Clotheslines by Marylou Luther

           Q: Dear Marylou:  If stick-your-leg-out slits in evening dresses are a cliché, as you assert, why do I see so many in the spring designer previews?__K.K., Cleveland, OH.
              Way Zen of JSong Gown For Night illustration

illustration by Way Zen

             Dear K.K:  Because sex sells.  And because that split-to-the-hip Versace gown Jennifer Lopez poked her leg out of almost 20 years ago got a major reprise, and standing ovation,  in September when she modeled a revised version at Versace’s show, the “movement” is almost assured of a new step and repeat presence on red carpets “everywhere”.  Lopez’s appearance in the revival, was arguably the break-out/leg-out moment of the Milan fashion week.
            To me, it may have a leg-up on the red carpet (it was also a favorite at the September Grammys) and as an historic game-changer,  but it’s still a cliché.
            Much more of the moment is Way Zen‘s made-in-New York evening dress for JSong illustrated here.  As she explains:
             “Green, (as in the green chiffon of her dress),  is the seed of happiness—happiness which can live for generations.  Yellow, (as in the polyester crepe band),  IS happiness.”  Together, the two colors say to me that the future is not only secure, but joyful, and in Way Zen’s hands, their partnering is almost as euphoric as it is topical—as in the fact that saffron yellow is color authority Pantone’s number two color pick for 2020 and green is number four. (For the record, scarlet is number one and classic blue is number three.)  For more information, go to


      Q: Dear Marylou:  I am living proof that as you get older you shrink.  Almost all my pants are now puddling.  Without the expense of a seamstress, any ideas?__P.R.R., Baltimore, MD.

                  Dear P.R.R. Yes.  Follow the lead of designer Paul Andrew of Salvatore Ferragamo, as he showed in his recent spring fashion preview, and put a string around your pants at the ankles and blouse the excess fabric above, thereby creating your own pants with drawstring hem.


            Q: Dear Marylou: Of all the colors designers showed for spring, which one shade rang a bell with you?__H.T., Luthersville, GA.

                   Dear H.T.:  I don’t mean to demean the Pantone color experts in their choices, but, for me, the non-color, white looks right for spring.  It is the final word in simplicity and purity and space, as in the white vinyl go-go boots of the space-age ‘60s.  The first astronauts wore white suits because white deflected the 275-degree heat of sunlight in space.


             Q: Dear Marylou:  Many fashion experts are saying street fashion is over.  When did it start?__J.K., Newark, NJ.

                    Dear J.K.:  The first time fashion ever came from the street was in The’60s.  Credit London’s Mods and Rockers as the innovators.  The times were as high as the skirts—and some of the people.  The ‘60s were also the first time mothers wanted to look like their daughters, the first time skirts reached the hips and the first tine man walked on the moon.  From street walking to moon walking, with all the attendant nuances…


(Marylou welcomes questions for use in this column, but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.  Send your questions to

 ©2019 International Fashion Syndicate

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       Q: Dear Marylou:  In this chaotic world, why isn’t fashion providing some wit and humor to cheer us up? ___ A.K., Philadelphia, PA.

Christian Francis Roth Breakfast Treat illustration

illustration by Christian Francis Roth

            Dear A.K.:  Because retailers tend to be skeptical about the salability of humor, you are most likely to see the wittiest in designer-owned boutiques.
             With the exception of designers like Moschino’s Jeremy Scott, Maison Margiela’s John Galliano and a few others, the fun side of fashion is indeed not very funny.  But from now to May 20 if you go to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, Anna Wintour Costume Center, you can see and smile at the wit, humor and creativity in Christian Francis Roth’s “Breakfast Suit” illustrated here.  
             The multi-awarded designer,  who is featured in the “In Pursuit of Fashion :  Sandy Schreier”exhibition, along with design legends Paul Poiret, Mariano Fortuny, Jeanne Lanvin, Karl Lagerfeld and Elsa Schiaparelli, says the suit in his illustration was designed  30 years ago for his  spring 1990 collection.
            “I was inspired by imaginative comic strips from the early 1900s, especially one Chuck JonesBugs Bunny cartoon called ‘Duck Amuck’.  In his story a giant brush would enter the screen and alter the scenery, wardrobe and even the characters.  It made me think, what if a woman wore a simple black linen suit all of a sudden a brush appeared and painted two fried eggs on it.  The result:  I shaped the front of the jacket to follow the curves of the egg white appliques, the yolks were buttons, etc.”
            So what inspires Roth today?
           “To use the same philosophy as Duck Amuck, the pun quite intended, I feel we’ve painted ourselves into a corner regarding climate change.  Designers can no longer afford to produce apparel at the scale we have in the past.  The fabric production and discarded garments are contributing to pollution in a meaningful way.  What inspires me today is to work on designs that help the environment, or at least help to reduce pollution.  As a creative mending idea, I am now focused on patching up garments my customers can bring to me for repair—to add a bit of novel creativity to a well-loved garment and give it new life.”
           To see more of Roth’s pop art motifs, which include barking dogs, clothespins, dance step patterns and more, go to his website:


           Q: Dear Marylou:  What’s the latest on fashion designers helping to reduce pollution? ___ W. M., Denver, CO.

                  Dear W.M.:  One of fashion’s most ecology-committed designers, Eileen Fisher, has an entire section of her website, devoted to such information as:
                  Switching to cold water in your washing machine can cut your energy impact by up to 90 percent.
                 Conventional dryers are a huge energy culprit.  Line drying preserves fibers—and the life of your clothes.



           Q:  Dear Marylou:  I’m interested in the so-called transformable clothes.  Is there anything new on that front?__ J.K., New York, NY.

                    Dear J.K.:  Yes!  Virgil Abloh, artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear, has designed a capsule collection of 14 items that includes a coat that transforms into a backpack, a shirt that converts to a pillow and an oversize duffel with a side compartment that contains a sleeping bag.  You can see the collection, labeled Louis Vuitton 2054, at Manhattan’s Vuitton store, 122 Greene Street.


             Q: Dear Marylou:  My wardrobe is mainly black, white, navy with pops of red and pink.  Are there “new” fashion-approved  shades with the lasting power of my favorites? __ H.H., Dallas, TX.

                      Dear H.H.:  Another yes!  They’re being touted as the new neutrals.  Think khaki, grey, olive green, mustard, burnt orange.  To some generations they were classics.  To today’s fashion-caring generations they’re “on trend”.  While nothing will ever replace black as “the new black”, these new neutrals, especially beige/khaki, look like contenders. 


(Marylou welcomes questions for use in this column, but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.  Send your questions to

 ©2019 International Fashion Syndicate


previous Clotheslines


Q: Dear Marylou:  $2, 700 for a slip dress/nightgown?  I don’t get it.  Is anyone that gullible? Please explain. __ B.B.R., Cleveland, OH.

The Slip Comes Out Lingerie Dress illustration by Yelena

illustration by Yelena

                        Dear B.B.R.:  Maybe the slip dress/gown is cut on the bias.  Maybe it’s embroidered on the bodice with jewels.  Maybe the satin fabric is double-face silk.  And maybe, most importantly, it’s by a famous designer whose imprimatur is priceless—kind of.
                        If you’re in the market for a more affordable slip dress/nightgown, all is not lost.  Just go to your favorite lingerie store or favorite lingerie department in a department store or online.  At, you will find slip dresses and slip nightgowns from $22.99 to $70—remarkable reality renditions that inspired the four-figure numbers in designer boutiques.  Not everything you find will be this inexpensive, but as innerwear “comes out”, this is the time to shop for the real lingerie that inspired the designer lingerie uptakes.
                       (Personal revelation:  The black lace peignoir I wore on my honeymoon has become one of my all-time favorite “jackets”, and it’s still in good shape!)


                      Q: Dear Marylou:  With designers apparently fixated on bringing back the past, is there any never-before look for spring—something really new? __ I.B., LaGrange, GA.

                           Dear I.B.:  For something I’ve never seen before on the runway, there’s the look of wearing a bra on top of your dress or jacket.  It’s all part of the new outing of underwear.  If you want to give it a go, you could layer your little black dress with a colored bra.  Or your single-breasted jacket with double-breasted bra.  For a large selection of bras available in gray, ivory, nude, orange, pink, purple and red, go to (editor:  yes, there’s supposed to be a question mark there.)


                     Q: Dear Marylou:  A 5 ft. 9 in., I’m always disappointed in the pants offered in local tall-girl shops.  They are too classic and the fabrics are not high quality.  Is there a catalog specialist I should try? __ A.W., Baltimore, MD. 


                            Dear A.W.:  Get ready to smile!  Because the pants on spring runways were of all lengths—hotpants, short shorts, Bermudas, Capris, mid-calf lengths, ankle lengths, palazzos, flares and puddlers __ you can soon choose whatever length pleases you from the designer of your choice.


                   Q: Dear Marylou:  Is there any new accessory you could  recommend as a fashion updater? __ M.W., Flint, MI.


                          Dear M.W.:  In addition to the bra mentioned above, I choose anklets aka ankle socks.  When Miuccia Prada wears ankle socks with pumps you know this is a look certain to trend.


(Marylou welcomes questions for use in this column, but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.  Send your questions to

 ©2019 International Fashion Syndicate



Marylou Luther, editor of the International Fashion Syndicate, writes the award-winning Clotheslines column, a question-and-answer fashion advice feature read weekly by more than 5 million.
In addition to her syndicated newspaper column, Luther is the creative director of The Fashion Group International, a non-profit organization for the dissemination of information on fashion, beauty and related fields. Her twice-yearly audio-visual overviews of the New York, London, Milan and Paris ready-to-wear shows are must-seeing/reading for industry leaders. Her coverage of the European collections appears in newspapers throughout the U.S.
The former fashion editor of The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Des Moines Register is biographied in “Who’s Who in America.” She won the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s coveted Eugenia Sheppard award for fashion journalism, the Women in Communications award and, in 2004, the Accessories Council’s Marylou Luther Award for Fashion Journalism, which will be given every year in her name.
Her essays have appeared in “The Rudi Gernreich Book”, “Thierry Mugler: Fashion, Fetish, Fantasy”, “The Color of Fashion”, “Todd Oldham Without Boundaries” and “Yeohlee: Work.” A book with Geoffrey Beene was published in September, 2005. A graduate of the University of Nebraska, where she received the prestigious Alumni Achievement award, Luther is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Kappa Tau Alpha, Theta Sigma Phi and Gamma Phi Beta.