Common, in terms of style, equates to personable, approachable, and level both in terms of how possible a look is to copy and achieve. Common is something I would wear. Common can be regular – jeans and a tee – and common can be fancy – cocktail dress. If common were a day, it would be Saturday and if common were a person, it would be Deborah Cavendish, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. Common with a sprinkling of glitter.
It’s hard to believe that a Duchess is common, especially one that has a title with a word that I had to dictionary.com (I just made the a verb), but ‘Debo’ is common. Seriously.
I was first introduced to Debo when I read an article about her in a British magazine. The article highlighted British women “who have a knack of putting together the weirdest combinations of clothing and accessories that somehow – with their warped sense of good, bad, and just plain weird taste – inspire the rest of the world.” The author also wrote, “The English style at its best is totally natural, fiercely individual and girlishly contrary.” Yep, that’s Debo.
To give a little history, Deborah Freeman-Mitford, Debo’s maiden name, was born on March 31, 1920. The youngest and the last surviving sister of the famous Mitford sisters – six sisters who were famous in the 1930s and 1940s in Britain because of their political and marital shenanigans – Debo married Lord Andrew Cavendish, the son of the Duke of Devonshire, in 1941. When Andrew’s father died in 1951, he (Andrew) became the Duke of Devonshire and Debo became the Duchess of Devonshire. During her reign, Debo became the face of Chatsworth, a home that has been in the Cavendish family since 1549. In addition to renovating and up-keeping the interior and exterior design of the building, she started the Chatsworth Farm Shop that today employs several hundred people and Chatsworth Food that sells luxury foodstuffs.
What’s most noteworthy about the history lesson is that she personally ran – and still runs – the stately home. She handles the ticket office and she feeds the chickens (wearing Balmain). In an article written by The New York Times on Debo, the author ends with a quote by a local taximan, “That were the duchess, weren’t it?” he (the taximan) asked, recalling the thrill he got years ago when, taking his family on an outing to the Chatsworth farm, he spotted her feeding her chickens. “We love her to bits.”
And Debo’s style is even more impressive, at least it is to me. Of the WWII generation, Debo’s style is perfectly practical, country, and elegant but a little witty and aloof, which I like. Her hair is coiffed to the tee and her strand of pearls are neatly worn. She maintains this look, along with her ramrod posture, both day and night, during chicken feedings and black tie events.
“I buy most of my clothes at agricultural shows, and good stout things they are. After agricultural shows, Marks & Spencer is the place to go shopping, and then Paris. Nothing in between seems to be much good,” Debo was quoted saying.
This is what inspires me – to have an AURA and a sense of STYLE that is both high up on the thrown and down among the laypeople. She touches the stars while standing on the ground.
Click here to watch an interview of Deborah because although my words and images give a sense of who Deborah is, or at least I hope, video always gives a much clearer picture.