Richard Shops advert but I can sing it too! (Must have sat in front of the idiot box too much during my teenage years) I expect most of us wanted to be pretty at some time in our lives if we are honest. Great to see your childhood photos. xx

Kezzie said...

I told my Mum she looked really pretty in a pink flowery dress at a wedding about 6 years ago and a tear appeared in her eye and told me that no one had ever called her pretty in her life. I said, "Really???" and she said it was indeed so. I was so surprised, I think she is very pretty! As a child, I always thought and knew that I wasn't pretty- I was surrounded by much more attractive girls. It was when I was about 14 in a changing room in a shop called Bacons with my mum when she saw an old am-dram friend of hers and I remember, she said in her rather cockney accent, "Ain't she pretty!" when she was introduced to me. I was really surprised.

For the record, you look very pretty in your lovely pinks! You look a cool, sassy and feisty girl in that last picture, I love it!x

Jazzy Jack said...

When you see it written out like that, pretty is a backhanded compliment. Not quite beautiful. Gee thanks!
I don't think I've had it applied to me much, nor aspired to it.
My sister was always the beautiful one amongst three girls. We all acknowleged it as a fact, like long hair or blue eyes. Not much she could do about it either.
Your pussy cat is definitely beautiful, as is the camellia.
Yes, I believe your strong colouring and confident stance give you a striking look. But it's the gentle spirit and kind heart inside that are truly beautiful. Xo Jazzy Jack

thorne garnet said...

you seemed to have mastered bitch face at a young age. Don't mess with that kid.

Pretty is, well, pretty forgetful. I like striking or interesting. At least you'll be remembered.

Love the re-done jumpsuit pants.

kobieta niewidzialna said...

Long skirt and denim are very nice (for me). Interesting stylization,you look very nice.Best.

Sarah Jane said...

I'd never given it much thought but I suppose pretty is quite a dull adjectve and one I am guilty of mindlessly using. For someone who claims to love language I must do better! I totally agree pretty is completely different to attractive, handsome, desirable etc. They are much stronger in definition. That kid to me looks happy, healthy and confident. There's a lot to be said for acheiving those three things too xxx

freckleface said...

I realised a long time ago that the more I like a person, the better looking they become and conversely, the same is true, so I think all my friends are beautiful, whilst people I don't like so much just don't have that radiance. Guess what? You're one of the beautiful ones. Your particular highlights include your elegant lines, shiny red hair, style, generosity and your fabulous ever-present smile! PRETTY good package I'd say. Xxxxxx

Angels have Red Hair said...

I think most of us start out quite happy with what we are ... It's only when we reach the age where we start to compare ourselves to others that it all comes unstuck. So I guess comparison really is the thief of joy. But once we get a bit older I think (hope) we get a little more philosophical about it ... and after all pretty is fleeting and brains are forever.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, I've never really thought about the dictionary version of the word pretty. I don't even think I've used the word much to describe people. I think I've used the word most often for fabrics, flowers, cats, and the likes. I think as I get older I don't even notice so much how good looking someone is. I seem to notice the personality first and if I like it they are very good looking to me.
I think we all felt a little geeky as kids. I could never understand what the boys saw in all the "other" girls cuz they sure weren't looking in my direction.
Love your restyled palazzo pants. Is there a strategically place flower shape in the crotch?

Sheila said...

I like striking - I've always thought of myself as rather plain, although as I've gotten older (taking all these blog pics has helped!) I see that I'm more striking, also due to how I dress.

I love that pink dress!

Goody said...

I was informed early on that I was not, "The pretty one", which was positively liberating. I'd take interesting over pretty any day.

You're very attractive (sounds like I'm trying to pick you up) and confident in your style (no one gets to be confident as a teenager, probably for the best). That's a million times cooler than, "Pretty" (vacant).

Your childhood snapshots are wonderful-look how great you rock that hair ribbon!

It would be great to go back and show our younger selves that it all turns out OK as adults, but we wouldn't believe it. I do feel a little sad for the people that never quite grow out of picking themselves apart, and striving for some crazy standard of beauty. It must be exhausting. And sad.

Laurie Duncan said...

I think I'm the same way, I don't really think of myself as pretty. But I'm comfortable with my looks and my style. Style is more important than looks if you ask me. And you have style with a capital S!

Melanie said...

I'd take "striking" over pretty any day. Pretty sounds feeble to me - not beautiful, not bold, just meh. I never considered myself pretty, and if I ever dared entertain such an idea I felt like a faker and a fraud. Usually I'd feel most attractive in the eyes of specific others, but not by myself. How awful.

The cool girls were pretty or from rich families, wealth being an acceptable substitute for pretty it seemed, which is probably where confidence fit into the picture, er, somewhere.

Pink is very tied up with pretty. But I like how you wear pink so strikingly! The palazzo pants you so brilliantly adapted and the dress.

Sue @ A Colourful Canvas said...

Well, based upon the definition written, pretty is almost, nearly a backhanded compliment....pretty, but not beautiful. Your post has definitely got me pondering the word, and the meaning. Pretty does seem to be utilized more for outer 'good' looks. I don't know that one would say 'she has a pretty soul' for example. Beauty, on the other hand seems to describe a person inside and out. Either way, I've never been called pretty or beautiful, LOL.

I love seeing snapshots from your childhood. You really do look so much like your earlier photos. I love that!

AND...I love those palazzo pants! YOu look gorgeous!

diaryofapennypincher said...

I don't think I've ever been described as pretty either! I've grown up being the non pretty type, after all, looks fade but attitude and style go on forever! You look glamorous as always in your pink themed outfits!

beate grigutsch said...

i agree with you - pretty is not word a would pin on you - but in my book you are beautiful! and this beauty does not come from "perfection" what ever this means - it is a strong female beauty, attractive and full of life!
the way you stand and show your fantastic curves, the way you hold your head and smile.....
wonderful old photos - just adorable!!
i myself was always called pretty in that age and by the time adolescence hit i did´t liked it anymore - punk and new wave was a great way to escape the conventionally prettiness and the expectations linked with.
very "pretty things" in that accessoires collage!!! xxxxx

jennywren said...

A couple of friends and I had a similar discussion recently. It started when I said I'd had a crush on Telly Savalas because he was so 'good looking'. Battered and scarred from life but with with everything in his eyes and mouth that made him look good. So we decided as we'd all long since grown out of the pretty stage we'd opt for good looking instead.

Tine Jensen said...

So funny to think about this word. When I was I child both me and my one year younger brother had the lightest blonde hair. My brother also had a very cute face, mine not quite as cute. People would come up to my mother and say: What pretty little girls you have there. That caused tears and very loud outbursts from my brother, every time! So this single word Pretty hasn't really been part of my vocabulary since!

Anyway, I'll take sexy over pretty any day!

The pink dress is both lovely and romantic, and raffia bag is a gem!

Have you got tired of the green brocade jacket yet?

Olga Rani said...

If to chose between pretty and striking, striking sounds more appealing to me. There is emotion behind it, there is some character in it. And you do look striking in your pinks.

PinkCheetahVintage said...

I LOVE that last pic of you in the pool as a child!!! My features are way to bold to be pretty. I have very strong features--with a srsly big huge nose! I think of diminutive Disney Princess' and Southern beauty queens when I think of 'pretty'. I have Tilda Swinton's quote on my shop's homepage: “I would rather be handsome, as he is, for an hour than pretty for a week.” Tilda Swinton in W magazine.
Pretty is so narrow of a category! I think when I look my best 'striking' is a word I would use to describe myself. I think you look fantastic---I love your style!

Suzanne Carillo said...

It is interesting how much weight and importance we will give to a word. How it can define us.

Seeing this photos of you as a young girl was fun. You do look determined.

Thankfully as young kids there was no pressure to be pretty or beautiful, as you mentioned that came in adolescence. That is why childhood is so wonderful. No expectations to live up to. You just had to live.

Very interesting introspective post. I love it when a blog post makes me think.


Emma Kate at Paint and Style said...

Oh sod pretty and it's sweetness. You are striking, handsome and stunning. And you have an enviable bust. That's all I ever wanted out of life really. From 7 to 40 it's what I wished for every year when I blew out the candles on the cake. At 41 I gave up, thinking they probably ought to have happened by now. (Sniff...)
Pretty is a sofa covered in Cath Kidston roses. Handsome is a leather chesterfield. Infinitely superior!
There. I think we can live without pretty.

Mrs Bertimus said...

What a poignant and perfectly written post.
You are style personified and I always think you look absolutely stunning.
It's funny, but I used to really stress about how I looked and what other people thought but since I've lost my hair and got used to it I feel the most confident I ever have ( well......most days that is!)
I love your blog you know, it's about my most favourite thing: fashion but also stops me dead in my tracks and makes me think when I read a post like this.

Mrs Bertimus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Natalia Lialina said...

Wonderful post, Curtise! "Pretty" has never been my favorite word (in Russian or English) - it does have a sense of insignificance in it (another un-favorite word is "pleasant", seem two-dimensional, with no depth or true feeling attached to it). The words that I would (and I do) describe you with are: gorgeous, striking, noble, memorable. Your figure is amazing. Your red hair and your posture tells so much about your strong character. Your eyes are full of life. Your outfits are bold. Like someone else said (I think it was Joni), I tend to pay attention to personality, and the ones I like or intrigued by seem incredibly attractive and beautiful to me. You are definitely one of those people I find beautiful.

Love the old photos! And your outfits are really striking! xxx

Sue said...

Oh how I love that very last photo of the five year old you. Pretty is just a word at the end of the day. I would rather be remembered as a good person than a pretty one!!

Beth Waltz said...

I admire your style, Curtise, but I admire your writing even more! This little essay about pretty pink dresses, beautiful pussycats and what words meant to the frowning child who became a wise woman is worth printing and posting where teens can read it. Your kids are fortunate in their choice of mother.

Ulla-Marie Nilsson said...

The combination with your hair and purple is so good. You should wear Purple all summer. I know that Vix have a Lovely Purple dress ...

Melanie said...

I think you look absolutely glorious in pink.

I grew up with nicknames from my family such as Bony Maronie, Smelly Melly and FaceAche :\ which didn't do much for my confidence and then this guy I knew said I wasn't everyone's cup of tea when I was 16. Things just escalated from there.

I don't think there's anything wrong with the word pretty. The most common description I get mind you, is that I look timeless xxx

Mim said...

I don't remember the Richards adverts, but that dress certainly is splendid. You are very striking, and striking, like diamonds, is forever.

I like a bit of natural prettiness: a cherry tree in full bloom, a toddler's smile, little tweety birds, or indeed pretty kitty. Pretty should be transient and unconscious, a fleeting thing. That's why it's youthful; you're not aware of what it is while you've got it. I'm not so keen on the worked-on, artificial sort of prettiness, that too often just ends up tipping over into twee.

Lorena said...

HI, I came across your blog via Sheila's post.
I enjoyed reading your post - pretty is a word that to me is "beautiful's" little sister - it has no strength or personality.
You look splendid, that dress and straw bag are true statement pieces.

Forest City Fashionista said...

Oooo Curtise, I really like this post! I've never felt any connection to the word "Pretty" - It is used exclusively to describe feminine things and it implies a certain delicate, girlish quality and almost has a bit of a dismissiveness about it. I would say your flower is beautiful, as is your lovely cat. Looking at old photos of me from childhood I can safely say that I was not a "pretty" child, nor did I grow into a "pretty" adult. Like you, I prefer to think of myself as "Striking". I like that photo of you at 5 years old too. She's got sass, and that did not diminish with age!

Winter Moon said...

I adore all your photographs, you certainly look striking, and a real fox, too! xx

The Style Crone said...

I prefer striking and handsome to "pretty" any day! Interesting, intriguing and confident work well too. There's something to be said for an inner presence that is irresistible! The self expression of style is part of that. Your have charisma, Curtise! That can be seen in the photos of you as a child and now today. Great post!

Kylie said...

You were a very pretty little girl Curtise, and you are a beautiful woman now. No question. x

señora Allnut said...

oh yes, you've get the point about 'prettiness', lovely post. I like to define myself as striking, it's a fabulous word, and I think I never felt that I was pretty. I still admire any girl which looks cute and delicate, because these are qualities absolutely out of my style!
Striking, yes, I like that word!!
And your revamped palazzo pants look amazing!!! You and Vix are making me think about palazzo pants in such a different way: flamboyant! (that's another great word!!)

Trees said...

I feel like "pretty" can be a bit of a loaded work when you're referring to anyone over about 10. A lot of people have told me I am "pretty" over the years....which is fine, but when you're 30 and still being called pretty you kind of wonder if you're ever going to grow up into something more refined and sophisticated....but maybe I'm not meant to be refined and sophisticated - perhaps I will just keep being pretty, quirky & cute? I LOVE that maxi dress on you and thanks for sharing pictures of your childhood you pretty thing!