By Marylou Luther

Illustration by Oscar de la Renta

Dear Marylou:  Is a ruffle dress too feminine to wear in this age of gender blending?__B.B., Houston, TX.

Dear B.B.:  It’s okay to look feminine.  Just as it’s okay to look masculine.

To me, the ruffle is a fashion classic that always remains worth rebooting.

The dress illustrated here is by the late great Oscar de la Renta,  a designer I consider the ultimate romanticist.  And fashion is once again speaking the romance language.  De la Renta’s romantic ruffles were never overtly sexy, a fact that probably made his clothes so acceptable for first ladies.  By my count, the Santo Domingo-born designer dressed more first ladies than any other designer.  Think Jacqueline Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, the two Bushes and Michelle Obama.

Dear Marylou:  Is there any yardstick to use in predicting when a certain look from the past is worthy to  be repeated?__N.T.E., Los Angeles, CA.

Dear N.T.E.:  Back in the day, the day before the Internet and streaming and drop-ing, the going theory was that fashion repeats itself every seven years.  Trash that idea.  Today’s technology has changed all that.  In spring/summer fashion, The ‘70s and ‘80s are major, with The ‘50s and ‘30s also in the step-and-repeat mode.  Outer space is on the radar.  This appropriation of ideas from the past means that fashion is less predictable, but more accommodating of different needs, different attitudes, different cultures, different geographics.  To their credit, designers are bringing most of these remembrances of times past with new fabrics, new fabric manipulations and new accessories.  (And to reiterate my contention that ruffles are classics, they are one of a limited number of dressmaking techniques that always seem to look relevant.)

Dear Marylou:  Now that the award shows are over, what do you see as the biggest fashion takeaways?__N.K., Iron Mountain , MI.

Dear N.K.:  The big fashion cliché I wish designers would take away is the gown with the stick-your-leg-out-up-to-the- thigh level.  You know, the dress Angelina Jolie made famous at the 2012 Oscars, and the one I wish would go down in fashion infamy.  To me, it has gone from vulgar to dumb.

While there were no real trends at the Golden Globes, Grammies,  Critics’ Choice, Screen Actors Guild, BAFTAs, etc., the red carpet looks did seem to reiterate fashion’s anything-goes continuum.  Innovation?  Not so much.

Dear Marylou:  How does a tailored type like me make the transition from man-tailored clothes to more feminine looks?—G.H., Boston, MA.

Dear G.H.:  Who says you have to?  If you have selected  a look that suits you, stick with it.  If you really want to try some feminine touches, consider wearing your blazer with a ruffled skirt, wearing your pinstriped pants with a lace blouse or wearing your tailored coat with a decorative belt.  Or, if you’re brave, with a corseted bustier.


Marylou welcomes questions for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally. Please send your questions in.

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