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
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
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
The Ultimate Survival Garments
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
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.