Clotheslines by Marylou Luther

                Q: Dear Marylou: You’ve discussed this before, but I still don’t get it:  Why are so many designers so involved in clothes from the past? __ E.F., New York, NY.

Karl Lagerfeld Chanel dress illustration


illustration by Karl Lagerfeld

                       Dear E.F:   Re-making history has “always” been a fashion tool.  Think kimonos from the 5th Century and their likeness to today’s wrap dresses.  In the recent spring previews, the Victorian era (1837-1901) was a favorite period recall.  So were the Downton Abbey years (1912-1926). And who could miss the revivals of The ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s’, ‘80s and ‘90s.  Some of the comebacks are literal—well, almost.  And that is now called appropriation.  Others are more “inspired by” and “homages to”.
                       Of all the lookbacks, those emanating from Dior’s New Look of 1947 and its progeny from The ‘50s are, to me, the most worthy to repeat. The full-but-not-petticoated dress illustrated here looks believably of tomorrow even though it’s from the Chanel archives.
                      If there’s an answer to your question I would say the step-and-repeats are a combination of reverence for the past and fear of the future.  



         Q: Dear Marylou: As designers rediscover the past, what textiles have they retrieved? __ H.M., Kent, OH.

                      Dear H.M.:   Tie-dye fabrics are not dying.  Their revival, especially at Versace in Milan, is truly remarkable.  If you want to try this dye method, here are some guidelines:
                       Fold or gather sections of fabric, then tightly tie with string or cover with clamped wooden blocks.  The fabric is dyed and the portion of fabric beneath the tie or blocks is prevented from absorbing dye, giving an undyed pattern on a colored ground.  
                      The basic equipment for tie dyeing is still a pot, heat, water, string, dye and fabric.  The most basic tie-dye knot is the rosette, achieved when a section of fabric is pinched up and tied tightly at the base with string or a rubber band.  Adding more ties along the length of fabric gives a sunburst effect.  Knots can be dyed one or more colors.  For more information, go to



         Q: Dear Marylou: I love to tie-dye, and recently heard about a new method called shibori.  Where can I learn more about this? __ B.R., Newman, GA.

                       Dear B.R:   First off, shibori is not new.  It’s a traditional handcrafted Japanese textile art that dates to the 8th Century.  And its new status is part of fashion’s rediscovery of past treasures.  The unique patterns are created by allover tucking and gathering—sometimes knotting—before dyeing.  The Paris-based design wiz who knows most about this art form is Maurizio Galante of Interware.  You can reach  him at



         Q: Dear Marylou: You said you would keep us posted on whether or not Tom Ford wore a tie as he took his runway bow at the end of his spring collection.  I have not seen any photos of that moment, so??? __ E.F.G., Los Angeles, CA.

                        Dear E.F.G.:   Ford did not wear a tie.




(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: What can I do with my black wool hoodie to take it out of
“the neighborhood”? __
K.W., New York, NY.

Geoffrey Beene feminized hoodie illustration

 illustration by Geoffrey Beene

                 Dear K.W.:   You can bring it into a new neighborhood by feminizing it with a lace edging, as per this design from the late great Geoffrey Beene.  Just as fashion did a “man up” a few seasons ago, fashion is now are in a “girl-up” mode.  (As well as gender fluid mode, a femme fatale mode, call-girl come-on mode, warrior, debutante, vixen, lady-in-waiting, princess—and other expressions of diversity in sexuality.


         Q: Dear Marylou: Like many of my friends, I have bridesmaid dresses lingering in my closet.  Any ideas for de-altaring a full-skirted pink satin strapless dress that ends just short of my ankles?  Or a long peach chiffon sheath dress with a bustier top? __ N.S.E., Kansas City, MO.

                 Dear N.S.E.:   Cut off the pink satin dress to just below the knees or thereabouts and join the opposites attract mode by cinching it with an oversized rugged leather belt or a cowboy belt.  If that doesn’t appeal to you, wear the foreshortened dress with a jeans jacket or a parka.  
   For the peach dress, cut it in two.  Wear the bustier with a long black skirt or short black pencil skirt.  Wear the skirt with a white T-shirt.


         Q: Dear Marylou: I will only wear clothes made in America of American fabrics and am looking for a man’s leather jacket.  The only ones I see are either not made here or no one can tell where the leather comes from.  Can you help? __ J.J., Boston MA.

                 Dear J.J.:   America’s own Schott Bros., who supplied leather bomber jackets to the U.S. Air Force during World War II and whose Perfecto motorcycle jacket was worn by Marlon Brando in "The Wild Ones”, is a great source for all kinds of leather jackets.  Historic note:  One year after Brando debuted the Perfecto it skyrocketed.  The new love for speed ended the leather-jacket-as-hoodlum scenario.  At least for a time.  To see a range of leather jackets  that meet your criteria, go to


         Q: Dear Marylou: I have a black velvet cardigan jacket with matching tunic and pants.  Are they dated?  If yes, any ideas for renewing? __ A.M., Peoria, IL.

                  Dear A.M.:   Your threesome is definitely up to date.  Velvet is back in the fashion spotlight.  If you don’t want to wear all three pieces together, a black cardigan would look great with a white shirt and black and white striped pants.  A black tunic partnered with a white skirt and a black-and-white tweed jacket would give a more tailored look.  And your black pants can also work under a mid-calf length print dress or white silk wrap jacket.


(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.