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

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

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.

 

The Elegant Survival Source for Golf Clothing

Traditional, Reasonably-Priced Golf Clothes

Elegant Survival Recommendation

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.

~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton 2009


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

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

Low-Rise Clothes: Time for an Uprising

Choosing Clothes that Flatter the Human Corpus

So, you are possessed of a perfectly shaped body and decide to go shopping. There is nothing available but low-rise pants and skirts that rest on the hip. The fashion industry and its manufacturers are saving big bucks on your back. You decide that to go against what seem to be the demands of current fashion is pointless, so you buy whatever looks prettiest on the hanger. Once it goes onto your well-toned corpus, something sinister happens: your legs now look a mere foot long, and your tight “abs” sit above the low-rise top of your skirt or slacks, looking for all the world like a beer-gut. What’s happening here? The fashion industry is sabotaging your looks while saving themselves money on yardage. It’s now impossible to find a pair of pants, tights, or a skirt that comes up to the natural waist; anything that does is derisively and incorrectly labeled “high-waisted”.

Photo: Trousers with a Proper Waist, Available to the Elegant Man at www.tweed-jacket.com

If you must have your clothes made for you in order to avoid this sick, disfiguring fashion regime, there are ways to do it without breaking the bank. A well-constructed pair of corduroy, moleskin or tweed trousers will get you through the depression in style, last for many years, and what’s most appealing about them is that they will make you look taller than everyone else (unfortunate fashion-victims that they are). Even a well-shaped jacket can be sabotaged by slacks, skirts, or trousers that hang below it. Last night’s Academy Awards brought out a cavalcade of men whose crotches landed below the bottom edge of their jackets–poor misguided fellows, yet rich enough to get it right. Overly long slacks creating a puddle of fabric on top of men’s shoes do not lengthen their legs visually–they just look wretchedly tailored.

A tasteful and reliable source for elegant, durable tweed jackets and trousers is Bookster U.K. They will guide you through the ordering process, and see to it that your clothes have an actual waist, so that your investment isn’t a waste. The clothes are made by Bookster in England. There are plenty of British and American companies that copy the traditional English styles, but have them made inexpensively in China. Yet, these clothes are crafted the old-fashioned way, close to where the fabrics are milled in the United Kingdom. It may take a couple of months to have a great pair of trousers or elegant jackets made, but you just might be wearing them for a lifetime. Bookster U.K. is a small operation with a huge reputation for customer service and fine clothing. They specialize in equestrian and tweed clothes, which are perfect for town and country.

Don’t let hip-hop fashion and cheap clothing manufacturers dictate your style. It is time for an uprising against the tyranny of low-rise clothing.


~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton; February 23rd, 2009

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