WASHINGTON — Apparel imports to the U.S. continued to fall sharply, posting a 14.5 percent decrease in November from a year earlier to 1.8 billion square meters equivalents, as retailers and apparel brands kept a close eye on inventories heading into the holidays in light of a weak economy.

Combined apparel and textile imports fell 7.1 percent to 4.2 billion SME compared with November 2010, the Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel said Friday, with textile shipments declining 1 percent to 2.4 billion SME against a year earlier.

The overall trade deficit widened sharply to $47.8 billion in November, marking a 10.4 percent increase over October, mainly due to higher oil prices.

November’s declines in apparel imports continued a pattern, following a 14.6 percent drop in October and a 5.4 percent decrease in September, three months that are traditionally strong for companies stocking inventory for the fourth quarter.

Nine of the top 10 supplier countries posted decreases in textile and apparel imports to the U.S. in the month. Sourcing continued to shift away from China, the top supplier of textiles and apparel to the U.S., as combined shipments fell 2.3 percent to 2 billion SME in November compared with a year earlier. Apparel imports from China were off 13.7 percent to 744 million SME, while textile imports fell 1 percent to 2.4 billion SME.

Combined apparel and textile shipments from Vietnam, the third-largest combined supplier that had been posting gains for several months this year, dropped 7.5 percent to 240 million SME.

Seven of the top 10 apparel suppliers posted double-digit year-over-year declines in November. Apparel imports from Pakistan dropped 28.7 percent to 47 million SME, while imports from Bangladesh fell 24.2 percent to 103 million SME and shipments from India declined 22 percent to 57 million SME. Apparel shipments from Honduras were off 17 percent to 92 million SME, while imports from Vietnam fell 16.6 percent to 146 million SME and Indonesia’s imports declined 15.3 percent to 93 million SME.