Clotheslines by Marylou Luther

      Q: Dear Marylou:  I’ve been following the spring fashion previews and note that many designers are showing minis again.  Is this another example of designers getting stuck in the past—in this case, The ‘60s?. ___ V.L.M., Kent, OH.

Paul Chan, A Leg Up, Shorts illustration
illustration by Paul Chan

             Dear V.L.M.:   The past is indeed present again in the new spring designs.  But choice is also a big fashion factor.  For example, many designers offer skirt length options in the same collection.
            To me, shorts look newer than minis and less attached to any one decade.  They’re easier to wear and they will be available in fabrics for any time of day and almost any setting except for funerals.  You can pair them with T-shirts for weekends or with decorative blouses and strippy heels for dressy occasions.  And suit-them-up with a matching jacket for day.  Shorts from hotpants to Bermudas were cited as the must have item of the season by retailers both here and abroad.


          Q: Dear Marylou:  In a season you’ve described as anything goes, is anything out?__ R.M., Hogansville, GA.

                Dear R.M.:   I think wearing a white shirt dangling below the top of your choice—T-shirt, blouse, sweater, jacket—is endangered.  It’s still there, but it’s a cliché in my view.


      Q: Dear Marylou:  I have straight hips, a flat backside and am long-waisted.  I love to wear shorts but have an awful time finding ones that fit properly.  Any ideas? __ C.Y., Kansas City, MO.

                  Dear C.Y.:   Boxer-style shorts with elasticized waistlines are ideal for you because the gathers provide a fullness that disguises your flatness.  Avoid shorts with plain fronts.  Shorts cut with pleat fronts are also good illusionists.  
                  To disguise your long-waistedness, wear your shorts with tops in the same color.


      Q: Dear Marylou:  Do the clothes actresses wear on the red carpet have any effect on fashion? __ R.F., Newark, NJ.           

                  Dear R.F.:   Not since Angelina Jolie’s right leg-baring expose at the 2012 Oscars set off the red carpet trend that exists still today (and looks dated to me) has the red carpet swept up any fashion firsts.
                 It used to be that the clothes that set off trends were those worn in the movies.  As in Marlene Dietrich’s tuxedo by Travis Banton in “Morocco”—the first le smoking. (Thanks to Ralph Lauren’s September tuxedo fest, the tux is once again smoking.)  As in Marilyn Monroe’s crystal-pleated, halter-neck blow-up dress by William Travilla for “Seven Year Itch”.  And, arguably the most copied Hollywood dress of all time:  Hubert de Givenchy’s little black dress for Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

Clotheslines readers give us your vote
for the red carpet influencer of the moment here.


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

 ©2019 International Fashion Syndicate


previously Clotheslines column below

     Q: Dear Marylou:  You have written about the pussycat bow.  Why the name? __ S.K., Luthersville, GA.

Kenth Andersson pussycat bow illustration

 illustration by Kenth Andersson

                  Dear S.K.:   The pussycat bow takes its name from the bows tied around the neck of kittens, cats and the like.  Melania Trump brought it to attention (both praise and derision) when she wore it during her husband Donald Trump’s presidential debate in 2016, causing a tempest of sorts and a questionable choice for someone whose husband, in a leaked video, used the p-word to describe women’s anatomy.  Since then, many designers have purred over it as a quick way to join the new femininity without looking girly or call-girly.  I like Laird Borrelli-Personn’s observation for  “Think of it was a sign of covered-up conservatism served with a side of sugar.”


      Q: Dear Marylou:  In shopping for my engagement ring, my fiancé and I found a ring we both love, and can afford, but it has a flaw.  The flaw is totally undetectable to our eyes, but shows up in the jeweler’s loupe.  Should we buy it?__ E.B., Iron Mountain, MI.

                Dear E.B.:   If Gemstone expert Camilla Dietz Bergeron says not to be too insistent on a flawless diamond.  “While color and clarity are important considerations, a smaller flawless stone is not necessarily more desirable than a larger one with a slight or indistinguishable flaw.
               Sounds like good advice to me.


          Q: Dear Marylou:  Of all the major designers, who seems to be doing more to protect the environment? __ B.L., New York, NY.

                  Dear B.L.:   Stella McCartney was the first and now, Ralph Lauren, is breaking new ground.  In April, he introduced a collection of shirts made from plastic bottles and dyed without water.  In a recent 35-page report, the company committed to removing hazardous chemicals from its production by 2025.  It has already banned the use of mohair, angora and fur.
                According to the Lauren report, the apparel sector contributes about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.  The brand’s own operational energy consumption this fiscal year was 162,853 MWh, with a decrease of 4% from the previous year.  Much of that energy was attributed to use in its 320 stores.


     Q: Dear Marylou:  The 50th Woodstock anniversary seems to have brought back a lot of ethnic clothes.  What are some of the looks you believe will live post Woodstock? __ U.T.U., Omaha, NE.

                Dear U.T.U.:   Peruvian ponchos, African dashikis, Pakistani pants and Indian tunics are all part of this cultural appropriation.  I believe they all will be fashion-sanctioned for at least a season or two.  And then I look to the moon to inspire us.


(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.