Avoid long skirts, favoring ones which end at the knee. Keep your color-scheme unified. If you're wearing a dark skirt, wear dark-tinted stockings. Don't let bare skin show between your skirt, pants and other components. It will break up the continuity of your ensemble. A long line of the same tones, head-to-toe, creates a taller image.
M-J on Elegant Style
Dressing to Suit Your Shape
I see many women of all ages wearing things that make them look misshapen, when, with a few minor adjustments, they could look like they have hourglass figures.
I'll begin with something which was poorly addressed by two British fashion "mavens" on the BBC in their makeover show. The poor subject left looking the same as she came.
If one has a pear-shaped figure, a formula for balancing it out is this, which I have devised:
Clothing Advice for the Pear-Shape
1) Starting at the top, a wide-brimmed hat
2) A peplum jacket with a waist and flare, not too long, ending just above the hipbone. Jacket ought to have some shoulder-padding, but don't go to the eighties Dynasty extreme. Resembling a football player is counter-productive! If you don't own a peplum jacket, a full, long-sleeved blouse tucked-in with the addition of a belt has a salutory effect. "Blousing", or loosening the portion just above the waist, is a good idea. You ought to look big on top but cinched-in at the waist.
3) An A-Line Skirt or fuller--it must widen considerably towards the knees.
4) No matter what shoes one is wearing, remember that the longer the skirt, the higher the heel for a balanced look. As for comfort, a stockier yet still-high heel is tolerable. Queen Elizabeth II wears platform shoes, which are high but not spiky, in order to be on her feet during duties. Personally, I like a stout heel that is a maximum of two inches tall. For night-time occasions when I don't have to walk, I may wear a dressier heel that is taller than that.
5) Pear-shaped ladies are best advised to avoid the Capri pants or pedal-pushers that have been popular for so many years. They tend to truncate (shorten) the legs. As a matter of fact, even the most tall and lithe ladies look short and dumpy in Capri pants!
An Extremely Unflattering Fashion Trend that Just Won't Die
A current fashion tragedy is the hip-hugger with short, tight top (I cannot bring myself to call those things "blouses"). Especially painful is witnessing that ensemble on a woman over forty. The combination makes even slim women appear to have a bun in the oven, and I have even heard some men derisively call the phenomenon "the muffin look". A waist must be accentuated, and with that outfit, it disappears. Nonetheless, I have female acquaintances--mothers of teen girls, who cannot resist the dangerous temptation to dress as the kids do, with ridiculous results. At their age, they ought to know better!
The Clothes Line: Advice for the Apple Shape
If you are larger in the middle than you are at the hips, you might want to try de-emphasizing your mid-section by placing more emphasis on the bottom and top portions of your figure. To facilitate reading and remembering these ideas, I'm going to use numbering:
1) Wear a skirt that flares towards the bottom, to detract from your stomach. A long, bias- cut skirt that goes to the mid-calf or ankles is effective if worn with higher, chunky heels or boots. Remember that for visual balance, extra height in your heels is important, but doesn't have to be uncomfortable.
2) Keep the fabric loose at your waist. We don't want to emphasize the surplus here.
3) The jacket or top of dress ought to be lined and long-sleeved to avoid looking tight on your arms. The tighter and more clinging the fabric is at your arms, the more their girth is emphasized.
4) Draw the visual focus to your bosom by wearing a blouse or jacket that shows your shapeliness there, or a little cleavage. Ruffled blouses are wonderful, too; I find that the best look is long-sleeved even in summer.
5) Skinny pants, pencil-skirts and Capri slacks will emphasize the contrast in size between your legs and middle, creating a pigeon shape. Instead, luxuriate in a full or flared skirt. Achieving balance is our goal.
6) A wonderful swing coat, like the one pictured here, is very flattering in winter with a pair of tall boots.
Copyright 2006 M-J de Mesterton
How to Dress for a Formal Luncheon
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
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.
Elegant Survival on Safari
M-J's 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. The only person you'll see going nearly-naked in the desert is the odd American tourist. You'll see them later in the cancer ward!
Copyright Elegant Survival 2008
Packing for Travel
Packing Clothing for Travel
I once carried a Wall Street Journal tote bag on board a New York-to-John Wayne Airport flight, which held dresses, blouses, and shoes enough for a five-day family wedding celebration. It weighed about seven pounds, I reckon. That was in the good ol' days, two months before 9-1-1, an event that ought to have changed the way people pack for trips. Instead, it seems that luggage in the overhead bins has become more ponderous than ever. Summer travel is easy to pack for, when one has light silk blouses and dresses. Packing clothes for a winter trip is a bit more of a challenge. Here is what I typically pack for a trip in winter:
1) Worn on the plane, both going and coming home: a tweed suit with long skirt: ideal for nearly six months of the year in many climates, and always presentable. Wrinkling is almost never an issue
2) Trench coat (also worn in-transit)
3) Worn in-transit: comfortable, yet elegant, mid-height heeled boots (worn with long skirt, one has the choice of woolen knee-socks or nylon hosiery worn underneath--for traveling, I find woolen knee socks more comfortable than garters and nylon stockings, and besides--who wants the airport security challenging one's concealed hardware?) With a long skirt, the tops of your boots and hosiery will not show. It's always a luxurious feeling, when sitting in an airplane seat, to have extra fabric to cover one's legs.
4) Packed in small valise: two silk blouses, preferably with jewel-necked collars. Hand-washing and hanging yields a fresh blouse by morning, and it usually needs very little ironing.
5) Packed in small valise: silk scarves and an oblong cashmere one (I have a cashmere tartan scarf that is so wide that it can be worn as a shawl) to vary the daytime look, and perhaps to wear rather than the tweed suit-jacket for warmth in the evenings under the trench-coat
6) Packed in small valise: some sort of evening dress, in a lightweight fabric such as silk or wool crepe
7) Packed in same small valise: a pair of cordovan (dark, burgundy-colored leather) pumps with mid-height heels for day and night. I don't like black for daytime.
8) Stockings, silk nightgown, and undergarments, all flattened into a zip-locking bag or two
The boots are heavier than the shoes, thus they are worn rather than packed for transit (and hey, you don't have to untie them, they just slip off so the guys at the inspection area can have a good loook at 'em!). With a tweed suit jacket and skirt already on me rather than packed where it would weigh down my bag, my load is lightened. I either carry my trench-coat or wear it in the airport. I find that there's no need for a heavy winter coat when one has a cashmere scarf and tweed suit jacket under a raincoat. I learned my lesson hanging about airports carrying heavy coats that were insufferably warm! I wear the skirt each day, with a different blouse and scarf, with or without its accompanying jacket. My evening dress is always either of wool or silk, and not prone to wrinkling. My husband also packs lightly; most of what is in his one bag is folded shirts, socks, and underwear. He wears one tweed suit for the duration, changing shirts, ties, and cufflinks for variation. He tops all of this with his own trench-coat, and uses one pair of shoes for the whole trip. When you have high quality clothing, you can go anywhere. We have traveled this way quite comfortably to the far reaches of Scandinavia, Europe, and Canada, in all seasons of the year. And, if I cannot fit my bag easily under the airplane seat in front of me, I have overpacked! That's one woman's interpretation of "Packing Lightly". Copyright 2006 M-J de Mesterton
Photo: Traveling with My Husband, in Comfortable Tweeds
Quotes by M-J de Mesterton
Your body is a temple--make sure it's not the Temple of Doom.
A wrinkled sack of skin on some all-too-visible bones can turn stomachs instead of heads.
Beware of Splay-Foot and Shorty-Pants
~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2006
Together with standards of dress, manners have taken a nose-dive. These short videos are amusing, but so true. Don't let the person being laughed at or hit with a brickbat be you!
A good use for hat boxes or hat cases is to store scarves and gloves in them--I keep the scarves and gloves in separate hat boxes. Photos copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2008
Storing Your Scarves and Gloves, by M-J
Distorted Body Image, and How It Can Make You Sick
When I was a child, nobody had ever heard of a "size one" except for mothers of infants. Now, it seems to be a source of pride for a grown woman to announce that she is a "size one" or a "size four". I just don't understand what it is about themselves that they despise so much as to want to nearly disappear! Is the ultimate goal a "size zero"?
A Brazilian model died lately of anorexia nervosa. Now she's a size zero!
An acquaintance of mine in Europe was so influenced by the pop-culture media and glamour magazines that as soon as she was 18, she starved her slim body and became very ill, to the point of hospitalization. When she looked into the mirror, she must have seen something entirely different from what the rest of us saw: a skeleton with hair. Perhaps, as in the traditional fun-house gag mirrors, she saw a fat lady. Treatment in the States would have cost at least $100,000.00, and that was ten years ago. Pop culture, misguided peer-pressure and self-loathing were responsible for her condition, but, mercifully, she did eventually recover. My cousin, Madeleine, is Sweden's expert on anorexia nervosa. She gives many talks on self-esteem and body-image.
I modeled some clothing for Chico's in Y2K, while taking part in a charity fashion show. I was astounded that I was wearing a size 2, when I was actually a size 12. The company had devised a system whereby ladies wouldn't be embarrassed by their size! And the suit I modeled for Jaeger was in a British size 14 (equivalent to American size 12). Incidentally, I'm glad that I finally have a venue wherein I can say this: the definition of "plus-size" has been bastardized in the past decade to include regular ladies' sizes 12 and upwards! This is insanity. It makes normal, sized-12 and 14 women feel huge. "Plus-Sizes" were created about twenty years ago for those women who wore sizes above 18, which was once the top ladies' size. Yes, 18, NOT 12! Sizes that previously had no numbers had to be called "plus". Clearly, I am non-plussed by this ridiculous situation! If the touting of child-sized clothes for grown women isn't evil enough, size 14 is passing for "Plus-Size" now, which further stigmatizes normal-sized women. It is done so that the manufacturers and purveyors of clothing can charge more, because "plus" sized clothes require a little more fabric to construct.
There are some cultures where female voluptuousness is prized--my husband claims that is the case in most societies.
My husband also thinks women ought to have meat on their bones, as well as good, old-fashioned fat. He grew up in Provence, France, and says that even there no man really wanted a thin woman. In fact, one of the Rothschild women who was in the family's social circle was tall, plump, and very appealing to men. He describes it as, "looking like a duchess," and revels in my appearance. In Paris, my husband says, young fellows might have had skinny models with them at gallery openings and such, but for romance and enjoyment, they always preferred a more chubby woman. I say that if God made you thin, and it is natural, that is just fine. But to make a concerted effort to look emaciated is counterproductive as well as unhealthy.
The very thin women I have known aged prematurely. A wrinkled sack of skin on some all-too visible bones can turn stomachs instead of heads!
Copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2006
The following link is a better guide for international shoe-size equivalencies: Shoe-Sizes by Tex
You Can't Build a Castle on a Swamp
Elegant On-Line Consignment Shop: Christabelle's Closet
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Drape Yourself in Luxurious Fabrics
The Ultimate Survival Garments
Menswear: the Death-Knell of Civilization
I've written about this untidy habit before, but now it is being sanctioned by The New York Times. Of course, there's very little in the realm of perversity that the Gray Lady won't promote. Shorts
I've also said that in Bermuda, the shorts are nearly knee-length, and that no gentleman wears them without knee socks, either of light, ribbed cotton in hot weather, or wool during cooler times of the year. Men in Bermuda traditionally wear these shorts with blazer, shirt and tie, accompanied by real shoes--no boaters, sneakers or sandals.
When you read that NYT piece, you will see that what is being touted there is a far cry from what is acceptable in Bermuda, a very civilized place with a dress-code.
~~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2008
I've had a link to Lehman's on Elegant Survival for a long time. Here's their page of available irons that don't use electricity to heat. Lehman's Irons
Thank You for Visiting the Clothes Line
The Short-Legged Look, from Elegant Survival News
ARTICLE by M-J de Mesterton
A few weeks ago, I posted a photo of a famous actress whose low-rise pants made her look strange.
For the purpose of demonstrating the effect of low-rise trousers on men, here is a famous actor, sporting the same tragic look.
November 10, 2008
Posted by Publisher under elegant dressing, elegant living on a shoestring, the original elegant living on a shoestring | Tags: Female Fashion Victims, Truncated Legs, Disfiguring Fashions, Fashion Designers Secretly Hate Women | (edit this)
Clothes that do not have a waist are a waste. They make you look like a short-legged freak. As I’m fond of asking: what ever happened to gals who had “legs up to here”? They have become brainwashed fashion-victims.
Have a look at Butterick’s Retro and Out-of-Print patterns, as well.