Byline: Holly Haber

Thongs and boy-leg panties are among the hottest-selling styles at intimate apparel departments in a time of economic coolness in apparel retailing.
The whole daywear category is doing well, retailers said, driven by young, contemporary styling, fashion colors, mesh and stretch lace fabrics. In foundations, full-figure, seamless and molded styles remain popular, along with shapewear.
Contemporary sleepwear and daywear separates are achieving double-digit gains at Saks Fifth Avenue, according to Barbara Lipton, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for intimate apparel and hosiery.
“In daywear, camisoles, bra tops, boy shorts and thongs, all coordinating in mesh or lace, and color are very important,” Lipton said. “Anything a little more pared down in pajamas is doing well. The looks are not just tailored classics, but much more updated styles with crop tops and definitely crop pants. We continue to be very bullish about this category going forward and expect double-digit increases to continue.”
SFA’s top contemporary resources are Josie by Natori, Flash by Flora Nikrooz, On Gossamer and Leigh Bantivoglio. Bridal lingerie is also a strong area, led by feminine styles from Natori, Flora Nikrooz and Jonquil, she said.
“It’s beautiful and sexy and lacy and pretty, and the customer is reacting very well,” Lipton said. “It is no longer really just for bridal.”
Customers continue to favor seamless foundations, Lipton added, especially seamless products made on Santoni machines, as well as contour and full-cup bra styles. Leading labels are Wacoal, Chantelle, La Perla and Le Mystere. Bras by Natori also are doing well, and Oscar de la Renta is on plan, she added.
At Lord & Taylor, designer and full-figure bras, shapewear and sleepwear are solid performers.
“Our designer bra business is excellent and the leader in that area is Wacoal,” said Lavelle Olexa, senior vice president of fashion merchandising, adding that Felina, Natori and Vogue Dessous also are top resources.
“That business has been really terrific, and we have added a couple of new vendors — Le Mystere and Lunaire — that we are pleased with,” Olexa said.
Other strong sellers in foundations are full-figure bras by Lilyette and Bali, and shapewear by Bodyslimmers. Best-selling sleepwear items include knit pajamas by Carole Hochman and Jones New York, as well as dressy looks by Oscar de la Renta, which is produced under license by Carole Hochman Designs.
Bloomingdale’s is getting strong reaction to daywear and foundations by Arrianne, Hanna, DKNY Underwear and On Gossamer, especially contour, underwire bras and boy-leg shorts.
“All the fashion and basics have been very good,” said Donna Wolfe, vice president and dmm of intimate apparel and hosiery. “Wacoal has been on fire.”
Underwear and bras by Jockey are posting double-digit gains, she added, while the Bali brand is ahead of plan. In shapewear, Bodyslimmers is up 30 percent, she said.
Leading sleepwear styles at Bloomingdale’s include rib-knit basics by Calvin Klein Underwear, contemporary looks by Josie by Natori and romantic styles by Eileen West.
At Kmart, thongs, string bikinis and panties with coordinating tank tops in bright colors and novelty fabrics such as mesh and foil, as well as cotton and Lycra spandex styles, are leading sales, a spokeswoman said.
The chain is also seeing a lot of action with molded seamless bras and padded push-up bras in fashion colors by Vassarette and Lovable. Seamless microfiber shapewear by Hanes Her Way has also been a top seller.
The spokeswoman said reaction has been strong to Kmart’s exclusive introduction of B by Bestform, a fashion line styled for tweens and teens. The collection features a bandeau bra, a triangle-shaped bra, a thong bottom and low-rise bikini. They are offered in mix-and-match colors in retro denim and washed denim finishes, as well as a purple and orange plaid print. Bottoms sell for $2.99, and tops are $6.99.
“It’s driven by the fashions that young girls are wearing: strapless tops and low-rise bottoms,” she said.
Thongs, boy-leg panties, stretch lace and corsets are the hot items at Frederick’s of Hollywood, which is making progress in its effort to revitalize business. Linda LoRe, president and chief executive officer, said Frederick’s posted comparable gains averaging 4 percent in July and early August at its 173 stores.
Thongs are so popular that Frederick’s sells 75,000 of the skimpy panties each week, she said.
“Frederick’s was the first retailer to bring the thong to the American public in a big way 20 years ago under the term ‘skanty panty,”‘ said Christine Ansari, general merchandise manager. “Since then, it has become a staple for us and the driver of our panty business.”
“The thong panty represents 90 percent of panty sales in the U.S. today,” LoRe said. “We see customers buying them four to 10 pairs at a time.”
Last August, Frederick’s pushed the thong in its stores by celebrating its 20th anniversary of the thong in windows and displays. The company gave away 100,000 silkscreened thongs with the 20th anniversary icon as a gift with any $20 purchase.
The thong campaign follows “Get Cheeky,” a summer promotion of boy-leg panties and matching camisoles that boosted daywear business an impressive 75 percent over a four-week period.