Elegant Winter Dressing with M-J

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Above: M-J de Mesterton in a Tibbett Duffel Coat of Elysian Wool, Insulated Aigle Boots from France; a Mongolian Cashmere Scarf by Johnstons of Elgin, Scotland; a White Fox Hat Made in Helsinki; a Plaid Tweed Skirt, Black Leather Cashmere-Lined Gloves from Italy, and a Walking Stick Made of Scotch Broom

PUBLISHED in DECEMBER, 2016: Wear warm clothes when it’s cold outside and inside. The days of women showing their bare arms year-round just because an occupant of the White House does it to show off her biceps are coming to a close in about three weeks.  The current president has, since 2009, kept the oval office at a balmy 85° year-round, as though he were in Hawai’i, while instructing the citizenry to “tighten your belts”. The rest of us, if we have heat at all, keep our places at 68° or even cooler, thanks to the punitive cost of fuel.

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Above: on Christmas Day, I’m wearing a turtleneck under a round-necked dress, nylon stockings, a silk & cashmere pashmina, and faux-fur-lined tall leather boots. Most winter days, I’d be wearing tweed and sweaters.

Elegant Dressing for Autumn: Classic Tweed Travelling Suit
M-J de Mesterton in Aquascutum Tweed Suit, Her Perennial Favourite

Rugged, traditional, and elegant tweed made from Scottish wool is the best material for fall and winter dressing. Easily covered with a trench-coat or embellished with a pashmina or long wool scarves, tweed will keep you warm and dry. Tweed suits, skirts, trousers and jackets are always fashionable.

My husband and I found it odd, if not historically-incorrect, to see the inhabitants of Downton Abbey wearing sleeveless flapper dresses all over the huge, inevitably cold and difficult-to-heat house, at all hours, without wraps or sweaters. Those dresses were made to be worn at nightclubs while dancing the Charleston, where  hyper-activity and body-heat of the crowd made it possible to stay warm while baring arms.

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Dining at Downton: thanks to cocktails, aperitifs and wines, scantily-clad ladies there could abide the evening without shivering. Or maybe not; Ralph Lauren designed wardrobes for the series, and may have just assumed that women dressed like flappers in most situations because it was the Roaring Twenties. I doubt that 1920s women were so silly, but there have always been nonsensical followers of fashion, like the ones who are now wearing peep-toed shoes without stockings all winter long in cold climates. My grandmother, who was born in the Victorian Age, told me that to be beautiful, one must suffer–I know that freezing’s not what she meant. Even body-heat from large groups at table does not take the chill off England’s grand country houses for most months of the year; shoulders are usually covered with something at dinner, such as a little fur garment or shawl that could be removed later in the evening for dancing. And no self-respecting woman would be standing about the house during winter in just a sleeveless gown.

Speaking of winter dressing and silly followers of fashion, here is a post that I made here at Elegant Survival News in December, 2011:

Talking Heads Clad Badly and Barely-Shod

Summer Dress and Peep-Toe Shoes in December?!

Why is the anchorwoman wearing a sleeveless summer dress in cold NYC on December 6th? Are biceps something that female talking heads suddenly find a crying need to bare, even in freezing temperatures? Are they using too much energy, in an effort to keep tropically warm indoors? Is it seasonally appropriate to wear bare-toed shoes on wintry days, as the woman in red is doing, or sandals (the first lady wore sandals at a Kennedy Center gala last weekend) in December? I don’t think so. These women are on a national television show, displaying their irresponsible, energy-inefficient lifestyles before the public, as if to say that a size XXX carbon-footprint is desirable. The rest of us are wearing wool and tweed, living in homes with little-or-no  heat most of the time.

In an Alpine Climate, January: Dressing in Furry Boots, a Scottish Hand-Made Fair Isle Sweater, and an Austrian Wool Skirt

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What the Well-Dressed Woman Will NOT Be Wearing this Fall

1. Any kind of trousers, pants, skirts or panti-hose that only come up to the hip. Haven’t we had enough of clothing manufacturers saving money on your back, not to mention Plumber’s Crack? Doesn’t anyone see how ridiculous they look?

2. Animal prints: why did they have to escape the  bowling alleys and trailer-parks and migrate into J. Crew? Was there really nothing else to do…?

3. Open-toed and peep-toed shoes, which are strictly for summer. And, of course, forget the sandals and flip-flops.

4. Bare ankles peeking out under what we used to derisively call “high-water” pants, trousers, and slacks. If ankles and parts of your calves are showing, your garment is too short and makes your legs look truncated. For a finished look, if not to protect your feet and shoes. you ought to be wearing some sort of hosiery (knee-length stockings are cheap and plentiful). Unless, of course, you are at a very sultry resort. Even then, I would restrict the bare-foot and bare-legged look to poolside. See my Bermuda Dress Code for elucidation on elegance at resorts.

5. Cargo pants…not even in the garden.

6. Empire “waists”–no matter what, they make a gal look preggers. See my article, “Where Is the Waist?”

7. Muscle-shirts and sleeveless dresses (not even in the garden).

8. Cap-sleeves, which make even the upper-arms of skinny chicks look fat.

To Be Continued…

Copyright ©M-J de Mesterton 2012

Classic, Elegant Bridal Gown Ideas

Prospective Brides: Something to Consider

Why not eschew the modern strapless evening dresses/corsets  with long trains that are now standard in the wedding business and adopt a classic, elegant, dignified style for your bridal gown? Following the crowd is not wise. That which is in fashion right now may make one cringe in the future. Brides of refinement and good breeding, women of high station in life have traditionally worn bridal gowns with long sleeves and elegant, high collars. Here is Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp in the Sound of Music, wearing a gorgeous wedding dress that looks right for any decade:

Note that this elegant wedding dress has a figure-flattering shape while bearing none of the tacky, complicated embellishments that often find their way onto the most important garb of a woman’s life. If it is now impossible to locate a ready-made bridal gown of dignity and taste, there are patterns available from which one may be made. See below for two tasteful bridal gown patterns.

©M-J de M.

Elegant Bridal Gown Patterns

Posted on January 18, 2011 at 4:25 PM

Elegant Dressing

See examples of how to dress elegantly, by the writer who brought Classic, Elegant Dressing to you in 2006.  In her latest Elegant Dressing blog, M-J de Mesterton gives explanations of style, instructive photographs, and recommendations for accessories, directing tasteful readers to currently-available, elegant clothes.

 

Caring for Your Precious Shirts

Washing and Drying Your Shirts

A well-made shirt can cost $500.00 or more. That is an investment to protect. Your shirts will last much longer if they are washed by hand and hung to dry. Don’t use so much detergent that it takes a rinsing marathon to remove it. “A little dab’ll do ya”, as the old Brylcreem jingle said. Ideally, one would hang shirts on a clothesline, upside down, with clothespins. This keeps pinch-marks off the important areas of your shirts. The sun will dry them in no time. Alternatively, one could hang them indoors, perhaps out-of-sight behind the the shower curtain, on hangers. A sturdy spring-rod, placed inside the shower area for the purpose of hanging clothes to dry will not interfere with your existing shower-rod. If you don’t want to get hanger-marks on the shoulders, just put wash-cloths under them, over the ends of your hanger. The worst thing to do, even if you wash your shirts in cold water in the gentle cycle, is to dry them in a machine–doing so will quickly degrade your shirt, which will die an angry death before its time. My husband and I have shirts from France and England that are twenty years old, and in perfect condition.

An electric, energy-consuming dryer is an enemy to high-quality clothing. In fact, dryers shrink clothes and wear them out quickly; lint is composed of fibers that a machine robs from your clothes. You’d be surprised at how swiftly shirts dry naturally, and when they are just a wee bit damp, they’re easy to iron. In cases of stubborn collar and cuff soil, when hand-scrubbing fails, you can still wash your white shirts in hot water, soap, and a little bleach if necessary, as long as they are rinsed well, and then hung to dry. (Bleach alternative may be a better choice, if you can get it to work on stubborn stains.) Bleach is to be used only after stain-removal steps like soaking in Zote soap or Octagon (shirtmaker Alexander Kabbaz recommends Octagon for hand-washing his works of art) have been attempted without success. Always use as little bleach as possible, diluted before adding to wash-water, and only on white shirts. Bleach has a corrosive effect on your shirt’s fibers. The sun will do some natural bleaching of white cotton. Save costly energy and prolong the life of your shirts by hand-washing and sun-drying them.

Giving your precious shirts to a dry-cleaner or other laundry service is wasteful. They crush buttons and machine-dry the poor things. Do clothes hanging on a line outdoors conjure up bad images for you? Too bad, because it is one of life’s simple luxuries to be able to dry a beautiful, well-made shirt in the sun–some of the best people do it. Believe me, it’s not remotely infradig to care for your own shirts. After all, who cares for them more than you do?

~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton, May 2008

Classic Pumps by Robert Clergerie, at Christabelle’s Closet

Update, April 8th: these beautifully crafted, classic French shoes have been reduced to the price of 50 USD.

The Most Elegant Pumps, by Robert Clergerie Size 7.5 US
Elegant Pumps, by Robert Clergerie; Size 7.5 US

Robert Clergerie Patent Leather Pumps, Made in France:  Simple, Elegant  Shoes for Evening, Cocktails or Teatime

It’s difficult to find classic, real shoes these days. When I speak of elegant dressing, I often mention closed-toe shoes, which used to be the norm. Sure, peep-toes and strappy high-heeled sandals are all the rage, but I don’t write about trends, except to disparage them and their lack of longevity. Exposing one’s toes and tottering about on stilts are never elegant. This pair of shoes almost represents my ideal for evening. Alas, they are a half-size too small for me. Advice to people approaching middle-age: buy your shoes a half-size larger than necessary, because your feet are about to grow a half-inch (once upon a time, these shoes would have fit me).

~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2009

Elegant Survival Recommends Berkeley Hat Company

Berkeley Hat Company,

the largest hat store in California, has traditional hats for men and women, novelty hats, and Tilley Endurables for traveling. Their on-line shop accepts PayPal and credit cards. Prices are reasonable.   It’s smart, in more ways than one, to cover your head during all seasons of the year. At Berkeley Hat Company, you can acquire a hat wardrobe for a song. Even if you aren’t looking for a topper, you’ll enjoy looking at the selection of hats at Berkeley Hat Company.

Elegant Survival Recommends



Click to enlarge
padBERETS

Our traditional Basque Berets offer the style, comfort and warmth expected by those looking for the finest quality berets . All of our Basque Berets are still made in Basque territory–the Hoquy Beret de Luxe comes from southern France. Black Berets remain the most popular. These satin lined wool berets are fitted with a quality sweat band for optimal comfort and durability. We also carry cotton berets, leather berets and wool berets from other parts of the world. Shipping $6.50 + $1.44 for each piece more than one per order.



BERKELEY HAT COMPANY
2510 Telegraph Avenue
Berkeley, CA   94704
tel. 510 549-2955

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