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Piecing together a fashion trend: Marylou Luther

-06f03517c278a753.jpgIllustration by Peter Hidalgo.

By Marylou Luther

International Fashion Syndicate

Dear Marylou: Intarsia, patchwork, inlays, insets, collage— they’re all much talked about in the fall fashion previews. What is the difference between patchwork and intarsia? Between inlays and collage? – M.M., Staten Island, NY.

Dear M.M.: In the fashion context, they all refer to pieces of unrelated fabrics and patterns that have been joined to create a whole new look from fragmented parts.

Intarsia, an Italian word, originated in Italy during the Renaissance, and in its early usage it referred primarily to wood inlays used to create mosaic patterns. Collage originated in the art world as a technique for composing a work of art by joining materials not normally associated with each other, as in newspaper clippings, photographs, theater tickets, etc.

There are so many intarsias in the new fall collections that I call the trend inset-uous. In the U.S., designer Peter Hidalgo creates intarsias that are both artful and wearable. Born in the Dominican Republic and fashion-schooled at Parson’s The New School in New York, Hidalgo is also one the country’s most famous illustrators. He was taught by the late great Antonio Lopez, whose influence can be seen in work such as Hidalgo’s illustration here.

For more information on the designer, go to, where you will see many intarsia creations in his current spring collection.

Dear Marylou: I once read that there is a formula for determining your own best hemline—the one most flattering to the shape of your legs. If you know, please tell me. – T.A., Hogansille, GA.

Dear T.A.: Catherine Deneuve, who never changes the length of her skirts, says you can find your most flattering hemline by finding the point where your knee bends in back and measuring l/2-inch down. Coco Chanel always ended her skirts at the top of the calf—roughly the same spot as Deneuve suggests.

That said, right now is the perfect time to be bold and try several different hemlines—mini, knee-length, midi, maxi all are “in fashion”.

Dear Marylou: The cashmere dress I bought last fall is a little snug on me now, and there is no seam allowance. Is it possible to have such a dress blocked to give it a little more width in the hips? – D.T.A., Baltimore, MD.

Dear D.T.A.: It’s possible, but don’t do it until you’ve tried a simple procedure that works magic in whittling and firming. It’s called a panty girdle. In the current National catalog (, there are both regular length and long length versions. I recommend the latter if the snugness is mainly in the hips. Do know, of course, that curve-following dresses are no longer considered in bad taste. Like showing your bump, showing your butt is now de rigueur.

Dear Marylou: While traveling in Spain last month, I spilled some food made with olive oil on the front of my new black suit. The drycleaner there got the stain out but took the color out with it. The spot—about two inches in diameter—is midway down on the front of the jacket’s left side. The jacket itself is a fitted style with a high neckline and jet-black buttons.

I was thinking of having a pocket placed over the spot, but am not sure I can find a fabric match. I have an excellent dressmaker who can help me save the suit if you’ll provide the idea. Would a red pocket look ridiculous? And maybe red plastic buttons instead of the jets? – D.I., Newark, NJ.

Dear D.I.: Your red pocket/red buttons idea is not bad at all. You might also want to consider fronting your suit in an entirely different fabric. Tweeds, for example, were major in the fall previews. So are graphics such as black and white stripes. If you want to edge your jacket into evening, how about a silver or matelassé or brocade fabric? You might also think about asking your dressmaker to create several fronts that could be buttoned on and off as you desire.

(Marylou welcomes questions for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally. Send your questions to Clotheslines in care of this publication.)

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