CLOTHESLINES: The New Seduction, by Marylou Luther


The New Seduction, by MARYLOU LUTHER



Q   DEAR MARYLOU:  I have two cleavage-baring cocktail dresses I am reluctant to wear because they seem a little too “overt” now.  I’m 38, size 10 and attend quite a few work-related cocktail parties.  Any advice?   N.J.S., Los Angeles, CA.


 Illustration by Gai Mattiolo


DEAR N.J.S.:  Gai Mattiolo, the Italian designer who created the dress illustrated here, calls his new neckline  “a balance of elegance and seduction”—a balance he achieves here by layering his dress with low draping bodice over a shirt.  If your cleavage-baring dresses don’t seem to want to go over a shirt, try layering over a blouse, T-shirt, dickey, corselette or a chest-full of necklaces. Or wear your dresses as is and stuff a beautiful chiffon handkerchief between your breasts.  Or draw attention away from the neckline by accessorizing with oversized earrings and jeweled headband.  Or go ahead, be overt and wear your dresses with the necklines they came with.  There are no fashion police these days.





Q   DEAR MARYLOU:  With the red carpet season now in full swing, what trend would you bet on as being the best save-the-planet look?  D.D., New York, NY.


   DEAR D.D.:  Just as two years ago, when female stars wore all black to the Golden Globes to show solidarity with the #MeToo movement, I would suggest wearing green to express sustainability support. 



 Q DEAR MARYLOU:  Tell us more about the preppies and why they seem relevant now for men, especially.  T.O., Denver, CO.


   DEAR T.O.:  In this time of lookbacks, sequels, re-plays, everything-old- is-new- again, preppies are another expression of today’s relevance factor.  Their khakis (aka chinos), seersucker suits, wide-wale corduroy pants and deck shoes are once again timely.  And, as it says in The Official Preppy Handbook:   “The pairing of the pink and the green is the surest and quickest way to group identification within  the Prep set…no one else in his right mind would sport such a chromatically improbable juxtaposition.” 

   So what started in the early 1900s and became the uniform at Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton in The Fifties is studied now in fashion schools coast to coast.




Q  DEAR MARYLOU:  I wear a size 40DD bra and a size 10 dress—whenever I can find one to accommodate my bustline.  What necklines are best for me?  E.L., Baltimore, MD.


   DEAR E.L.:  Best for what?  If you want to make your bosom look more proportionate to the rest of your body, the wrap dress will do just that.  The kimono is a wrap closing, and that closing is one of the reasons it has lasted for centuries.  Once again, thanks to all the fashion comebacks, the wrap dress is once again enwrapturing the fashion universe.


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

Send your questions to

   © 2020 International Fashion Syndicate




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Q: Dear Marylou:  At this time when designers seem to be zeroing in on functional clothes, what is your pick as the most multi-functional evening gown design for spring? __ U.R., Kent, OH.Twofer Gown by Luisa Beccaria

illustration by Luisa Beccaria

                      Dear U.R.:  My vote goes to the Luisa Beccaria-designed twofer illustrated here.  Instead of creating a printed see-through gown with an attendant  solid-color slip, this multi-awarded Italian designer creates twin floral prints for the gown and the slip, layering one over the other in two separate fabrics.—the outer layer in sheer lace, the under in jersey (the underslip intended to be worn independently). This double duty twosome can be ordered at and/or


         Q: Dear Marylou:  What technological invention do you see changing the way clothes are made? __ E.S., Newark, NJ.

                       Dear E.S.:  Without getting too technical about it, I see the new designs by Noir Kei Ninomiya as inventive because they are assembled without sewing.  The designer, who began his career as a pattern maker for Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, creates garments such as biker blousons with attachments that curl around the body like exoskeletons, shirts peeked from under sculptural wrappings and a dress composed of long strips of green tulle threaded around large rings to fix them into place and finished with heat-bonded strips to create a marabou effect.  For more on this designer, go to this link at


         Q: Dear Marylou:  I have a strapless, royal blue formal dress made of 100% acetate.  It has stains on the bodice, back and underarm areas—stains that resulted from wearing a short, black bolero jacket over the dress on a very warm night.  Is there a way I can dye the dress black or some other color to cover the stains ?__ J.T., Clarkston, MI.

                      Dear J.T.:  I took your question to the experts at Rit Dye, who say they don’t recommend dyeing your stained dress.  Their reason:  The high water temperatures required for dyeing are likely to alter the fiber, causing a crinkling effect.  They also caution anyone trying to cover stains by dyeing that unless the stains are removed before dyeing, the dye job will have the same stains or spots.  Their recommendation:  Take your dress to a drycleaner and hope he can remove the stains.
                      If the stains remain, why not cover the bodice of your dress—and the stains—with pearls, buttons, scrollwork, studs, fringe or hand-painting?


                  Q: Dear Marylou:  I’m getting married in February and would like to wear my grandmother’s wedding veil.  The lace is about 60 years old and it is limp and yellowed.  Where can I get it whitened and sized? __ T.M., Los Angeles, CA.

                       Dear T.M.:  I took your question to the textile conservator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, who offers this advice:
                      “Put the veil in a nylon net bag.  Prepare a solution of mild detergent such as Ivory in barely lukewarm water.  Suds it up so it foams.  Dip your bagged veil into the suds and press gently with your fingertips.  Do not rub vigorously.  Rinse twice in lukewarm water, then once more in distilled water.  If the veil is still limp, place it over waxed paper and press very carefully with a warm iron.  
                       Please let me know how it turns out.          


(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:  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


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.