By and  on January 10, 1994

NEW YORK -- Dress and suit firms have high hopes that short lengths will mean a bright summer market this week.

Makers expect buyers to be placing additional orders for spring, looking and buying summer and previewing early fall. While there is optimism in the market, few are counting on big gains, and most firms will be happy with slight increases. The heavy dose of caution that marked most of the past two years still lingers on.

For example, Tom Burns, general merchandise manager at The Doneger Group, said: "I think that based upon the holiday season, people will be cautious going forward into the first quarter. Last year, many people were refinancing and reinvesting in their homes. There were double-digit increases in home furnishings, which took away from women's apparel.

"But I believe consumers will be coming back to shop for clothes, as long as we give them value from the start of the season."

The spring winners -- short dresses and skirts, which range from thigh-high minis to just above the knee -- are expected to give summer a lift as well, manufacturers say. Fitted suit jackets and dresses with waist interest are important elements in the spring-summer design scheme.

"We have tons of appointments for market week, and we're cautiously optimistic about the new year," said Morris Marmalstein, president of The Warren Group. "There's a lot of newness in pantsuits and wedge dresses and two-piece dresses. There are also some promotional groups that are becoming important parts of our business."

Marmalstein noted that although it's a summer market, seasons are backed up and "there's a lot of spring still to be sold." He's planning on being ahead for spring, although no huge gains are anticipated.

Gregg Marks, president of the Kasper division of The Leslie Fay Cos., said that while fall goods saw heavy markdowns in December, early spring goods are selling well at regular price. Marks said soft suits in polyester microfiber and triacetate are performing strongly for spring. "Classic silhouettes are important in colors such as blue, sage, red, royal, and taupe," Marks said. "Overall, we're planning on 25 to 30 percent increases for spring and summer."

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