Clotheslines by Marylou Luther

                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


previously Clotheslines column below

       Q: Dear Marylou:  I’ve just learned that I’m pregnant.  I don’t want to wear clothes that hug what will soon become my baby bump.  And I don’t want to be confined to tent dresses.  Any ideas?__ E.K., Newark, NJ.OH.            

Lynn Devon sarong illustration            
illustration by Lynn Devon

         Dear E.K:   Yes, the sarong (aka the pareo).  This tie-on, one of the original gender fluid items,  is widely available right now for both sexes because of fashion’s current obsession with the beach.  By tying one around your waist, a la our illustration, you not only disguise your bumpette, you also accommodate your post-delivery figure.  While you may worry that the look is for summer-only, if you buy or create a sarong in fabrics such as wool crepe, jersey or crepe de chine, your sarong will be catching fashion waves all year long.
       For the record:  While many link the sarong with the South Sea Islands, the term is believed to have originated in Yemen, where it is called a futahDorothy Lamour immortalized the sarong in fashion history by wearing it in “The Jungle Princess of 1936”, playing a Malaysian native wearing an Edith Head-designed sarong.  The actress went on to wear sarongs in six movies.


   Q: Dear Marylou:  As a fashion student, I’m always looking for the latest developments in technology as it affects fashion.  Please elucidate.__ J.J.P., Kent, OH.         

             Dear J.J.P.:   Ever a leader in recycling innovation, 3M has now come up with the first featherless down.  It’s the latest Thinsulate sustainability invention, and it’s an alternative insulation product made with 100% recycled plastic.  It will be on the market this fall and it was designed as a replacement for down and is said to retain its extreme warmth even under damp conditions.  


   Q: Dear Marylou:  As you have written, Tom Ford was arguably the first major designer to open his tuxedo shirt collar, forgoing a black tie at a black tie event.  Now that he is the president of the CFDA is he wearing a black tie?__ P.P.T., New York, NY.                                  

           Dear P.P.T:   At his runway appearance at the end of his fall 20l9 show, Ford wore an open collar.  At a black-tie July event, he wore a black tie.  Who knows what he will decide when he appears to take his runway bow and maybe his bow-tie at the end of his Sept.9 show for next spring?  I bet on a perfectly-tied black tie nestled under his immaculately shaved mini-beard.  Why?  Because it’s his first celebratory moment as the new CFDA head.  Time to tie one on.


   Q: Dear Marylou:  When I went to Mass last Sunday, a young woman, cradling a baby, appeared in shorts so short I would call them hotpants.  I’m all for women’s rights, but her choice seemed totally un-right.  Please comment.__ H.G., Cambridge, NE.

               Dear H.G:   I totally agree.  For the rites of a church ceremony, this was not a case of women’s rights, but of women’s wrongs.  I’m totally behind a woman’s right to wear shorts at any length she wants, but not anyWHERE she wants.
            Clotheslines readers please comment.


(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.