By  on May 12, 1994

NEW YORK -- Retailers are looking for gains in fall and holiday legwear business, buoyed by short hemlines and the return of feminine dressing but mainly the diversity of products.

"We're seeing a lot of new ideas this market," said Butch Mullins, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of Neiman Marcus, who was viewing the latest Hot Sox offerings on Tuesday. "That's what our customer responds most to.

"We're more optimistic today about legwear than we were last year at this time," he said. "There's more diverse product out there in terms of texture, pattern and color. Generally, I think that there is a greater optimism about ready-to-wear for fall, and that translates into accessories as well."

Mullins said the store is planning to see sales growth in the legwear department for the fall and holiday season, but he declined say how much. The popularity of short skirts and pants should continue to spur legwear business, he predicted -- short skirts for sheers and pants for trouser socks.

Nordic patterns, luxury fibers such as cashmere, sweater knits and new silhouettes such as thigh-highs are key ideas for holiday, he added.

"My business is coming back," said Linda Engel, sheer hosiery buyer for Macy's East. "Sheer business is still soft, but it's picking up from last year. Shorter skirts shown with a sheer leg are bringing customers into the legwear department."

Silver Lurex "freshened up with a little color" will be important for day-into-evening styles, she said. In the CK Hosiery showroom, she was looking at a palette of silver Lurex sheers mixed with pale pastels.

"Leg color is getting paler, especially with the more sophisticated nude tones," she said. "Shiny looks, such as a white tight with some luster, should do well because they're unique."

In general, thigh-high business has been growing, said Engel. "Although it's a relatively small part of the overall sheer business, the thigh-high trend is having a big impact in casual legwear," she said.

David Ecklund, hosiery buyer for Jacobson Stores Inc., Jackson, Mich., said metallic looks were high on his trend list.

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