Elegant Survival

Stylish Living on a Shoestring
Since 2006

M-J's Miscellany

Elegant Dressing for Travel

Posted on June 20, 2016 at 10:50 PM


How to Be the Best-Dressed Woman Anywhere was a Pamphlet Offered by the News, Now Known as the New York Daily News.

The emphasis is on simplicity and modesty of dress with an eye to packing lightly, as well as on respecting local traditions in foreign countries. Bare arms, shorts and short skirts are not welcome in primarily Muslim locations; shoes must not be worn in mosques; large silk scarves can enhance a plain and versatile frock, while allowing one to cover her head in a church or other religious environment. In this pamphlet, there is advice on what to pack that is still timely; wearing gloves and hats is not outdated by rather extremely practical and healthy while on a trip or going out in one's hometown. Click on my images to attain maximum size for ease of reading these fine old pages. ~~M-J

See M-J's Anecdote at the Bottom of these Instructive Images


A personal note on dressing appropriately for particular locales: many years ago as I was driving coast-to-coast, I stopped at an ostrich ranch in Wyoming that offered horseback riding. Because I had packed my English riding clothes and helmet, I wore them. As I walked into their tack shack/watering hole, a little old man looked up at me quizzically and asked, rather shakily, "What ARE you, MA-AM?" Which reminded me of the following scene from Roger Moore's James Bond flick, "Live and Let Die"--watch it till the end, when Sheriff J. W. Pepper looks at Englishman James Bond and asks a similar question in his inimitable style.  Sheriff J.W. Pepper and James Bond

Of course, I explained that I was wearing English riding tack. Mr Little Old Man still looked a bit puzzled, having had no exposure to that sort of thing in the Wild West, but he did stop trembling. Important to wear what is appropriate for the area that you are visiting. I know there will always be boorish, insensitive louts who never consider others, like the time I visited a centuries-old monastery in Cyprus and actually witnessed a shirtless tourist wearing nothing but "Speedo" swim-trunks below his bulging midsection. Come to think of it, that's a situation that also calls to mind "Live and Let Die"! ©M-J de Mesterton, 2016

Divinity in the Details

Posted on July 2, 2015 at 5:40 PM

"To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization."

Harriet Beecher Stowe



Posted on March 2, 2015 at 6:10 PM


Wear Garments at the Waist for an Elegant Appearance--Hip-High Jeans Make You Look Dumpy and Fat

(I took these photos surreptitiously from inside my Mini.~~M-J de M.)

Bulging in Front and at the Back Takes Talent--or a Really Lousy Pair of Trousers

And, what happened to her derrière? It is lost in a "Michelin Man"-style stack.

This is not sexy.

Copyright M-J de M., Elegant Survival, March 2015

Respect the Host-Culture

Posted on May 29, 2014 at 3:00 PM

I was visiting a landmark monastery in Cyprus when I saw a chunky male tourist from Russia wearing a Speedo swimming costume and nothing else.  That was probably the most blatant example of tourists disrespecting the local culture that I have ever witnessed--it was tantamount to wearing shoes into the Hala Sultan Tekke in nearby Larnaca. 

Recently, the people of Qatar have been insulted by and concerned about similar breaches of etiquette in their small country by foreigners. Here is a piece about the local government's measures to stem the rising tide of disrespectful dress by tourists:

Hosts for the 2022 World Cup, Qatar, have begun plans for the hosting of the tournament, and this includes control of tourist behavior.

The country has begun the Reflect Your Respect campaign, which aims to inform tourists how to dress when coming to the Middle Eastern country.

A flier demonstrating the kind of clothing that Qatar’s Islamic Culture Centre wants tourists to keep at home has big X’s under diagrams showing a woman in a sundress, a woman in a sleeveless top and shorts, and a man in a tank top and shorts. A picture of a ladies’ room-style cartoon woman dressed in a short-sleeve shirt and pants – or are they leggings? – also has a big X beneath it.

“If you are in Qatar, you are one of us,” the flier reads. “Help us preserve Qatar’s culture and values. Please dress modestly in public places.”

Qatar has launched previous initiatives to educate foreigners on dress codes, The Independent said.

“The amount of immodest clothing is growing in public places, especially shopping malls,” Nasser al-Maliki, the Islamic Culture Centre’s public relations chief, told Gulf News. “Such foreign behavior conflicts with our traditions. We do not want our kids to be exposed to it or learn from it.”

The campaign extends to a new multi-billion dollar airport in the Qatari capital of Doha, where Qatar Airways moved all its operations on Tuesday.

“Qatar is an Islamic state and being respectful to its culture will help you enjoy your stay,” says a list of “helpful tips” offered at the airport. It says women should dress modestly and men “should not be shirt-less in public,” and advises visitors that “public displays of affection and intimacy are strongly discouraged.”


M-J Says: See my Article about Being the Best-Dressed Woman Anywhere You Go in the World


Autumn Dressing: Tweed

Posted on November 16, 2012 at 6:30 PM

M-J in Aquascutum Tweed Suit, Her Perennial Favourite

Hatred Makes You Ugly

Posted on July 27, 2012 at 10:25 AM

Have you ever noticed that the more resentful and jealous a woman is, the more wrinkles she has? The most important age-preventing measure for your face is being a member of the Clear Conscience Club--you know, the one whose members get a good night's sleep. When people carry around the burdens of hatred and envy, resentments and greed, these destructive inner elements inevitably manifest themselves on their faces.

Here is a quote from an interview by Linda Holmes with elegant, ageless singer Darlene Love, whose work in the 1960s with music innovator Phil Spector catapulted her to fame and made her into the exploited victim of a megalomaniac who was ethically-challenged, and for whom loyalty was a foreign concept:

"I have no reason to hate him," she says, "and I never did, because I always found that hate makes you ugly. Makes you have wrinkles. Which I don't have." Here, she laughed. "But you know what? That has a whole lot to do with your insides. When you hate people, it not only makes you hate that person, it gives that vibe off for everything around you. I really do believe that. So I really did try hard not to dislike him and always be the good guy, and say what I say about him and nothing bad. 'Cause it doesn't help."

French Philosophy of Parenthood

Posted on February 5, 2012 at 1:00 AM

In a Wall Street Journal article adapted from her new book, “Bringing up Bébé” (Penguin Press; February, 2012) , Pamela Druckerman of France reveals Gallic secrets of educating small children for a lifetime of civilised behaviour. Every parent who is experiencing stress and bewilderment at the process of training tots can benefit from learning traditional French techniques and philosophies that, when effectively employed, will positively affect the most important years of their progeny's lives.
  Why French Parents Are Superior, by Pamela Druckerman

Elegant Haircut

Posted on November 14, 2011 at 7:55 PM

My husband describes the haircut he gives me as "the right cut for a woman of substance". Copyright M-J de Mesterton, Elegant Survival, 2011

Best Solution to Plumber's Butt

Posted on November 11, 2011 at 9:10 AM

Duluth Trading Co. is marketing a longer tee-shirt to solve "plumber's butt". In their radio advert, Duluth takes a robo-dump on "mom jeans", furthering the perverted notion that trousers should only rise to the hips or private area. The only sensible solution to plumber's crack, a look that always inspires derision among the clivilised, is to insist on trousers that go up to the waist--you know, that region one inch above your navel.... Jeans and work-pants that start down around your lower gut or hips will never stay up, no matter how long your tee-shirt is. And who wants a billowing shirt above their low-slung trousers, making a person look preggers? That sad result makes all the snide comments and chiding about "mom jeans" ring hollow, since nearly everyone who wears their garment below waist-level is sporting what appears to be a baby-bump.


Rational Sizing for American Women's Clothing

Posted on August 4, 2011 at 8:49 AM

Remember normal-sized clothing for women, before the fashion industry started distorting sizing in order to flatter the anorexia cult? Standard sizing no longer exists, as a dress with a 36-inch bust is now labelled as anything between size 4 and size 14, depending upon whom the maker is targeting. And today's "size 12", whatever that represents, is now often being labelled "plus" for the purpose of  charging more for a normal size.  Recent research results show that the average American woman weighs 164 pounds, and, in a rational sizing system, would wear a size 12. Some of the styles offered by the U.S.' top elite department store, Manhattan's Bergdorf Goodman, in 1948 started at size 12, and went up to size 20. Originally, "plus sizes" were anything above size twenty. In 1948, this black silk dress was offered at Bergdorf Goodman in sizes 10--20. If a woman wanted something smaller, she had to shop in the children's section.

When shopping for clothing in autumn 2011, pay no attention to sizing numbers, which are misleading and no longer standard; instead, follow the bust, waist and hip measurements. 

©M-J de Mesterton

How to Dress on Safari

Posted on July 26, 2011 at 8:52 AM
Elegant Dressing on Safari
The classic safari dress, by Burberrys
Elegant Survival on Safari
Elegant Survival tip: the more of your skin that is covered by clothing, the safer you are from the elements, sun and insects in particular. Even in the U.S., insects can cause deadly diseases such as Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and West Nile virus. People assume that hot weather requires a baring of skin, which is a fallacy. Natural fibres have a wicking action to keep your skin dry of perspiration, thus keeping you cool. And, everyone but the unenlightened knows now that getting sunburnt/tanned on purpose isn't cool! Smart people wear long sleeves and trousers, long socks, boots and skirts. Do all you can to protect against malaria and other insect-borne diseases. Desert-dwellers cover as much skin as possible, and for good reason. So, whether you're in the high desert, the heavily-wooded forest, or in the savannahs of Africa, my elegant survival rule of covering yourself from head-to-toe with luxurious fabrics is infinitely relevant.

©M-J de Mesterton Sources for Traditional Safari Clothing Hunting World: New Old Stock Cabela's Tag Safari Eddie Bauer House of Fraser Linen Safari Dress

Cabela’s safari vest is such a useful garment, figure-flattering and versatile to the point that you will find ways to dress it up for wear in town: hats, long-sleeved tees, cashmere turtlenecks, shirts with collar and cuffs, corduroy trousers, silk scarves knotted at the neck, wool neckties, foulards–the possibilities are endless. Or, just throw it on for quick trips outdoors, because it has your flashlight or torch in one of its many pockets already, together with other small survival tools that you have hidden there. Cabela’s safari vest is fashioned with a focus on fine form and function, perfect for stylish men. Grab it and go, with the rugged glamour that a classic piece of clothing gives a guy!
Copyright M-J de Mesterton 2010
©M-J de Mesterton 2010

The Wandering Waist

Posted on May 26, 2011 at 10:05 AM
The waistcoat worn by the U.S. president this week was too long, while the belts worn by his wife were too high. And I saw a photo of Oprah Winfrey wearing a light purple dress with another too-high belt, a look which gives the illusion of a baby-bump just underneath it. It's as though everyone has forgotten where the waist is actually located: at least one inch above the navel.
©M-J de Mesterton

The Sun-Dress

Posted on May 26, 2011 at 10:03 AM
Poppy Galore Sundress by Tommy Bahama

Just as its name indicates, the sun-dress or sundress is meant to be worn in the most casual manner, on the beach or while sunning one's self. The sun-dress is not something that a woman ought to wear to luncheon or lunch, unless that occasion is pool-side or at a beach resort, when one may have just showered off after a swim in the sea. Sundresses do not belong at elegant luncheons or on city streets. Elegant Dressing necessitates a knowledge of propriety in attire; there is a time and a place for everything under the sun. ©M-J de Mesterton

Smooth Talkers

Posted on May 2, 2011 at 11:45 AM
L'Homme Elégant, by Edouard Touraine, 1912

Recently, I wrote an editorial lamenting the sad state of women's voices. It is entitled, "Gals are Growling: What Gives?" In it, I recommend that today's women listen to yesterday's smooth-talking ladies in movies. Today's female voices often sound like trombones filled with cottage cheese, rather than like euphonious flutes. Listening to current newscasts, television shows and advertisements from American media will demonstrate this to the conscious listener, whereas in previous decades, women spoke without lowering their voices to gravelly, guttural levels. I've just begun to find examples of smooth-voiced, elegant women of the past. They appear on Elegant Survival Blog's Smooth Talkers page.

©M-J de Mesterton

Quod Erat Demonstrandum

Posted on April 29, 2011 at 10:59 AM

Two times earlier this year I posted my opinion about bridal gowns or wedding dresses*. I said that women of high station wear long sleeves and high necklines. I was vindicated this morning, as the new bride of Prince William wore a very tasteful dress with traditional lace long-sleeves, high neck, full skirt and an actual waistline. I'm very pleased to see my prediction borne out in such a lovely way by an elegant, dignified bride.

The Princess' choice of demurely pendulous earrings and no necklace was perfect.

Let us hope that women of all ages eschew the strapless, sleeveless gowns they have been sporting of late (which resemble nothing so much as swimsuits with trains), and take a cue on timeless, classic style from a Princess.

©M-J de Mesterton 

April 29th, 2011

*Click here to read my aforementioned posts about bridal gowns.

Nostalgia: Remember Elegantly-Dressed Men?

Posted on April 12, 2011 at 10:05 AM

Remember Elegantly-Dressed Men?

By M-J de Mesterton, ©Copyright 2010

In this stylish drawing of a man, you don't see a skinny jacket that is bursting open to expose sad trousers that hang at the hip, a bulging shirt and too-long tie. What we see here is a man who wears his trousers at the right length, ones that don't pile-up like discarded potato sacks on top of his shoes, and which come up to the actual human waist, thereby visually lengthening his legs. And we see the gentleman's traditional accessories: hat, gloves and walking-stick, all of which serve a purpose, including protection from the elements, enthusiastic pigeons, dirt, germs, roving animals, and whoever may dare to attack him or anyone else in his immediate vicinity; the gentleman is always well-prepared for a stroll down today's mean streets. Alas, this picture is clipped from an advert by Burberrys that appears in one of my 1930s Sphere magazines. Today's men, in general, look like short, dumpy cads in clothes that are designed to distort human proportions. (Add the slovenly yet popular three-day growth beard to complete a tragic modern image.) Never in history has so much sartorial splendour been readily accessible, and yet men have seldom looked worse. It doesn't cost any more to dress correctly than it does to do it badly, especially since some of the ghastliest clothes are going for the highest prices. There are few contemporary examples of elegant dressing in trendy venues and magazines. Help yourself by not following fashion, but instead by looking toward the best elements of the past for useful examples of tasteful masculine dress.
©M-J de Mesterton 2010

Gals are Growling: What Gives?

Posted on September 28, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Every time I am exposed to radio or television--and that isn't often--I am puzzled by a new trend in women's speech. If one has never ceased monitoring popular U.S. broadcasting outlets, entertainment and media advertising, it may not be apparent to them.  Being in the habit of avoiding American pop-culture--and only occasionally witnessing the stuff--like Rip van Winkle, I have suddenly awakened in a world that has changed drastically. Women, especially those under fifty, are chirping their sentences like Valley Girls, and culminating them in a very fatigued, strained-sounding growl. This guttural sound is not feminine, and I don't know whence its inspiration, nor whom they are attempting to emulate. Listening to a paragraph spoken by one of these hapless victims of fashion is like travelling ten miles of bad gravel-road.

There is a better way to speak, which simply involves modulating one's voice in a soft tone all the way to the end of each sentence, leaving that grating growl to the dogs and to your male counterparts. Men really don't think it's sexy. I've heard gents describe this new manner of female-speaking in the most unflattering of terms. For examples of attractive feminine speech, old movies are instructive. Even Lauren Bacall didn't do the gritty, guttural growl. This new way of talking must have been in fashion for quite some time while I "slept," because it takes a concerted effort to put into effect--in fact, some of us find it impossible to imitate. Maintaining a pleasant and natural tone, terminating your phrases with a definite stop instead of an audible question-mark, is a winning habit. Dragging the last syllable out longer than those in the rest of the sentence is bad diction, and ought to be avoided. I don't like to preach--leave that to other writers. That said, I occasionally feel the need to make a suggestion. Mimicking some pop-tart who is piled-out on coke, booze and cigarettes is a losing proposition in any facet of your life, so it would be good for you girls to get the gravel out of your gullets, and start sounding like real women again!

©M-J de Mesterton 2010