NEW YORK — Summer has become a dreaded season for legwear firms in recent years, due to the dominance of bare legs and open-toe sandals.

This year, the usual woes have been compounded by the difficult economy and tough retail scene that has depressed sales throughout the fashion industry.

Heading into the fall selling season, a key time for the $3 billion legwear industry, makers are seeing some reasons to be cheerful. Socks and tights were all over the fall runways, and a number of celebrities, such as Britney Spears, have been seen about town sporting sheers and tights. Even some of the new fall ad campaigns — including ones from Prada and Yves Saint Laurent — prominently feature legwear.

At the upcoming August market, vendors are hoping some of the momentum will trickle into their showrooms. While August market is traditionally the first taste of spring, a number of firms said they are still concentrating on fall and holiday looks for last-minute deals.

“People are buying closer and closer to the season,” said Hank Woloz, marketing director at Biella, the luxury fiber legwear firm. “Buyers are going to be scrambling now for fall goods, since so many companies have held off buying. We make our products domestically, so we can turn things around quickly.”

Biella plans to show both holiday and spring offerings during market as a way to lure buyers who have not yet finished their fourth-quarter purchases. New products on tap for spring include fashion-forward athletic looks made of lightweight microfibers, as well as trouser styles with open-work features.

Robert Sussman, president at ETC Hosiery, said he was primarily showing fall styles because companies are holding off on placing orders, he said.

“Business has been pretty soft,” Sussman said. “There isn’t really a clear business trend because one week, sales will be really strong, and the next one is weak.”

Sussman said he is focusing on styles such as silk trouser socks and knee-highs.

For those firm focusing on spring, novelty is the key theme. Bright colors, a clear trend in ready-to-wear in recent seasons, will be found in many new legwear offerings.Anther growing trend for spring is styles designed to be worn with open-toe shoes, sandals and mules. These include the foot tube, which is worn in a band around the foot, as well as what has come to be known as toe tips, which cover the toes and top of the foot and can be worn with mule-style shoes. Biella and Hue are among the companies carrying these styles.

Hue’s tube styles include floral looks and novelty styles with bug motifs.

“These styles are coming out of necessity,” said Catrinel Pope, Hue’s vice president of product design and merchandising. “It’s great for flip-flops and can be worn to protect blisters. It’s form meets function.”

Other Hue styles on tap include textured socks with lace and open-work treatments, as well as a line of what the company calls Summer Lites, which are lightweight slippers, some of which have leather bottoms for more durability, Pope said. Hue also is introducing a line of knit pants, a category it hasn’t had for several years.

“We have seen a resurgence in close-to-the-body pants and we think it’s a good time for this category,” she said.

Color will be found throughout Hue’s offerings.

“We are playing with shades of pink from candy pink to bubble gum, as well as colors such as lime, kelly green and turquoise,” she said.

Soxland, meanwhile, is showing a lot of “shorties and textures,” said Chris Lambaise, sales manager. “And, of course, we are showing plenty of novelty. We have athletic looks with embroidery on the back, as well as floral styles.”

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