Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — The spring selling season is jam-packed with a number of best-selling fashion ideas in the intimate apparel arena, according to a number of major retailers.
In a spot survey, buyers and divisional vice presidents at major department and specialty stores said retail traffic generally continues to be light, but consumers are in the mood to buy when it comes to fashion merchandise.
The driving factors, particularly in sleepwear, robes and at-homewear, are warm and rich-hued colors and a range of prints — from Sixties-inspired tie-dyes and graphics to Asian garden motifs and romantic, Victorian-looking florals. Roses in many sizes are the top-selling floral prints this spring, merchants noted.
Also growing in popularity is the demand for yoga-influenced items, such as easy, pull-on pants and a number of cropped tops and snug T-shirts in softly brushed microfleece, cotton terry and cotton knit.
The number-one-selling category continues to be daywear, which has grown among the contemporary crowd with a feminine flair. Key items include camis, tanks and daywear tops, and a variety of bottoms, such as thongs, G-strings and hipster bikinis cut an extra inch or two below the belly button to wear underneath low-rise pants and jeans.
Lace is important in foundations, with an abundance of dainty Chantilly and Venise lace embellishments and allover effects, as well as a number of modern-looking and vintage bouquet patterns. Mesh and tulle looks also are generating strong sales.
Barbara Lipton, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel, hosiery and jewelry at Saks Fifth Avenue, said: “Overall, we are certainly very pleased with the turnaround in intimate apparel business. We are beating plan.”
Lipton said Saks’ sleepwear business is being driven by a combination of contemporary looks by Josie, such as a best-selling cami pajama set in a full range of fabrics and prints, and classic styles by vendors such as Hanro, whose top-selling items include a cotton knit T-shirt and coordinating pajama pants.
“In foundations, it’s all about lace, whether its a full-cup or a demi-cup bra,” Lipton said. “Yoga looks by Zen Sport by Danskin and our private label have been strong.”
Donna Wolff, vice president and dmm of intimate apparel and hosiery at Bloomingdale’s, said: “Daywear and camis are our biggest volume driver, and that includes hipster thongs and G-strings. Anything low-rise has been exceptional, and spa-driven items have begun to sell well.”
Wolff cited several top-selling daywear and foundations resources: a signature cotton knit and luxury lace group by Calvin Klein Underwear, a Jogbra style by Sara Lee called Innerology that has spa-related separates, lacy camis and daywear panties by Arrianne, and two bra styles by The Warnaco Group — Flowering Lace by Olga and Invisible Edge by Warner’s.
The two best-selling bras at Bloomingdale’s are a mesh and lace number by On Gossamer and a sleek mesh style by Chantelle called Essentia, which gives an allover smooth look underneath T-shirts, said Wolff.
“Satin [sleep] gowns by Eileen West are selling very well. It’s usually cotton lawn gowns by West that are the big sellers,” she said. “Two sleepwear styles by DKNY also have been very good: a rugby knit and a pique knit. Terry bath towel wraps by Aegean have also been very strong.”
Bob Pawlak, vice president and dmm of intimate apparel, furs and coats at Milwaukee-based Carson Pirie Scott, said: “We are getting phenomenal sell-throughs on two new foundations items, Maidenform’s One Fabulous Fit bra and Bali’s Shoulder Spa bra, which has gel-filled straps for comfort. It’s a nice revival of brands and the foundations business as a whole.”
Jack Clor, Carson’s foundations buyer, added, “A soft-cup bra by Jockey has been excellent, and so have Jockey panties. The new Flowering Lace bra by Olga has been doing very well, as has Barely There’s Body Revolution bra. The lluminations bra by Vanity Fair and Lily of France’s Special Effects reversible bra continue to do well.”
Clor noted that three shapers by Bodyslimmers have had good sell-throughs: a bodybriefer style in the Belly Band group, and two long-leg styles in the Elegant Lace and Wonder Wear groups.
Regarding sleepwear, Pawlak said, “March has been the coldest month here since October and our spring sleepwear business has just been OK because of that. Shorty pajamas haven’t taken off yet.”
Joe McMahon, buyer of sleepwear, loungewear, cashmere and private label at Neiman Marcus, said, “Right now, contemporary fashion is selling very well across the board. We are making plan and also exceeding it in sleepwear. Even with 9/11 and the whole situation this fall, my business didn’t suffer other than cashmere, which was a little tough.”
McMahon said the top-selling sleepwear item since December has been a pajama set by Josie that features a multicolored motif of a tea party in an Asian garden. Other key brands include Fernando Sanchez, Oscar de la Renta at Carole Hochman Designs, Bed Head, Jonquil and Bella Sera by Jonquil, and Claire Pettibone, which he described as “Sixties-hippie-looking, with tie-dyes and yoga looks that are fun and young looking.”
“Donna Karan knit sleepwear is doing quite well, and Natori, as a broader collection, has a little of something for everybody,” McMahon added. “Hanro’s basic knits in beautiful, clean silhouettes have also been strong.”
Sue Flynn, buyer of sleepwear, robes and at-homewear at Jacobson Stores, said: “Business has been very good across the board, especially my Oscar de la Renta [sleepwear] business, which is really good. I noticed the other day that a printed cotton gauze, long gown by Oscar had really good selling, and that’s unusual because the weather isn’t warm yet. It has a soft, rose floral print and ruffled cap sleeves.”
Flynn listed several other top ideas: cami and pajama pants by Josie, which she described as a “staple”; a mercerized cotton sleepshirt by Donna Karan Intimates, and an easy, long wrap robe of cotton terry by Diamond Tea.
“Traffic is light, but the customer definitely is in a mood to buy right now,” said Paula McManus, foundations buyer at Jacobson’s. “It’s the fashion and colors that attract them, and we have to make sure we show them what they want. This is a good indicator there’s a lot more fashion business to be done.”
McManus said the Chantelle and Wacoal bra brands continue to be her two “big guns” at Jacobson’s, while other labels, including Le Mystere, DKNY Underwear and TC Shaping, are selling “extremely well” this spring.

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