Elegant Survival

Stylish Living on a Shoestring
Since 2006

Classic, Elegant Style Doesn't Follow Fashion

 M-J de Mesterton on Classic, Elegant Dressing

Fashion may, on occasion, derive its inspiration from classic, elegant style, but classically elegant style does not follow fashion. A classically stylish person is not obliged to wear the clothes of a uniquely tasteful era, such as the 1930s--classic style is timeless. Choose beautifully made clothes and accessories that are useful and relevant to the life you lead, whether or not they are currently "in fashion".

Classic style is based on the clear understanding of proper time and place. For example, gentlemen who wear hats remove them when entering private homes, restaurants, and even bars. (An exception to that rule is the cowboy hat, at certain venues.) Sure, the fedora is back, but a gent shows his elegant taste and style if he knows when and how to wear it. Women who choose sundresses for work, luncheon or city streets have no understanding of classic style. A mini-skirt that may be all right for nightclubbing is not welcome at an elegant luncheon. Dressing with classic style guarantees absolute confidence night or day, anywhere in the world.

~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2007 

Photo, left: This is a very tight-fitting pencil skirt that hugs every curve--but it is respectably sexy, made from thick, stretchy fabric which supports as well as it reveals.... If you have a shapely body, this skirt will accentuate it. If you are slim, this skirt will give you more curves than you normally show--highly recommended for a tasteful '60s look! ~~M-J



M-J de Mesterton in Elegant Evening Dress: Long-Sleeved White Satin Blouse, Mid-Calf Black Skirt


In 2004, I photographed myself in an elegant dressing gown made of black velvet with white satin trim. It was the sort of thing which one would not be embarrassed to be seen in on an impromptu basis--answering the door to package deliveries, for example. I miss that old robe, but I still have my silk dressing gown by Sulka as a consolation.

©M-J de Mesterton 2015

Above: M-J in a Classic Sweater by Dale of Norway 


M-J de Mesterton, Dressed in an Aquascutum Tweed Skirt-Suit for Fall and Winter




Above: M-J de Mesterton in Elegant Attire for Winter Tea, Cocktails or Dinner 

Elegant Winter Dressing


Elegant Men's Shoes 



Elegant Dressing for Summer Drinks Party

M-J de Mesterton wears a hat by Eric Javits of New York, a J. Peterman skirt, a T.M. Lewin Blouse from England, Silk-Knot Cuff-Links by Brooks Brothers, and white nylons.

 "Casual, Elegant Dressing at a Summer Cocktail Party"

Please Visit M-J's Elegant Dressing Blog 


  Classic, Elegant Winter Dressing

Elegant Winter Dressing:
M-J de Mesterton on  December 30th, 2010 

M-J de Mesterton Elegantly Attired for a Snowstorm
Aigle Boots (Made in France)
Montgomery Elysian Wool Duffel Coat (Made in England)
White Fox Hat (Made in Helsinki, Finland)
Scottish Walking Cane
Scots Glen Cashmere Scarf (Elgin Castle, Scotland)
Cashmere-Lined Black Leather Gloves (Made in Italy; Bergdorf Goodman, NYC) 

 M-J in a 2003 wool suit by Carolina Herrera, in 2017--a Classic, Elegant Style

MISSES' DRESS AND BELT: Lined dresses A, B, mid-calf, have semi-fitted bodice and gathered, flared skirt, winged or stand-up collar, below elbow kimono sleeves, side zipper and side front pockets. B: sleeve cuffs with slit. Self-fabric belt has purchased buckle. Purchased petticoat.
NOTIONS: Dress A, B: 12" Zipper and One 1" Buckle or Buckle to Cover without Prong.
FABRICS: Dress A, B: Shantung, Lightweight Broadcloth and Taffeta. Unsuitable for obvious diagonals. Allow extra fabric to match plaids or stripes. Use nap yardages/layouts for pile, shaded or one-way design fabrics. *with nap. **without nap.
Combinations: BB(8-10-12-14), FF(16-18-20-22)
            Classic, Elegant Dressing

M-J de Mesterton in Tweed Jacket and Breeks


If you wear only classic clothing, it is bound to come back into fashion. This jacket, made for M-J in England, has already been somewhat mimicked (not duplicated) by Dior for autumn 2010. M-J wears her Harris Tweed burnt orange equestrian jacket with Gun Club Check breeks.





 Elegant Dressing, Elegant Woman, Elegant Tweed, Elegant Ja 




Count Hubert de Givenchy


Hubert de Givenchy

Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy (born February 20th, 1927) is a French aristocrat and fashion designer. He founded the House of Givenchy in 1952. Having met Audrey Hepburn in 1953 while she was filming "Sabrina", he continued to design most of the actress' personal and professional wardrobe. They became close friends. Some exemplary Givenchy designs may be seen in William Wyler's movie, "How to Steal a Million," starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole.



 Photo: Kerry Taylor Auctions on Pall Mall, London


Hubert de Givenchy made clothes for the Grimaldi family, and for Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

Count Hubert de Givenchy retired in 1995. The House of Givenchy, which he founded in 1952, is now owned by Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton S.A.; its head designer is Riccardo Tisci.


Hubert de Givenchy designed clothes to flatter the female figure. He created elegant silhouettes that did not rely on extravagant trims and details. His clothes were the epitome of elegant simplicity.


Hair-style is the final tip-off whether or not a woman


really knows herself.


~~Hubert de Givenchy


Copyright M-J de Mesterton, February 2010


Winning the Style Game with the Right Pieces

Basic, Classic Clothes for Women

 Here is a fast, easy, flattering skirt pattern from Butterick McCall’s: 

Flattering, Easy-to-Make Skirt Pattern

I have found another flattering skirt (and jacket) pattern, though it is for advanced sewers, being a bit more complicated to make:

Have a look at Butterick’s Retro and Out-of-Print patterns, as well. 

For daytime: an A-line or flared skirt with a waist, landing just below or in the middle of the knee. Fabric choices include tweed and other wools in cooler months; silk, cotton, 10-ounce wools and corduroy in the warmer ones.

Fuller, longer skirts for evening, made of silk, changent and velvet; again, a skirt must have a proper waist (up above the navel), where you can cinch it with a belt for an hourglass figure.

Blouses that are either sleeveless or long-sleeved, made of either silk or cotton. Short-sleeved shirts, dresses and blouses have an extremely casual look that should be reserved for daytime, as well as a problem with proportion (they remind me of bowling and tee-shirts).

Drawing by the Late British Fashion Artist Francis Marshall: "Intermission at Covent Garden"


For evening wear, diaphanous blouses with long sleeves are elegant, and to balance a long, full skirt, a lot of ruffles work well.

Resist the empire-waisted blouses that are popping up in current fashion. Not only will they make your stomach pop-out, but they are awkward when tucked-into trousers or skirts. A tucked-in shirt or blouse will enhance the waist. Men's shirts are very attractive on women; if your husband has grown out of his, commandeer them for your own use. They ought to be made of cotton with a high thread-count, and the larger number of stitches per inch or centimeter, the better the quality.

If you have a sewing machine, it is easy to make a shawl of shantung silk, reversible with two different colours, if possible. The wrap will be useful to wear with evening gowns (see drawing by Francis Marshall; also notice the shape of the pale dress).

To Be Continued....

Copyright M-J de Mesterton May 15th, 2009


Classic, Elegant Dressing

M-J on Classic, Elegant Style

Dear Readers,

A lot of money has been wasted by ladies and gentlemen who believe that a designer label on a piece of clothing or an accessory is necessary for a person to be elegant. Seventy percent of what one sees on the runways is unwearable by normal people anyway, and makes a mockery of the human form. Let's face it, for every designer piece you have, there are legions of people out there wearing the same item, seriously decreasing the cachet of owning the thing in the first place. There are plenty of ways to dress elegantly without the joke being on you. Elegant dressing doesn't involve plastering your corpus with the latest trendy rage (or rag). True style means choosing classic pieces that don't come emblazoned with someone's imprimatur or logo. It means finding skirts, jackets, trousers and blouses that are beautiful, well-constructed and will stand the test of time. Be mysterious, instead of an open book; an instantly recognizable fashion designer piece will label you as a striver. Better to seek out well-made garments by doing research either on the internet or shopping around your town, and though this next suggestion requires a bit more effort, having something made for you by a tailor or seamstress from a pattern and fabric of your own choice will pretty much guarantee that no one else wears the same thing. Sheep follow trends: setting your own style will mark you as an individualist with good taste--and save you from sartorial waste. ~~Copyright M- J de Mesterton, October 29th, 2007
Traditional, Reasonably-Priced Golf Clothes


People who golf in tee-shirts and low-ridin' pants look like rubes and slobs. Respect for the traditions of the game includes dressing in a dignified, classic style. Golf Knickers is a treasure-trove of traditional golfing trousers, shirts, hats, socks, et cetera. It's refreshing to see their old-fashioned prices, as well as the wide array of golf classics.

Here is an amusing video on golf etiquette by Proper Ollie.

Elegant Dressing

Burberry Suit from Sphere Magazine, Christmas Number, 1936
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 

Advert from The Queen, The Coronation 1953 (a magazine in our library)



 Elegant dressing begins with a good foundation: lingerie with structure, which includes waist-enhancing and bust-sculpting designs. Luxurious dresses, blouses and skirts that emphasize your positive attributes will complete your beautiful look. Silks, tweeds and velvet, hound's-tooth and herringbone will always be in style because they are classics. Top this off with an old-fashioned, wide-brimmed hat and you are off to the races! Oh, and don't forget the sensible shoes; a well-constructed shoe doesn't have to be a clod-hopper. A two-to-three-inch heel with a simply styled leather upper will take you anywhere (flip-flops will take you to the podiatrist).

Advice for summer: wearing fewer clothes--exposing more skin--will not necessarily keep you cooler. You ought to dress to prevent the elements from getting to your skin. Loosely woven fabrics such as linen, and breathable ones like silk, can keep you cool and protect you from sun and insects. You'll never see anyone (except maybe the odd American tourist) walking out in the desert nearly naked.
Copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2007

Don't Short-Change Your Image

What's the logic behind the American obsession with shorts? They're now worn year-round, in all sorts of weather, and in nearly every venue. These overgrown children in short pants don't even bother to wear socks. There was a time when Bermuda shorts and lederhosen had to be accompanied by knee-socks. A few years ago, I worked in a medical research company where writers came to work in shorts and sandals. That was in Princeton, New Jersey--which is as far from a resort town as one can get. Hairy legs are on display by these misguided fashion victims, who apparently believe that to expose themselves this way is to demonstrate an attitude of "casual chic". I have another term for it, which I cannot print here.

Socks were meant to protect shoes from feet and vice versa. If one is going to wear shorts, at least wear socks, and remember: a sock that stops halfway up one's leg shortens that leg visually. Why not acquire some traditional knee socks in cotton for summer? Again, showing more skin won't keep you cooler, but it will prevent you from looking cool!

Copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2007

What's Happened to Shoes?

Remember Shoes?

A trip to the airport last week was instructive. At least one hundred women walked by as we sat and waited for friends to come in from abroad. A total of three women among the hundred were wearing actual shoes. The rest were wearing flip-flops. My husband remarked about the basic unattractiveness of the human foot, while I pointed out the unsanitary practice of bare feet on airport floors, once-daily "sanitizing" notwithstanding. If you're not on crack, you realize that it is window-dressing; there's no such thing as a sanitary floor, not to mention city streets with their ubiquitous doggie-walkers. How shoe manufacturers can survive when few women actually wear their products is a mystery. The only ones doing well when it comes to feet are podiatrists! And nary a stocking or sock was spied among the throngs of mothers, teenagers and other females during the aforementioned ill-shod parade. Stockings were invented to protect both feet and shoes. Shoes are a means of protecting feet from the environment, and of providing support for the foot and ankle. A stout shoe, with or without laces just might save one the cost of treating chronic foot-pain and/or infection.
~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2006


How to Dress for an Elegant, Formal Luncheon

How to Dress for a Formal Luncheon

I've been asked lately how a woman ought to dress to attend an elegant, formal luncheon. Daytime dressing is fun, as it affords you some fashion opportunities not available during night-time. Even if the weather is hot and humid, a simple and beautiful costume is in order, complemented by traditional style elements such as high-heeled shoes, gloves and hats. In fact, luncheon is the most appropriate time to wear your best hat. Jewelry may be worn, as long as it is understated--pearls are desirable, as are tasteful clip-earrings, but a lady is best-advised to choose one or the other and not both. Pendulous earrings ought not to be worn in daytime. Gloves of a very light fabric or kidskin, preferably wrist-length, may be worn upon entry to the luncheon. Once you sit down at the luncheon table, you remove your gloves, but never your hat. Resist boorish suggestions to remove it; a lady never removes her hat. The same applies to the top layer of her costume, whether it is a blazer, bolero, or stole. Only the overcoat is subject to removal, and an elegant club serving formal luncheons, such as the Colony in New York, will have a coat-check service. A modest-length dress or skirt-suit is proper, from knee-length on down to mid-calf. Longer skirts require higher heels to balance the silhouette, whereas dressy flats may be worn with knee-length skirt-suits and dresses. To keep your presentation in balance, if you wear separates rather than a dress, a longer jacket or blazer ought to be worn with a knee-length skirt, and a shorter, peplum or bolero jacket out to be worn with a longer skirt. A long jacket combined with a long skirt will create a dumpy effect. Pants and slack suits are definitely out of order for any formal event, but if you really must hide your legs, a long dress or skirt is acceptable, as long as your ankles and shoes are visible. Sleeveless dresses with light coats or boleros of the same fabric are quite comfortable and elegant. As for fabric prints or weaves, the flower motif is perfect for daytime festivities. Regarding appropriate shoes (avoid even the most elegant boots for these occasions--pumps or flats are always just right): the more official or elegant the occasion, the less one shows of her toes and feet, so avoid peep-toe and sling-back shoes. They are not classically elegant. Classic style requires you to respect the fact that there's a time and place for everything. Stockings, pantyhose or tights must be worn to all daytime formal events. Save your bare legs, halter-tops, and spaghetti strap sundresses for the beach, backyard or garden. Suits constructed of wool, shantung silk or diaphanous layers, and well-structured dresses with modest decolletages, are always welcome. The more fabric one wears, the better. Pastel colors are desirable in spring and summertime, while in winter the preferred colors are more jewel-toned, neutral or somber. Black must be excluded for daytime in all seasons, unless a woman is in mourning. If you remember that day-wear may be elegant but not blatantly sexy, success is in your future, as well as many delicious luncheons with your peers.
Copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2008
How an Elegant Woman Dresses at Ascot in the Autumn
One may be able to get through the gate at Ascot while not observing traditional rules, but if a woman wishes to look proper and elegant, she will follow them. A knee-length or mid-calf dress or suit with long sleeves and modest decolletage, stockings or tights, closed pumps, and a hat that covers the crown of the head will ensure a warm reception. Gloves are optional. Wearing a mini-skirt, jump-suit, slack-suit, sun-dress or spaghetti-strap cocktail dress may inspire derision, together with unflattering class-identification.

~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2008
Survival Cloths: Tweed and Ventile


M-J wearing Scottish Tweed and English Ventile in Banff, Alberta. Alberta is the oil-producing province of Canada. (Photo copyright M-J de Mesterton 2005)

Coming soon: The History of Ventile


Clothes Without a True Waist: What a Waste!

Elegant Dressing

Comments by M-J on the Waist

It's time for designers and marketers to stop calling a true waist a "high waist".

Just because the industry bastardized the waist for so many years (actually eliminated the waist altogether), and it was nearly impossible to find anything but the old, tired hip-huggers from the sixties and seventies, they assume that anything which actually lands on the waist is "high-waisted".

Innumerable are the times have I explained to both men and women that to wear trousers starting below the navel is to seriously truncate one's legs. How many people are lucky enough to have very long legs? Only they can afford to sport this fashion foolishness without looking short and dumpy. Have a look at Page Six of the New York Post, where models and movie stars alike are photographed. The big-head, small-body images are even more exaggerated when the subjects are wearing low-slung pants and skirts. George MacDonald Fraser, the late British author of the Flashman series of historical novels, ridiculed men who "wore their breeches below their bellies", because, after all, it is an ugly look has been laughed-at since time immemorial.
A skirt or pair of trousers that doesn't come up to the natural waist is a waste of money. It is neither classic nor flattering to your figure.



History of the Mackintosh Rain-Coat, by Cordings of Picadilly, London

The History of the Mac

 Mr. Charles Mackintosh patented his process of dissolving rubber and binding it to cotton in the early 1088s. His earliest attempts raised comments about the strange smell, the stiffness and the tendency to melt in hot weather. 

By 1843 when he had perfected the vulcanization process, Mr John Charles Cording had just set up his business in the Strand as "Waterproofer". While fabrics have dramatically improved with time, the process of making mackintoshes remains the same. 

Source: Our Old Cordings Catalogue, 1999 

Elegant Western Dressing



Tom Mix Publicity Photo

In the days when the American west was being settled, men and women wore tweeds from Scotland, British-inspired suits, long, luxurious skirts, long-sleeved blouses, shirts, and waistcoats made of durable, thick fabrics. Naked knees, elbows and plumbers' cracks were rare sights. Combined with rugged yet elegant cowboy boots and hats, these tasteful clothes served two functions, affording both ladies and gentlemen dignified self-esteem out on the range, and protection from the elements.

~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton 2008


M-J in the Cotton Clothing of Summer

 For the unofficial last Saturday of summer, I'm wearing my husband's Turnbull & Asser shirt from 1992. 

The white cotton skirt was made in Denmark, 2002, by Blue Willi. 

The watch is an extra-large, white G-Shock Military.





Click here to edit text


M-J's Miscellany