By  on January 6, 1994

NEW YORK -- Innerwear retailers are still basking in the afterglow of Christmas business that registered sales increases ranging up to approximately 10 percent.

At department stores, best-selling items included updated sleepwear, robes and at-home wear in novelty fabrics such as textured cotton knits, brushed-back satins, cotton terry velours and patterned chenilles. Prints also were high on the holiday shopping lists, especially plaids in bold colors and amusing conversational designs.

Major specialty stores said feminine-looking sleepwear, daywear and foundations in the better-to-designer range in luxury fabrics like silk were the highlights.

Warm wear, not typically a strong gift-giving category, was an unexpected hit.

Retailers noted that an increased number of newspaper ads in December featuring key lingerie items such as chemises, bustiers and peignoir sets got good results, mostly from men looking for holiday gifts.

A greater exposure of lingerie in Christmas catalogs also helped generate additional business, said merchants.

"We had incredible lingerie business in December, and some very nice increases over the same time last year," said Joseph Boitano, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of apparel at Bergdorf Goodman.

Boitano attributed the gains to a growing interest among consumers in luxury lingerie. At Bergdorf's, this often meant exclusive imports in silks and European laces. He said the turnover in "special-looking, nonpromotional merchandise" has picked up dramatically over the past year.

"We are really developing the better customer in innerwear, especially with European merchandise that's made for us and in quality sleepwear, such as Valentino Intimo Couture," said Boitano.

"We got a tremendous reaction from men to a three-week campaign of column-size ads we did in the New York Times," said Mikki Thomas, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel and sportswear at Bergdorf's. "The men would pick up the phone and order holiday gifts. We had 90 percent sell-throughs on all of the items featured."

Lingerie items featured by Bergdorf in these ads included a long black silk crinkle sleep gown with ecru lace trim by Donna Karan Intimates, retailing for $460, and a coordinating tie-front shirt for $390, as well as foundations and daywear by Valentino Intimo Couture. Prices on the Valentino merchandise ranged from $40 for lace-trimmed high-cut silk panties to $410 for a silk charmeuse kimono robe.

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