Byline: Holly Haber, Carol Emert

Downtown Washington
WASHINGTON--The moderate department at Hecht's is a big draw for the neighborhood's office crowd. It offers a good variety of traditional career apparel and a few more fashionable pieces, though little casualwear.
One problem: Drab dressing rooms that definitely need an uplift.
One level up from the third-floor moderate section is a well-stocked, large-sized moderate department with career apparel and more casual basics such as jeans and cotton plaid shirts.
The misses' moderates section occupies prime real estate in the center of Hecht's main women's career apparel floor. Just down the aisle are better-price lines, such as Jones New York and Liz Claiborne, as well as evening dresses.
On a recent visit, the moderate department was as inviting as the nearby sections selling higher-priced merchandise. A few mannequins donning attractive ensembles were placed here and there. The names of Norton McNaughton, SK & Co. and Chaus were in block letters on the wall.
Still, promotions appeared to be in full swing. At least half of the racks carried signs advertising 25 percent off the ticket price, and many of those prices already were marked down. A wool crepe jacket by Jessica Tierney for SK & Co. with four buttons and piping on the collar was marked down from $94 to $70 and discounted 25 percent further at the register to $52.50.
Apart from suits and tailored separates, holiday sweaters seemed to occupy the largest amount of floor space. Many of the sweaters, by such makers as Chaus, were beaded or appliquéd, in red, other bright colors and black. Appearing somewhat out of place amid the suits and beaded sweaters was an aisle rack of sueded silk exercise jackets and pants in colors such as bright pink and blue. The pieces were ticketed at $40 and marked down 25 percent.
Sweaters by Amanda Smith occupied several racks at one end of the department. One shelf held lightweight cotton and silk turtlenecks and round-neck blouses marked down to $29.99 from $40.
Other racks held oversized chenille sweaters, including some turtlenecks, on sale for $40. The racks placed furthest from the aisle, next to the wall, carried markdowns, mainly cold-weather clothing. Many of these items were hanging askew and looked quite picked over. Some racks were discounted 50 percent, while others offered items for such low prices as $14.99.
Apparently, the run-down dressing rooms escaped the attention of those who put the rest of the department together. The carpets were stained, paint was chipped and at least one door handle was falling off.
Upstairs, the moderate department for sizes 18 to 24 was located directly above the regular moderate department. The large-sized department, however, carried a greater variety of brands, including Karen Scott II, Bill Blass, Carol Little II, Alfred Dunner and International Sportswear Co.'s ExtraTouch line. As in the regular-size moderate department, career apparel was front-and-center, and many of the racks held 25 percent off signs.
One rack displayed metallic lamé blouses, both sleeveless and with sleeves at a 25 percent discount. Casualwear occupied about one-quarter of the floor space, next to the lingerie department, and clearance racks lined the back. The casual offerings included stretch french terry pants and tunics for $30 by ExtraTouch/International Sportswear Co. and brushed denim jeans in blue, black, hunter green and magenta for $35 by Bill Blass Soft Touch. Karen Scott II cotton turtlenecks in bright colors were on sale for $11.99. Among the suits, a Maggie McNaughton red crepe suit with black piping and buttons was on sale for $54. Wool separates were 25 percent off.--Carol EmertPenney's
NorthPark Center, Dallas
DALLAS--The holiday merchandising spirit--along with the chain's traditional moderate pricing--permeated the misses' sportswear department on a recent visit to the big J.C. Penney store at NorthPark Center here.
Festive apparel was prominently displayed along with Christmas trees, wreaths, red and gold banners and holiday posters. Among the styles fronting the aisles were: Jones Wear's black and metallic gold plaid jackets and skirts; gold lamé tunics and pants by Anthony Mark Hankins; sequined and beaded cotton sweaters by Alfred Dunner, and novelty cotton sweaters with holiday themes by Crystal Kobe.
The misses' sportswear and dress departments have choice real estate in the store, flanking the cosmetics area at the mall entrance. Sportswear was divided into a series of boutiques and departments on an aisle that threads a U shape through the store. A saleswoman was on the spot or easily accessible in every area.
Prices were all moderate--a jacket might typically be $54 to $110; a silk blouse, $30; a velvet vest, $22; a cotton knit embroidered sweater, $48; skirts, about $35, a pair of pants, $30 to $50.
The department next to the mall entrance was backed by a warm wood veneer wall fixture bearing a gold Jones Wear sign. The line's conservative career apparel dominated, including single- and double-breasted jackets in wine and navy with matching skirts and camel acrylic and wool twin sets.
The boutique also stocked updated career looks by Penney's own Jacqueline Ferrar label, jackets by David N., and novelty rugged-looking jackets by Brandon Thomas--including a hip-length cognac suede style with a whipstitched shawl collar.
Wall displays in the Norton McNaughton department across the aisle showed wool jackets with contrasting velour collars and buttons, solid gold and silver metallic sweaters and McNaughton Wear casual navy, gold and white knit separates with a nautical theme.
The area also stocked such looks as Black Watch and red tartan jumpers and walking shorts by Michele, and easy tunic and skirt separates in a chestnut and gold polyester print by A.K.F.
Next door was a blouse nook with lots of solid silk or polyester styles plus black and multicolored printed velvet vests, mostly by Penney's Christie and Jill label.
The chain's well-known Worthington label, which does classic looks, was ensconced in a big, wood-toned boutique. It featured brown tweed jackets with coordinating vests, blouses and bottoms plus red and jewel-toned jackets and bottoms, and sweaters in floral and geometric patterns.
The nearby corner area was crammed with basics and clearance apparel, including pants by Counterparts and Sag Harbor and novelty printed velour vests and jackets by Très Paquette. Across sat an Alfred Dunner department that in addition to its abundance of Dunner merchandise prominently housed a fixture carrying a Leslie Fay Sportswear sign and bearing plaid and checked jackets and skirts.
A substantial selection of novelty sweaters carried a variety of labels plus Penney's Cabin Creek casual, embellished knitwear line. Basic solid and printed turtlenecks and matching pull-on knit pants by Penney's Hunt Club label were arrayed across the aisle.
Around the corner was a department for Mixit--Penney's most trendy misses' label--offering vests over long blouses, chenille sweaters, a short metallic A-line swing dress, and a variety of jackets, knit tops and pants. A jeans department stocking Levi's, Dockers and other labels rounded out the offerings.

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