NEW YORK — The holiday season has provided some early presents for Seventh Avenue’s dress houses.

Stores have planned for an upbeat eveningwear season, with some vendors reporting double-digit increases over last year. Fourth-quarter forecasts and comparisons will be dicey and unpredictable this year. On the one hand, holiday 2001 was impacted by post-Sept. 11 syndrome, but the economy has been slow to recover, and depressed consumer spending resulted in disappointing results for last month’s retail sales.

This year, oversized ballgowns and heavily beaded dresses have been replaced by simpler, more flirtatious and less-constructed styles for holiday, dominated by strapless and halter silhouettes. Fabrics such as silk matte jersey, velvet and accents such as lace topped retailer’s orders. The color of the season: red.

Here’s some holiday stories:

David Meister: "Two key things for holiday are bare shoulders and an interesting hemline. Our velvet was very simple, such as an asymmetrical halter dress in plum velvet. We also did velvet in burgundy and black, but no one has been buying embellishment or beading. Our holiday business has increased about 20 percent over last year and our business with department stores has seen steady increases all along."

Bestsellers: Black matte jersey dresses starting around $110 wholesale and a scarlet velour dévoré gown for $245.

Nicole Miller: "Lace seems to be the word, right now," said Judy Scarpulla, senior vice president. "We have an empire waist, cap-sleeve dress lined with a nude slip that wholesales for $130. I’m not even done shipping holiday — it’s not until the end of the month that the bulk starts to go out. We’re definitely up, about 20 percent. [Last year], people were leaning toward somber clothes, and now I am seeing people responding to a lot more fun items. People are feeling comfortable again."

Bestseller: Rayon and jersey halter dress with black and pink lace trim for $125 wholesale.

Heidi Weisel: "I’m shipping a little group of cashmere sweaters and embroidered skirts in raffia with sequins. I’m also shipping a matte jersey gown in red that’s off the shoulder and very fitted. Women want to wear something that’s a little less serious than fall, that’s a little lighter and more festive. If it’s the right red, women love it."Bestseller: Cashmere and chiffon gown in red at $840 wholesale.

David Rodriguez: "People aren’t looking for serious ballgowns, they want cocktail-type things. Nobody wants to look like the Eighties. But if you’re going to give them a simple black dress, they already own it. What was really fun for us was anything with [subtle] beading or embroidery that made it more special.

"It’s about motivating her to buy something new to wear to a party or a special occasion. We increased about 20 percent over last fall and about 15 percent over holiday 2001. Even though we’ve only been in business for five years, in times like these, it’s great for us that we keep adding new doors and growing."

Bestseller: A jacket with black lace layered over white silk for $530 wholesale, with matching skirt at $210.

Westcott: "We sold more gowns than cocktail dresses and what sold was all fairly dark, even though we showed a lot of colors and some bold prints," said Alex Ferrini, sales manager. "Off-the-shoulder gowns and reverse halter dresses were strong. There wasn’t a lot of ornamentation, it was very clean and simple. We had less boutique sales in terms of stock orders. Our special-order business is up between 5 and 10 percent this year. Even though holiday is our [smallest] season, we’re up about 10 percent with department stores and those are our biggest accounts."

Bestseller: Black matte jersey column gown with inverted halter neckline adorned with Swarovski crystals for $900 wholesale.

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