Worthington Moves in More Feminine Direction

J.C. Penney's main career brand is getting a makeover.

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For the first time in four years, J.C. Penney Co. Inc. has retooled its Worthington label, culling information from customer surveys, consumer feedback and information from the chain’s trend department.

This story first appeared in the October 27, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Launched at the height of power suit dressing in 1985, the brand has always been rooted in head-to-toe options for working women. So much so that some of the early styles could easily have been used to dress Melanie Griffith’s character in the 1988 flick “Working Girl.” Over the years, Worthington evolved with the times and has placed a greater emphasis on versatility.


Lorraine Hitch, vice president of women’s career sportswear at J.C. Penney, noted the boxy, power suits of the Eighties were merely female versions of what men were wearing to work at that time. Now the label has taken more of a sophisticated, feminine slant, she added. “Customers told us through a lot of consumer research that they wanted core career pieces, but they also wanted those pieces to transition into what they do after work.”


Penney’s considers Worthington to be one of its “power brands,” even though it is a private label. This fall’s trend toward more tailored dressing should bode well for Worthington’s new look, Hitch said. “With the economy, obviously women are looking for clothes that are very sharp and products that will also make her feel confident.” A ruffled blouse, vests and knits that can be worn under a suit or alone after work are among the items Penney’s shoppers are responding to, she said.


“Worthington has always been our main career brand for women. With our recent enhancements, we continue to meet the needs of today’s career women,” she said. She added customers are responding positively to the new direction.

Designed with more seasonless, stretch and easy-care fabrics, the collection appears to take into account the time constraints many women face. Recognizing that pants are a core wardrobe piece for many women, Penney’s has stepped up its styles in the category. One of the more noticeable changes is the introduction of three different fits in pants — Modern, which rests just below the waist; Curvy, which has a more contoured fit, and Straight, which offers a slimmer fit for those whose waist and hip measurements don’t differ by much. Hangtags identifying each respective fit are designed to help shoppers find the appropriate one.


Outerwear, shoes, handbags and accessories are also offered in the assortment. Worthington is available in petite and large sizes.


Customers don’t have to go far to notice the changes. The Worthington collection is showcased near the front entrances of all Penney’s 1,093 stores, including the 11 that opened this month. It is also sold online at jcp.com. Online shoppers can also zoom in to see shoulder details, belt clasps, cap sleeves and other features that might not jump out at first glance.


Retail prices range from $36 to $44 for pants, $30 to $44 for tops and $60 to $90 for jackets.

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