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The top 10 women's apparel categories ranked by dollar volume sales for the 12-month period ended July. Whether it be a basic white T-shirt, an Empire-waisted casual dress or a risqué swimsuit, spending on women's apparel continues to climb.

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The top 10 women’s apparel categories ranked by dollar volume sales for the 12-month period ended July.

Whether it be a basic white T-shirt, an Empire-waisted casual dress or a risqué swimsuit, spending on women’s apparel continues to climb. The NPD Group, a consumer and retail market research firm, has provided the top apparel categories ranked by dollar volume over the past year. “It’s been a good year, women’s apparel has increased by 4 percent,” said Marshal Cohen of NPD. “The average growth in apparel over the last decade has been 2.8 percent, so when you see a 4 percent growth rate, guess what? That’s pretty impressive for a multibillion-dollar business.” Overall, women’s apparel brought in $103.6 billion, according to the firm. With regard to age categories, the 18- to 24-year-old group reeled in the highest dollar volume for each apparel category. “Two years ago, it was the Boomer market, and last year the teen market grew at higher rates. This year, it’s the young adults. Don’t be surprised if next year we see the 25- to 34-year-old crowd leading the pack,” said Cohen.

1. TOPS
Total sales volume: (August 2006-July): $35.1 billion
Category includes: Knit shirts, woven sport shirts, sweaters/vests, other tops.
“In the tops category, there are some new silhouettes, some longer lengths, some A-frames, some high-waisted tops — tops has definitely witnessed some action and activity, especially over the last few months,” said Cohen. But the real driving force within the category? T-shirts, which racked up $11.3 billion in sales volume for the period. “The T-shirt business continues to be very strong because of ‘statement Ts.’ They are moderately priced and they have become the form of expression that the 30-and-under crowd is clearly gravitating toward in their weekend and casual dressing.”

2. BOTTOMS
Sales volume: $25.7 billion
Category includes: Pants/slacks, jeans, shorts, overalls/coveralls, other bottoms.
Denim is a huge driver for this category, according to NPD. But premium denim, which helped to fuel sales growth in this category the past couple of years, has slowed considerably. “The denim market as a whole is fine — the bubble is definitely not bursting in this industry,” said Cohen. “It’s just that people aren’t buying two to three pairs of premium jeans as rapidly as they were in the past.” He also pointed out that the market is finding success by staying away from not-so-flattering looks, such as skinny jeans. “Skinny pants do not work for the majority of consumers,” he said. What has been working for bottoms: dressy shorts and wide-leg trousers.

3. TAILORED CLOTHING
Sales volume: $13.4 billion
Category includes: Dresses, skirts, suits, sport coats/jackets, other tailored clothing, suit separates.
Dresses were the big hit in tailored clothing this year, with $5.4 billion in sales volume. “The looser silhouettes in dresses and tops really did bode well with the consumer this year,” said Cohen. In addition, for spring 2007, Diane von Furstenberg, Balenciaga and Miu Miu featured miniskirts in their collections, while Vera Wang and Zac Posen sent out lantern skirts and pencil skirts, respectively. For summer, best-selling dresses from StyleStoop.com include flower-print and embroidered cotton styles.

4. INTIMATE APPAREL
Sales volume: $10.6 billion
Category includes: Bras, panties, shapewear, daywear, thermal intimate apparel.
Popular innerwear brands, such as Hanes, Victoria’s Secret, Fruit of the Loom and Jockey, are helping to fuel this category’s sales. “We have to recognize that the intimate apparel business has really helped to drive a lot of fashion growth,” said Cohen. “Innerwear has become top of mind, more so than ever before. Women, particularly younger women, have been paying a lot of attention to the intimate apparel business.” Bras alone did $5.8 billion worth of sales volume over the year.

5. OUTERWEAR
Sales volume: $4.7 billion
Category includes: Coats/jackets, rainwear.
Global warming be damned: Winter coats accounted for almost half — $2 billion — of this market over the past year. Companies such as L.L. Bean are banking on the fact that climate change hasn’t affected all of us just yet. The outdoor sportswear brand continues to draw three million visitors to its Freeport, Me., headquarters annually, and the company also has expanded its operations by opening freestanding brick-and-mortar stores in Maryland, Massachusetts and Virginia, among other locations. Outlet stores are peppered across the Eastern Seaboard, as well. Other brands that continue to excel include London Fog, Cole Haan, Eddie Bauer, Lands’ End, Columbia and Nautica.

6. SLEEPWEAR
Sales volume: $3.6 billion
Category includes: Nightwear, robes/loungewear.
Pajamas did $1.7 billion in sales volume over the past year. How? Companies have found their market: kids and teens. “The pajama craze for the youth market just continues to show that kids love to wear them as streetwear,” said Cohen. “‘Casual’ has gotten so casual that the pajama is driving the growth for this age group.” Another strong apparel item for the category is robes. For female consumers, at Nordstrom, robes for the Vera Wang collection range from $88 to $98 in retail price, while Oscar de la Renta features his Angel Kimono Robe ($60) and Short Wrap Robe ($70).

7. HOSIERY
Sales volume: $3 billion
Category includes: Socks, sheer hosiery, tights.
With the layering look all the rage the past few seasons, legwear certainly has played a part in many designers’ collections. In the July issue of the WWD 100, WWD stated, “After a long period of disengagement, designers suddenly have reconnected to the category with passion. Fashion sheers, capris, footless tights and legwarmers have resumed a place in runway ensembles, and women are embracing today’s covered-leg styles.” Other main trends within this category include leggings and black opaque tights. D&G showed legwarmers for fall 2006, while DKNY and Luella Bartley showed black tights within their collections, as well.

8. SWIMWEAR
Sales volume: $2.8 billion
Category includes: Swimsuits, cover-ups.
Some of the most well-known names in this market include Speedo, Jantzen, Nautica, Catalina, Polo Sport and Mossimo. To remain in consumers’ minds come swimsuit season, brands such as Jantzen resort to utilizing popular models: This past year, the brand’s marketing campaign featured Carolyn Murphy. Other brands, such as Catalina and Mossimo, appear at major discount retailers: Catalina is sold at Wal-Mart, and looks for the summer included tankinis and boyshorts. And Mossimo, sold at Target, featured ruched and bandeau tops, low-rise tops and one-piece options.

9. ACCESSORIES
Sales volume: $2.4 billion
Category includes: Caps/hats, scarfs/mufflers, neckwear.
Designers kept consumers plenty warm last winter. Lots of hats were shown on the fall 2006 runways, particularly from the likes of Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Burberry Prorsum and John Galliano. Meanwhile, heavy, yet cozy, scarves could be found at D&G and Vivienne Westwood. But Marc Jacobs’ Louis Vuitton collection really stole that season, in terms of accessories: The designer dressed his girls up in sleepy, oversize caps and dressy scarves. But the big favorite: his monogrammed pink-and-white muffler.

10. FLEECEWEAR
Sales volume: $2.2 billion
Category includes: Sweatshirts, sweatpants, sweatshorts, other fleecewear.
Last month, Cotton Inc.’s Lifestyle Monitor reported in WWD that fleece is perfect for early fall. “Fleece vests and pullovers do really well with women because they work great on their own or over other garments, and they work perfectly for indoor and outdoor activities,” said Gretchen Petrone, product line manager with L.L. Bean. Additionally, Levi’s offers a deep V-neck fleece ($68) and a fleece crew ($19.98), while Polartec’s avalanche epic fleece vest ($21.95) can be found at Sierratradingpost.com.

Source: The NPD Group Inc./Consumer Tracking Service; Apparel Categories Ranked by Dollar Volume Sales are for the 12-Month period between AUGUST 2006 and July (the most currently reported 12-month period)

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