Clotheslines by Marylou Luther

      Q: Dear Marylou: Why are The ‘80s so popular with designers today?__J.J., Boston, MA.

 Karl Lagerfeld illustration of wide shouldered dress

illustration by Karl Lagerfeld

              Dear J.J.: What a great question! Tom Ford told me that designers are most influenced by what was in fashion as they first became aware of fashion. He says that for him that period was The ‘70s. Given the fact that many of today’s designers are younger than Tom (he’s 58), The ‘80s might well be their decade of inspiration.

             The one man who probably had more influence on American fashion in the late ‘70s and ‘80s than all the designers combined is John Molloy. His “Dress for Success” book, had as much to do with how the woman executive of The ‘80s looked as any other single factor. Molloy’s findings elevated the jacket as the mantle of authority and gave birth to the woman in the suit and attache case. 

            The one designer who fit Molloy’s dress code to a T was/is Giorgio Armani. It is no accident that Armani’s popularity began and his statement on androgyny—his big-shouldered jackets and man-pants and/or woman-skirts was issued during Molloy’s most influential years.

             The ‘80s replay for 2020 takes those wide shoulders as inspiration. They are literally sizing up tomorrow. Thinking big. Turning up the volume, as seen in our illustration from the late Karl Lagerfeld’s fall l979/l980’s collection for Chloe. Inflation is proving to be a good thing—at least in fashion.


          Q: Dear Marylou: Do you see any overall, underlying trend amidst all the mini-trends shown on spring runways?__ D.E., Los Angeles, CA.


                 Dear D.E.:  Marilyn Kirschner, the truly exceptional editor-in-chief of Lookonline, gave the perfect answer in her column “Fashion Treats: From Faux Pas to Fabulous”. To wit:

                 “It’s all about being unique, individual and perfectly imperfect. The way I see it, one literally cannot have a wardrobe malfunction, a fashion emergency, or a fashion misstep. In fact, accidents, injuries and maladies can even be turned into fashion moments.”

                  Kirschner cites Christian Louboutin’s shoes with red soles as an example of an accident giving birth to an iconic symbol. Here’s her explanation:

                 “The red sole was born one afternoon when a prototype of a shoe inspired by Andy Warhol’s ‘Flowers’ arrived in the hands of Louboutin, who found the shoe a little dull. Fortunately, an assistant was painting her nails red at the time of the arrival of the shoe, and Louboutin had the unique idea of using it to cover the dreary black sole, and so the iconic red sole was made.”

                  Similarly, an accident also occasioned the late great Isabel Toledo’s famous “art attack” print of 2008. As Kirschner reports, “It was inspired by an incident in which her artist husband Ruben accidentally smeared a dress with paint.

                “So the next time you accidentally spill something on a beloved piece of clothing, instead of trying to clean it, use it as a blank canvas to channel your inner Jackson Pollack. The recent runways were filled with great examples of paint-spattered designs. Among the best were Sterling Ruby’s unisex pieces for spring.”


           Q: Dear Marylou: Is gender fluidity still a fashion-fluid factor at what they’re calling brick-and-mortar retail? __ G.R., Cleveland, OH.


                   Dear G.R.: I love Norma Kamali’s view: “Shopping experience can be fun again if we eliminate the men’s department and women’s department and label styles with sizes for all.


            Q: Dear Marylou:  As a fashion student I’m especially interested in textiles. Denim seemed to be all over the runways for next spring.  Which looks do you find most creative? __ N.K., New York, NY.

                 Dear N.K.: The tie-dye and ombre denims by Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior were exceptional.  If you haven’t already, check them out online.

(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.