By and  on September 9, 1994

CHICAGO -- Sleeker silhouettes and more color got an OK from retailers attending the holiday, resort and prom/social occasion market at the Chicago Apparel Center last week.

Many buyers reported budgets were up 10 percent or more as they looked for goods that ranged from fall fill-ins to early spring. Spring prom dresses, as is customary at the August market, were a focal point of the action.

Center management said traffic was equal with a year ago. The five-day event ran through Aug. 30, leaving sales representatives satisfied with the reception they got.

"Business is on an upswing. Most stores are having a good early fall. The cooler weather is helping to bring people out," noted Karin Berger, a multiline rep. She said her showroom did well with sorbet colors, like ice blue and lemon.

"People are looking for color -- soft and dusty sherbet colors or brights," agreed Susann Craig, another multiline rep.

"Last year everything was so neutral. I'm seeing a lot more richer colors," said Kelly Stodola, owner of Vestiges, a better-price women's specialty store in Edina, Minn., giving a nod of approval to the trend.

Stodola noted she would be booking sportswear and dresses in colors. She said she also liked more fitted silhouettes, short skirts and narrower pants in soft fabrics like linen and rayon blends and silks for holiday, resort and early spring.

She said she never leaves paper at market but noted she would probably write an order with J. McLaughlin for casual sportswear and easy dresses. Reflecting improved business in her store, Stodola said she was increasing her open-to-buy 10 percent.

"I'm still buying neutrals, but people are asking for some jewel tones," said Judee Gartland, owner of Judee's, a moderate-to-better women's specialty store in Laporte, Ind. She noted she planned to buy both neutrals and richer colors.

Looking for holiday items, activewear and lingerie, Gartland said she liked styles with oriental details, such as frog closures. As for silhouettes, she said she thought short, full skirts would be a hard trend to sell to her customers. "Women want to wear what they look good in," she said.She was looking for narrower pants for sportswear and wider ones for special occasion dressing.

Gartland said her budget was up substantially because she has just doubled the size of her store.

Susan Wojak, buyer for Sue Ann Shoppe, a moderate junior and misses' store in Sandwich, Ill., had on her shopping list sportswear and related separates in comfortable, easy-care fabrics in brights and pastels for early spring delivery. Her open-to-buy was even with last year, and she said she would probably place orders with Peter Popovitch, City Girl and Koret.

In the demand for prom dresses, sequins and ruffles appeared to be sidelined in favor of fit-and-flare and slim looks.

Jody Friedlein, co-owner of Brides N Wedding Shoppe in Guttenberg, Iowa, said she was looking for "fit-and-flare and straighter cuts in crepes and velvets, not the nightgown-style dresses. The ones we've seen look like pajamas." She also liked deep, gemstone colors, she added.

With a budget up 30 percent because of a second store she opened this spring, Friedlein said she would leave paper with Jessica McClintock for fitted velvet prom dresses.

Short fit-and-flare and long sheath dresses were also favored by Sandie Richards, co-owner of Treasured Memories, a moderate-price bridal and formalwear store in Greenville, Mich. She said she liked styles in velvets and brocades in deep colors and pointed out sequins didn't sell well in her area.

"I'd like to see more ruffles and feminine styles," she added. Her open-to-buy was the same as last year, she noted, and her plans included ordering prom dresses from Roberta Dresses, Loralie Originals and Jessica McClintock.

A new store shopping the market was Glitz and Glamour Inc., a St. Louis special-occasion store scheduled to open in December. Owners Pamela Carroll and Diane Bottani said they were looking for sleek and slip-style prom dresses and sophisticated suits for mother-of-the-bride. They said they ordered prom and special-occasion numbers from Nadine, J. Reynolds Designs and Alyce Designs.

Maxine Meneghini owner of Maxine's Bridal, a moderate-price special-occasion store in Norway, Mich., said velvet's popularity surprised her last year and she would order more this time for prom dresses. She also liked baby dolls, she said."I didn't sell too many sequins last year so I'm sticking with short fit-and-flare and long tight dresses," Meneghini said. Having almost doubled her sales last year, she said she is increasing her budget by 15 percent. She said she would leave paper with Loralie Originals and Jessica McClintock.

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