By  on October 11, 2007

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.

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