Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — Where’s the bodywear?
A spot check of diverse stores shows there’s no pat answer to that question. Whereas main floor hosiery departments were the traditional setting for the category, it now can be found in a variety of areas, often combined with or adjacent to activewear. Along with the shifting locations, there has been a rechristening at some stores as well, with fitnesswear a new nomenclature.
Macy’s Herald Square is currently merchandising bodywear with activewear separates as a collection concept in a second-floor department called Casual Elements at its New York flagship. The department also has a sign that reads: Casual Works Activewear.
The Casual Elements area merchandises activewear with stretch bodywear pieces separately on T-stands, but many of the items can be coordinated or mixed and matched together. Dance France by Danskin, the licensed Everlast name by Active Apparel, and Marika and Aerodynamics by Weekend Exercise are among the labels.
At the Bloomingdale’s flagship here, bodywear is currently not being sold in any department. But Frank Doroff, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of Bloomingdale’s, said it will be housed in a combination swimwear-bodywear department, beginning in late January or early February through July.
Bloomingdale’s merchandised swimwear and bodywear in the same manner last year on the second floor.
“We’ve found we do much better with that category in the spring season,” said Doroff. “We need a real active business during the swim season.”
Sherry Baird, assistant buyer of fitnesswear, activewear and swimwear at Kohl’s, a promotional department store chain based in Menomonee Falls, Wis., noted, “We’ve been calling it fitnesswear for close to three years.”
Baird said stretch bodywear items are housed in a separate area next to activewear. Bodywear, however, is not displayed or merchandised with activewear as a collection concept.
Bra tops and bike shorts that are “functional and dual purpose” are Kohl’s best-selling bodywear items. Top brands are Nike and Adidas, she said.
Joan Charles, buyer of women’s apparel at Oshman’s, a 130-unit sporting goods chain based in Houston, said, “We’re not calling it bodywear or aerobicwear — we think those terms are passe. We’re simply calling our women’s department Fitness.
Charles added, “We have a lot of collections, and a lot of our business is done with key items — but key stretch items that coordinate with activewear.”
“We feel people are dressing by mixing and matching,” she said. “It’s not just wearing all Lycra or all jersey pieces.”
Charles singled out stretch items of cotton and Lycra spandex from Marika by Weekend Exercise, and Supplex nylon and Lycra from Danskin as top-selling labels. Key stretch items are bra tops, bike shorts and footless leggings, she said.
“We feel we also have to have the traditional leotard, even if it’s the least important item right now,” she noted.
In smaller shops, specializing in dance and exercise wear, there is, of course, a clear focus on bodywear.
Naomi Commers, owner of Energy Clothing, a six-year-old aerobic and dancewear boutique in Minnetonka, Wis., said, “People tend to know exactly what they want when they come here, whether the purpose is for a dance class or an aerobics class.”
Commers said she sells “some activewear” but noted that it “has to be able to coordinate with bodywear items.” Key bodywear vendors include Danskin, Capezio, BodyWrappers by Attitudes in Dressing, Champion Jogbra by Sara Lee, Mossimo and Moda Prima, she said.
Marlene Rosburg, owner of Dance Attack Attire, a 1,500-square-foot dance and exercisewear shop in San Francisco, noted, “At times, we do merchandise activewear and bodywear in the windows, but we’re trying to get out of activewear — we don’t have enough space.”
Rosburg said bodywear is exclusively displayed by basic and fashion item classifications within the 5 1/2-year-old shop. Top-selling vendors include Gilda Marx, Danskin, Capezio, Movin USA, Mirella and Lucky S Action Fashions, she said.
At Sheers The Bodywear Bar, a Dallas boutique that also features legwear and intimate apparel, Stacey Dorfman, owner, noted that she sells stretch apparel items from upscale legwear makers such as Wolford.
Dorfman, who opened her specialty shop in July 1994, also noted, “We’ve had many requests for catsuits, especially turtleneck, long-sleeved catsuits, but they’ve been very hard to find.”
One catsuit that is a top-selling item for the store is by bodywear maker Jacques Moret. Of cotton, polyester and spandex, it has a “strong ready-to-wear look” and retails for $65.
She further noted that two padded push-up sports bras by Jacques Moret and Eurotard have been ordered for spring selling. The bras have a rtw look, but will be sold primarily as workout bras, she said.

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