By  on March 3, 1994

NEW YORK -- Legwear manufacturers are getting the message.

For the past year, they've been hearing that customers need more casual legwear. Both the heavier footwear and the relaxed looks in apparel are demanding it, and as they look to the fall market next week, legwear vendors say they are ready with significantly broadened assortments, aimed to match the growing options in clothes.

The fall menu emphasizes a variety of silhouettes; thigh-highs, over-the-knee socks, legwarmers, boot socks and anklets are some of the key looks. Makers also expect to tempt consumers with touch and texture, two elements that are important in sheers as well as casual styles.

With this ammunition, vendors are feeling confident about a season that could well wake up hosiery departments after some generally quiet periods. They forecast gains over last year ranging up to 30 percent.

Fashion trends in apparel, the executives add, also favor the legwear business, as many designers take the short skirt to new heights.

"What links all of our styles this season is legwear that feels good and is warm and soft," said Susan Danish, vice president and general manager for the department and specialty store divisions of Kayser-Roth. "We're using heavier texture than we have in the past."

The company holds the license for Calvin Klein Hosiery.

In the more casual CK Tights group, linked to the designer's bridge line, there are new patterns, such as argyle and striped styles coordinating with CK fall sweaters. Pastel colors, such as a pale blue the company calls cloud, lemon and dust -- a gray hue -- add a new dimension to the designer's traditionally earth-toned palette.

Calvin Klein Collection, the more upscale sheer line, has been "totally revamped," said Danish, with new packaging and constructions.

A new, wider waistband, a heavier denier control top and lacy high-rise sheers are just a few of the new changes. With the improvements, prices are higher, said Danish. A daytime sheer, for example, that used to wholesale for $43.50 a dozen, is now $51 a dozen.

Danish projects increases of about 30 percent in the Calvin Klein lines because of new Collection products as well as a greater distribution of CK, now in its second fall season.

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