Byline: Holly Haber

DALLAS — Houndstooth and chevron patterns have emerged as fall favorites for hosiery, and fishnets continue to be popular, according to retailers nationwide.
That said, overall legwear sales are less than robust, and following the Sept. 11 attacks, the legwear business took another dive due to a sharp decline in store traffic.
But the growing return to suits and ladylike dressing, as well as the abundance of fashion weaves that have re-emerged after a decade in hiding, is giving hope to some stores that consider these factors a boon to the legwear business.
Also, many retailers nationwide said they are seeing some action in seamless and footless pantyhose.
“The fashion trends and items have brought back enthusiasm in legwear,” said Amy O’Connor, vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Neiman Marcus. “Now there is lots of color, even in the sock area. It relates to the return of the jacket and a polished, head-to-toe, pulled-together look. Hosiery is the perfect piece to finish a look.”
Neiman’s leading patterns are houndstooth, herringbone, argyle and chevron. Fishnets are selling “across the board in all sizes and shapes,” she said, especially in nude and black, or two-tone weaves like black with bronze or nude with black by such resources as Oroblu. “The two-tones are subtle and give fishnets an extra dimension,” she noted.
Also selling are Wolford’s recently introduced no-waistband Logic line, which appeals to women seeking a smooth finish devoid of panty lines, Oroblu’s body-shaping style Shockup, and Spanx, a footless control-top pantyhose.
“They are great with capri pants with open-toe shoes for a polished look,” O’Connor noted.
While she claimed the hosiery business was trending well before Sept. 11, she said a key challenge has been the uninspiring nature of the basic assortment.
“We haven’t had anything to revolutionize the world like nudes did several years ago,” she said.
At Barneys New York, printed novelty socks and knee-highs have been outselling traditional hosiery, according to accessories buyer Tamra Flowers.
“People want to feel good and it’s something they can buy at a low price,” she said.
Novelty items such as Wolford’s Aretha style, which features a vertical stripe that reverses below the knee, have sold well so far at Barneys.
Susie Fillipore, regional manager of nine Wolford stores, said black, camel and skin-tone hosiery in stripes, pointelle and cut lace are top performers.
“It’s very graphic, and dots are big this year,” Fillipore said. “People still need to wear pantyhose and sometimes you can make that little investment and feel better for a day.”
Legwear sales are off to a slow start this fall at Sheers, a two-unit Dallas boutique specializing in intimate apparel, bodywear and hosiery. But that’s due to milder October temperatures, explained Stacey Dorfman, the store’s owner.
“They’re coming in for plain old black and chocolate tights and large fishnets,” she noted.
Sheers’ leading fishnet resources are Oroblu, Joanna Trojer and Franzoni, while top brands for opaques are DKNY, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein. Since 1998, Sheers has decreased its hosiery assortment by 8 percent.
“We were stuck with [unsold merchandise] the last three years because no one was wearing any hosiery,” she said. “I’m very tight on what we get in for legwear.”
So far, legwear sales are flat against last year, and Dorfman added that business at Sheers’ store in the Dallas suburb of Plano was more affected by the recent shopping slowdown than the Highland Park unit, which is in an affluent neighborhood in the heart of Dallas.
“What’s happened hasn’t hurt our business,” Dorfman said. “You still need a little something to feel great.”

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