PLUS SIZES IGNITING MANUFACTURERS’ HOPES

Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — Bodywear makers are eyeing plus sizes as a key area of growth this year.
Interest in the classification — primarily large-size bodywear items in sizes 1X, 2X and 3X — has been building for the past couple of years, mainly because of the growing number of aging baby boomers whose figures are generally expanding with time.
The bulk of plus-size bodywear assortments is anchored mainly in basic bike shorts, ankle tights and leotards, but over the past year, vendors have begun introducing more forward-looking items such as catsuits.
A main reason, they say, is the increasing demand for dual-purpose fashion looks. The whole idea of crossover dressing is particularly appealing to plus-size women, because of the comfort of stretch apparel. Makers also are addressing the call for newness in plus sizes with more prints in a classification that’s mostly solids. They are also going into more fabrications, doing Lycra spandex blends with Supplex and Tactel nylon.
Phyllis Moroney, general manager of the Danskin Plus division at Danskin Inc., would not give figures, but noted, “We are the fastest-growing segment of business at Danskin, and by far the most profitable.”
Moroney was at Lord & Taylor here last week to host an informal fashion show of Danskin Plus bodywear. The show was staged at the ninth-floor plus-size apparel department, which was more than doubled several months ago.
Function and fit, said Moroney, have made two dual-purpose items a hit: sports bras and bike shorts.
“Many plus-size women are wearing sports bras underneath their swimwear for extra support, and a lot of women are wearing bike shorts over pantyhose, and under pants and dresses,” said Moroney. “The bike shorts keep the thighs from rubbing together.”
Joey Harary, president of Jacques Moret, said the firm’s plus-size bodywear segment has grown 25 percent since 1992.
“We are expecting sales increases of between 20 and 25 percent in plus-sizes this year,” said Harary. “There’s been a lot less resistance to the plus-size business from retailers.
“All retail channels — from discounters to department stores — see a lot of room for growth in plus sizes.”
Top-booking items include updated basics that have a touch of fashion, such as contrasting piping and textured treatments, said Harary. He added that fashion coverups of cotton jersey and French cotton terry with coordinating shorts, also have been top ideas for fall.
“We have more than doubled our plus-size business over the past couple of years,” said Rodrigo Cano, general manager of Eurotard, an Atlanta-based bodywear maker. “It has become more important because of the baby boom generation, which is getting older and bigger.”

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