WELCOMING THE WARDROBE

Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — A wardrobe of lingerie that fits a number of lifestyle needs proved to be a potent cocktail at the late spring-summer innerwear market.
Manufacturers noted that the concept of wardrobing different innerwear items — particularly fashion looks that are dual-purpose — is finally being accepted by retailers and consumers as a viable idea.
They credit the emphasis on the abundance of lingerie looks at the ready-to-wear shows, as well as the continuing hype over cleavage as the main factors affecting innerwear business in a positive way.
Retailers expect pretty, feminine styles and novelty looks to be key for spring.
In foundations, best booking ideas during the market, which closed Nov. 4, include:
Any bra, bustier or corset that plumps the bosom.
Four-way convertible straps that adjust to different necklines, especially halter looks.
Garters.
Deep-plunge back treatments.
Lingerie-looking shapewear.
Feminine-looking solid and printed bras and coordinating panties trimmed with lots of lace, appliques and embroideries.
Also getting big play are seamless-looking bras and briefs of blends of matte-luster nylon and Lycra spandex; allover sheer looks in iridescent nylon and Lycra; satin Shimmereen nylon and Lycra, and microfibers of nylon or polyester that have a silk-like hand.
Although most foundations makers showed the greater part of their spring lines in August, many expanded the color range in November, and added items that have been in great demand, like bustiers and waist cinchers.
A key look in daywear and sleepwear is a spinoff of the cleavage craze — short chemises and long sleep gowns with built-in molded or padded, push-up bras. Baby-dolls continue to be strong, and textured cotton knits — a hot classification for several seasons — continue to fuel the bulk of sleepwear business.
Manufacturers say daywear items with a lot of sex appeal are booking in allover stretch lace camisoles, and satin and lace thong-back teddys and bodysuits.
Novelty printed terry robes and cotton chenille styles continue to be driving robe bookings, say vendors.
The best-booking items for at-homewear continue to have a sportswear look. Long and short tunics, pull-on drawstring pants, oversized shirts and boxers, long and short Empire dresses and any form of jumpsuit are the hits for spring and summer.
While the orders generally will not be completed until the end of the year, vendors said the items that retailers wanted immediately included:
Anything with a fashion look.
Textured treatments, such as rib-patterns, piqués and honeycomb effects.
Lots of color, including a myriad of nude-tone body shades.
Joseph Boitano, senior vice president and general merchandise manager at Bergdorf Goodman, noted, “I think the influence of lingerie in ready-to-wear will be very important for the innerwear industry next year, especially with all the pretty, dressed-up clothes.”
Boitano noted that the abundance of slip looks on the runways would most likely be a boon to the daywear industry.
“The one major question will be whether women will want to wear full slips or half-slips,” said Boitano. “A key word will be pretty. It will be very important for all of these items to be feminine and pretty-looking.”
In an interesting move at Neiman Marcus, Dallas, Leslie Freytag, vice president and divisional merchandise manager, acknowledged that at-homewear will be housed in the stores’ activewear departments. It was formerly housed in the robes and loungewear area.
“It’s evolving,” said Freytag, noting the category has become more influenced by active looks than lounging styles.
She declined to elaborate.
Donna Coughlin, divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel at Sears, Roebuck & Co. singled out three sleepwear silhouettes as hits for spring: baby-dolls, chemises, and long and short pajama sets.
“Baby-doll looks and chemises will continue to be very strong, but in more contemporary looks in smaller floral knits and rib patterns,” she said. “Our pajama business also is very strong.”
In foundations, Coughlin said, “There is a lot of emphasis on anything stretch in nylon and Lycra. There’s also been some talk on testing nylon stretch lace bras that are molded, not seamed.”
“Everybody still is talking about breast-enhancing bras, and lots of surface textures such as pleating and glossy fabrics,” she continued. “Jewel tones are still strong, but there’s also a lot of interest in cosmetic colors and shades like celadon and pink for early spring.”
Maria Scotto, president of Montenapoleone, an upscale lingerie boutique on Madison Avenue here, commented, “What’s selling for me now and what I expect to continue selling into spring are novelty items such as his-and-hers cotton terry bathrobes with matching bath towels.
“Another big item has been zip-front acrylic fleece loungers in colors like creamy yellow and salmon,” said Scotto. The terry robes are by GR, an Italian brand, and the acrylic loungers are private label.
At foundations firms, a popular approach for spring and summer selling has been a push for bras that will retail at a suggested price of $13.99. Distribution is aimed at department stores. The idea is to attract consumers who have been buying bras at other outlets, and to help quell the promotional climate.
Bruce Getz, vice president of merchandising at Maidenform Inc., said, “We are 50 percent ahead in bookings over a year ago, mainly because of a new line called Simple Solutions.”
Getz noted that the firm expects to book between 80,000 and 100,000 dozen bras in the Solutions line, which features five styles of bras at a suggested retail of $13.99.
Getz further noted that a group called Sheer Seduction, a spinoff of a best-selling group called Satin Seduction, was a hit.
“Up until now, sheer was a regional story on the East and West Coasts,” said Getz. “But this group’s monochromatic scroll print, which gives a look of coverage, has dispelled the evils of sheer in the South and Midwest.”
Colors in Sheer Seduction are putty, suntan, walnut and charcoal black. Wholesale prices are $7.05 for a soft-cup bra and $9.40 for an underwire style. Bikini panties are $4.94.
The two top ideas for spring at Bestform Foundations are a value-priced line of full-figure bras and a cleavage-enhancing bra called La Lift, said Tobie Garfinkle, vice president of merchandising and sales of the Lily of France and licensed foundations by Christian Dior, Josie and Natori labels.
“We took several styles of best-selling bras and interpreted them for full-figure performance in our Value and Style program,” said Garfinkle, noting that special features include wider straps and three hooks and eyes at the back.
The group of five full-figure underwire bras will sell at a suggested retail of $15.99. Bra cup sizes start at 36C and go to 42D.
“Reaction was stupendous based on the success of our $13.99 line for average figures,” she said.
Regarding bustiers, Garfinkle noted, “There’s a renewed interest in the classification. Many stores were eager to include one or two bustier styles in their orders.”
Gwen Widell, senior vice president of merchandising and design worldwide for The Warnaco Group, said that a “Miracle Bra gown,” which the company is doing for Victoria’s Secret, has been getting “excellent response” in the retailer’s holiday Dream Catalog. The sleep gown is a spinoff of The Miracle Bra, which is produced by Warnaco’s Olga division, and a 35-year-old sleep gown that was conceived by Olga’s late founder, Olga Erteszek.
Joyce Baran, vice president of design and merchandising at Strouse, Adler, said a control body briefer called Beyond Backless with a deep-plunge V-back treatment and four-way convertible straps got “very good” response.
The lightweight body briefer of matte nylon and Lycra sells for $16.65 wholesale. It features Venice lace trim and comes in bronze, black and white. Cup sizes are 34B to 38D.
Baran also noted that a best-booking item is Tummy Terminator II, a “diaper-wrap” brief that gives firm control across the belly. It wholesales for $8.51.
“Spring bookings are way ahead for us — up by 35 percent,” said Marc Seldin, president of Miss Elaine, St. Louis. “For Mother’s Day selling, traditional looks go a long way. A lot of women still want a pretty gown to sleep in — not T-shirts.”
Seldin added that the most popular-looking gown lengths are a 39-inch waltz length, and a 48-inch ballet length.
“Swing, swing and more swing,” was what Carole Hochman, president and director of design at Carole Hochman Designs, said was the hottest idea at her company.
Hochman singled out baby-dolls and short A-line gowns in combinations of polyester chiffon and nylon satin in the licensed Christian Dior line of sleepwear as key silhouettes.
“We are 35 percent ahead in bookings in Dior, and 40 percent ahead in Carole Hochman Knits over a year ago,” she said. She attributed the gains in Dior to a wider range of pretty, lingerie looks, and to the continuing demand for cotton knits in the Carole Hochman line.

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