Clotheslines by Marylou Luther


          Q: Dear Marylou:  What is the difference between unisex, cross-dressing, drag, gender bending and gender lending?__ A.M., Cleveland, OH.


Gender Neutral illustration by Norma Kamal


        Dear A.M.:  Love your question and love New York design legend Norma Kamali’s answer.
  “Gender neutral or gender fluid is not a fashion trend.  It’s a movement.  In The ‘70s, 50% of my client base in my New York store were men, I was presenting a women’s collection and men were expressing their personal style through all types of clothing.  Mick Jagger was doing femme better than anyone, and David Bowie was blurring minds.  Boys were feeling their feminine side and style was authentic, original and amazing.  Rock stars like Jimmy Hendrix inspired people to be as creative in style as he was with his music.  Studio 54 became the place where it all came together, where the very rich, the celebrities, the creatives in fashion, film, music, design, writers and artists all shared the dance floor in a never-before-seen comingling.
   “Then it all came to an abrupt end.  AIDS shut it down in the most devastating, insidious attack on friends and family.  Fast forward to Now.
    Gen Z is all about blurred lines, and the feminine side for men is the norm.  Women with all of their/our new feminist achievements are proudly in touch with their masculine side.  Gen Z couples are friends.  They are kind; they share responsibilities.  They are, by generation, intrinsically gender fluid.”
    By the time you read this, Kamali’s collection of gender neutral clothes, ranging from tops, bottoms and outerwear, will be available on her website.  Sizing will be explained.  The general price range is from $95 to $1,550.  The price of the allover-fringe gender neutral designs in her illustration is $695. 


       Q: Dear Marylou:  Fringe seems to be “a happening” for spring, by all measures of trending.  Why?__ J.A., New York, NY.

               Dear J.A.:   As trend-setter Rick Owens put it…
     “Diana Vreeland once said that fringe is the most exciting part of the most exciting periods.”  It is certainly one of the distinguishing characteristics of the new gender neutral clothes, as seen in the Kamali illustration here. To the best of my knowledge, the list includes Brandon Maxwell, Jason Wu, Altuzarra, Club Monaco and J. Crew.


   Q:  Dear Marylou:  What do you see as the major determinant of fashion’s future in this crazy world?__ D.J.T., Hogansville, GA.

             Dear D.J.T.:  As you may have perceived by now, this column is about what others see as changing the face of fashion in 2019--others I respect for their fashion savvy.  This reply to your question comes from Samantha Dyer, a beauty authority I admire for her astute, discerning takes on fashion now.  
  “Fashion has evolved from a collective agreement of taste to an individual expression of self.  That individualism is seen now across all spectrums that were not previously included:  gender blending, all sizes, disabilities and all ethnicities.  When you next catch yourself placing someone in a box that was predefined by archaic style requirements, instead nod to yourself and acknowledge that you are witnessing what that person decides is an outward embodiment of their quintessence.  Every person has a different view on what acceptable clothing composition should be, but the beauty of the current environment is that each view is celebrated as well as respected.


   Q: Dear Marylou:  How important is the dream factor in fashion?__ H.Y., Los Angeles, CA.

             Dear H.Y.:  Here’s Ralph Lauren on that subject as he celebrates his 50th anniversary as a designer:
    “I don’t design clothes, I design dreams.”  Or:  “People ask how can a Jewish kid from the Bronx do preppy clothes.  Does it have to do with class and money?  It was to do with dreams.”


  (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.