Dear Marylou: You have written about next spring's revivals of the 1920s. Are bias-cut gowns part of the remix? -- A.S., Staten Island, N.Y.
Dear A.S.: Yes! The evening dress in Marc Audibet's illustration is a bias-cut example from his time as Vionnet's designer. Madeleine Vionnet, who died in 1975, invented the bias cut -- fabric cut on the diagonal to the grain of the cloth, thereby enabling it to cling to the body while moving with the wearer. Until that time, most clothes were shaped by infrastructures that included boning and all sorts of corsetry.
Several designers have carried on her legacy, including the current Vionnet designers, Barbara and Lucia Croce.
The dress by Audibet, who has worked for Prada and Salvatore Ferragamo and is now on his own, is a masterpiece of geometric placement at the bodice and hips that allows the fabric to ease over the body into a short train.
Dear Marylou: What do you see as the most functional clothes ahead -- fashion-functional, that is. -- E.N., Cleveland
Dear E.N.: Of all the name designers, New York's Narciso Rodriguez showed the most creative double-duty clothes in his pre-fall collection for 2012. For example, he offers reversible coats with detachable fox-fur sleeves. As he explained: "I like things that are functional." (I say that function is also an unction for most women, and I predict he will have great success with these designs.)
Dear Marylou: With stores now pulsating with color and prints, I find it difficult to find neutral shades. To me, those two elements make clothes too memorable, and therefore short-lived. They also seem to evoke comments such as "That's so-and-so's purple dress" or "That's her geometric coat." Please comment. -- T.J.J., Newark, N.J.
Dear T.J.J.: I believe customers are attracted to color but don't always buy it. That said, in Texas and Florida and in Southern California, color sells measurably more than in cities like New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago. I think it has to do with the weather. Hot weather, hot colors.
Simon Doonan, Barneys New York's creative ambassador, has another take on color and the reason that less is more right now. As he opined in Slate, the top 1 percenters have adopted a nondescript way of dressing. "It's spare simplicity with fancy labels. It's a white gold Rolex that resembles a plain old tin Timex. It's L.L. Bean-style basics with haute-couture prices. This breathy, low-key mode of camouflage is described by its proponents as 'quiet luxury,' " Doonan said.
He went on to point out that the new sect he calls "The Quiet Luxurians" was exemplified by a woman he watched boarding a plane. "To the untrained eye, her sensible and discreetly accessorized slacks 'n' sweater ensemble rendered her all but invisible," he said. "Her monochromatic, tawny, fawny outfit was severely ascetic and suggested a raging antipathy toward self-indulgent glamour. And yet my estimate of the total cost of her outfit, including a T. Anthony nylon tote, Hermes purse, Tod's drivers and gold bangle? A quiet 25 grand."
If Doonan is right in psyching out trends -- and he usually is -- this could well be a moment for the beige and grays you seek in fashion's new neutral zone.
Dear Marylou: I'm appalled by the prices of alligator or crocodile belts -- the ones fashion magazines say are among the tippy-top trends of the season. Can you recommend a good imitation? -- E.P., Denver
Dear E.P.: Before you go to mock croc, try men's shops and men's departments in department stores, where real alligator belts are priced far below those of women's alligator belts. And don't worry too much if you have to buy a couple of sizes larger than your waistline requires. It's fashionable now to let the end of your belt dangle below your waist. If the dangling belt doesn't look right for your needs, ask the people at any shoe repair shop to cut your belt.
By Marylou Luther