Clotheslines by Marylou Luther

             Q: Dear Marylou:  Has the athleisure trend in men’s clothes threatened the life of suits?__ E.K., Cleveland, OH.

Jeffrey Banks suit illustration

illustration by Jeffrey Banks

         Dear E.K.:   I agree with menswear designer/author/historian Jeffrey Banks that athleisure as a major menswear trend “has gone about as far as it can go”.
        And so, he says, “the pendulum has begun to swing back again to tailoring, with an emphasis on "softer tailoring”, pointing out that menswear, much more so than womenswear, “moves at a snail’s pace”.  Here are the specifics of the look:
      “A broader, but not stiff jacket shoulder, and looser pants, some even with pleats, mimicking somewhat the looser feel of hoodies and sweatpants.  To add notes of both comfort and casualness, the shoe de rigueur is the white-soled leather or suede sneaker.”
      Banks says neckwear is “a wee bit wider, and, in particular, silk knit ties are popular for adding that dressy/casual note to dressing up.”
      You could call it menswear’s journey from downtown to uptown.  With stopovers!


    Q: Dear Marylou:  Is it true that Generation Xers actually prefer variations on fashions from the past over anything actually new?__ H.A.B., Hogansville, GA.      

               Dear H.A.B.:   It kind of looks like it.  With more than 82 million Xers accounting for $125 billion in buying power, the generation of 38-to-54-year-olds represents a formidable consumer base that has been credited with the current fixation on fashion replays from the past.
   Xer-cists who study this age group say they differ from all previous generations because they not only deny stealing from the past, they claim to have invented everything they co-opt.  Generation Xers, please comment here.


    Q: Dear Marylou:  As a design student I am researching the curative power of color.  Any new evidence?__ B.B., New York, NY.        

               Dear B.B:   Color experts are citing the rainbow’s often overlooked psychological benefits.  Here are some of their predictions:
   Women will wear pink to cure a depression, green to get rid of a headache, white for protection, purple for spiritual guidance, blue to soothe, red to excite, etc.  One expert, Dr. Beulah Bennett, suggests that shades yet to be extracted from space will actually relieve pain and restore health, both physical and mental.   Where?  You know, somewhere over the rainbow!


    Q: Dear Marylou:  Why are print dresses and jackets so expensive?  They have risen in price far more than plain fabrics as well as floral prints.__ V.S., Iron Mountain, MI.

               Dear V.S.:   If a dress or jacket is digitally printed—as many of the more colorful and exotic prints are today—it will cost about twice as much as if it were screen-printed.  Experts say this is due to the high costs of digital inks.  For example:  Screen printing—the traditional method of printing until digitals came along—pushes colors through a mesh screen, one color at a time.  Digital printing is a computer process that applies ink directly to a garment and allows for lots of colors, hence the more vibrant prints that now abound.

(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 do you see as the most indispensable accessory ahead?  Shoe?  Bag?  Scarf? Jewelry?__ J.J., New York, NY.

 Patricia Underwood hat illustration            
illustration by Patricia Underwood

          Dear J.J.:   None of the above.  To me, the accessory that can change a look from commonplace to special is the hat.  For warm weather, the wide-brimmed straw hat.  For now, the fedora—specifically, a black fedora—the cowboy, the Homburg and the trilby are all heads up. Note that all have brims.  No beanies.  No buckets.  No berets.  If you can’t find these male-derived hats in the women’s department, check men’s departments, men’s stores or men’s hats online.  Prices will be predictably less than similar styles created for women.


     Q: Dear Marylou:  Who created the Pharrell Williams hat?__ R.T., Columbia, MO.

                 Dear R.T.:   I answered this when Williams first became hat-famous, so, to repeat, his brown felt Dudley Do-Right hat was designed in l982 by Vivienne Westwood.  Since that time, the hat has seldom left his head, and he himself has become a designer, creating sunglasses for Marc Jacobs, jewelry for Louis Vuitton, a fragrance for Comme des Garcons, a line of jeans made from recycled plastic bottles for Bionic Yarn, a shirt collection for Uniqlo and a series of limited-edition T-shirts inspired by the song “Happy”.

     Q: Dear Marylou:  You once suggested making black ballet slippers look black-tie-worthy by decorating their vamps with clasp earrings.  Any other ideas?__ B.Y., Denver, CO.

                Dear B.Y.:   Yes.  Attach big black satin bows at the vamps.  Or wear your ballet slippers with exotic socks.

     Q: Dear Marylou:  I love all the printing and writing and hand-painting and tie-dyeing  on T-shirts.  Who started the decorated T-shirt?__ T.O.,Kent, OH.

              Dear T.O.:   Historian Jane Turnis says the decorated T-shirt was born by accident.  “In 1960, Rick Ralston, a skinny California kid just out of high school, decided to spray-paint designs on beach towels and sell them.  He practiced by printing a monster on a T-shirt.  His business plan and American fashion changed forever when a tourist bought the shirt off his back.
   “Ralston and a friend went to work painting monsters, surfers and hot rods on T-shirts that tourists bought from a local sporting goods store.  They charged $2.85 per shirt.  A few years later Ralston opened the first store devoted solely to selling T-shirts and sweatshirts, and he switched to screen printing.  T-shirt fans took expression into their own hands during the Vietnam War, when hippies painted on peace signs.
   “Motorcycle and hot rod logos were emblazoned across the chests of l960s and early 1970s T-shirts.  Phrases such as ‘Keep on Truckin’, marijuana symbols  and bright paints that glowed under black lights became trademarks of the era.
   Nothing epitomizes the ‘me generation’ better than people wearing dot-pattern pictures of themselves on the T-shirts in the 1980s.
  “In 1990 school officials cringed when Matt Groening’s badly-behaving Simpsons characters marched into grade schools on T-shirts.”
   And so on to today.


(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.