DALLAS — Packed showrooms, retailers who reported brisk spring sales and praised the diversity of fall fashions, and unusually effusive sales representatives told the story of fall market week here: Business is back in a big way.

“I haven’t seen it this crowded in years,” observed Kathryn Becker, who has been shopping here since 1974 for her High Cotton shop in Jackson, Miss. “I think business must be better for everybody.”

The fall Mega Market, which ran five days through Monday at the International Apparel Mart, combined women’s, children’s, men’s, boys and western wear. Fall is always the biggest market of the year, but this event exceeded expectations.

Buyers reported spring sales gains of 11 to 32 percent, which gave them incentive to hike their fall budgets from 5 to 15 percent.

“People are starting to let loose with some of their money,” affirmed Dean Campbell, owner of Mr. G Especially for You, Amarillo, Tex. Campbell planned to buy about 10 percent more.

More buyers traveled here from outside the Southwest — even from New York, sales representatives pointed out.

“I think a lot of people tried Dallas this market,” theorized Suzanne Collier, who represents women’s better sportswear lines. “We had good stores from Florida, California and Mexico City this market.”

A new facet of the scene was the Dallas Market Daily, a daily newspaper produced by Wybar Communications, Sheridan, Wyo., under contract to the Mart and distributed free.

“The buyers can read about events the day before and seminars coming up,” Wells explained.

The daily will be published at only one other market this year — the Western show in September.

“After that, we’ll evaluate it,” Wells added.

In addition, more than 600 people crowded into the Fashion Theatre at noon Friday to watch a new fashion show highlighting 234 outfits styled in cotton, mohair, wool or leather by about 80 Texas manufacturers. A project of the state government’s Naturally Texas initiative to promote the natural fibers industry, the show will be staged twice annually at the Mart’s spring and fall market weeks.

In the showrooms, knitwear topped the sales charts, fueled partly by the trend toward casual dressing.

“I’m buying tons more knitwear and sweaters,” said Cornellia Cook, owner of Coco in Nashville, who was writing an order for Joan Vass U.S.A. “The customers have gotten used to the softer looks for spring, so the sweater dresses and knit tunics translate well for fall.”

“We feel strongly about basics in cotton knits, like Fitigues and Only in the U.S.A.,” noted Nancy Paulson, owner of Vinones in Kansas City and in Overland Park, Kan. “A lot of our customers are mothers, and they’re looking for things they can wear to the grocery store and still look put together.”

Paulson also planned to stock mohair and chenille knitwear in her store. Sweaters by 525, Duna and Tribeca and cotton knit coordinated separates by Sabu were on her shopping list.

Fabric mixing, A-line skirts, slim pants, narrow-leg and jodhpur pants, short pleated skirts and military looks were viewed as key fall looks. Retailers applauded the variety of fabrics on display, including tapestries, chenille, velvet, flocked velvet and wool gabardine.

The return of color — especially plum, forest and navy — was a relief to many buyers who felt last fall’s hues were too dark and spring was too monotone and neutral.

“A lot of resources went to the trouble to bring us some different looking things and some color,” said Irene Oppenheimer, buyer for Tres Mariposas in El Paso, Tex., reflecting a common sentiment among buyers.

She planned to buy Moschery military-style jackets and narrow pants.

“I think people will like slim pants because it makes you look thinner,” she observed. “Daytime dresses are the biggest problem,” she noted, adding she had found some she liked at Richard Warren.

Fred McCann, owner of Esther Wolf in Houston, was seeking special occasion dresses since his city has such a lively social scene.

“Beading is not as important as it once was, but iridescent silk chiffon gives the new eveningwear life,” he pointed out. With a budget up 10 percent, he was buying dresses from Julie and Leonard, Badgley Mischka Dress and Sully Bonnelly and Carolina Herrera Studio.

“If fall is half as good as spring,” he enthused, “it’ll be great.”

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