Question: What is the least expensive purchase I can make to put me in step with current fashion? A jacket? A suit? A dress? A pants outfit?--V.P.
Answer: A white blouse. And unless you already have one, a contour belt to cinch it over a dark skirt so you get the peplum effect illustrated here. In buying your new blouse, select one that is a bit oversize so you'll get the fullness over the hips when you belt it. This look comes to you courtesy of Paris designer Karl Lagerfeld, who wowed the buyers with this blouse in silk crepe de Chine. Similar styles already are available in rayon and flash or polyester crepe de Chine.
Q: What is shearling?--A.A.
A: Shearling is natural sheepskin, with the leather side sueded and worn outside. The fur side usually is sheared. Shearling is making a big comeback in full-length coats as well as jackets. The newest jackets are less sporty, more dressy, as in Anne Klein's three-quarter-length jacket that swings to the fingertips from a belted waistline in much the same way as the blouse in our illustration.
Q: What kind of panty hose should I wear with classic gray flannel pants that end at the ankles? What kind of shoes?--B.T.
A: European designers show classic trousers with pumps and nude panty hose. American designers prefer black opaque panty hose or woolly neutrals with low-heel or flat-heel shoes. The exception is Ralph Lauren, who shows his new fall trousers with natural, leg-color legs and medium-heel brown crocodile pumps.
Lauren shows the same brown pumps with matching belts for evening--a day-for-night switch preferred by many designers for the upcoming season.
Q: What fabrics other than cotton are coolest to wear in the summer?--N.N.
A: Any fabric made from natural fibers breathes more than fabric made from synthetic fibers and therefore feels cooler on the body. Fabric construction can, however, be as great a determining factor in establishing a fabric's cool-wearing properties as the fiber itself. A loosely woven wool crepe, for example, can be cooler-wearing than a tightly woven silk broadcloth. And while rayon is a man-made fiber, its cellulosic base makes it cooler to wear--even in tightly woven constructions--than anything but cotton woven in the same density.
\o7 Marylou Luther welcomes questions from readers. Mail to Clotheslines, Fashion86, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. \f7