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NEW YORK — “Chicago” is jazzing up consumers and lingerie designers alike.

This story first appeared in the March 31, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The movie, which won six Academy Awards on March 23, showcases overtly sexy daywear, bustiers, corsets and garters. As a result, retailers said the appetite for specialty lingerie items in the last few months has generated sales gains of 17 to 30 percent in corsetry as well as in Twenties- and Thirties-inspired daywear. Now, stores and designers are scrambling to add key items for late-fall selling.

Kal Ruttenstein, Bloomingdale’s senior vice president of fashion direction, said: “The trend has received written verification” in the media and at retail. All of the tremendous TV play the movie is getting, plus the exposure of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renée Zellweger singing the signature song of the movie in hosiery and minislips has certainly promoted this trend.”

Donna Wolff, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel and hosiery at Bloomingdale’s, said she believes the “spillover” from the success of fishnet hosiery sales influenced by the film has already impacted lingerie business this season and is generating positive results in two classifications: bustiers and “beautifully soft, unconstructed and sexy-looking daywear.”

“Those daywear items are already very hot for fall and bustiers are selling very well right now. We plan to do a major ‘Chicago’-inspired bustier promotion this fall,” said Wolff, noting that the retailer already held a similar promotion for hosiery in January and that daywear business is up 17 percent against a year ago.

Anne Caetano, dmm of intimate apparel at Saks Fifth Avenue, said daywear sales, particularly items that have a pretty, vintage look, have increased 25 to 30 percent. She added that more corsetry was featured in Saks’ “core book” for March and more corsets and bustiers will be highlighted in April mailers.

“Obviously, the film has had an impact, even in sleepwear that has a daywear look that is definitely ‘Chicago’-inspired,” said Caetano. “As a matter of fact, I’m looking for garters to go with stockings. The trend is actually all encompassing. You need the whole ensemble to complete the mood.”

As an example, Caetano said hosiery departments at Saks now merchandise novelty hosiery with intimate pieces on mannequins in hosiery departments as well as in intimate apparel departments. She further noted that corsetry in particular has been a key item and is a segment of the intimates business that is “coming to fruition” since the release of “Chicago.” Best-selling brands include La Perla Black Label, Aubade, Chantelle, Lise Charmel, Chantal Thomass, daywear by Natori and a black retro bustier by Natori, which she described as selling “extremely well.”

Christine Ansari, dmm at Frederick’s of Hollywood, said that while Frederick’s has always specialized in “Chicago” looks, she has seen an increased demand for particular products since the movie hit the screens.

“We think certain aspects of the movie will influence trends going forward. In particular, an emphasis on garters, whether it’s garters on slips, garters on tap pants and garters on panties. The overall feeling of the dance number in prison with strappy black lingerie also is an important influence,” said Ansari.

“Because of ‘Chicago,’ lots of customers are coming in asking for boy-cut shorts like the ones worn by Zeta-Jones and Zellweger,” said Rebecca Apsan, owner of La Petite Coquette, a lingerie boutique in Manhattan. “My boy-cut shorts business has grown 20 percent over the past couple of months.”

Top-selling brands include Eberjey, Fleur’t, Peekaboo by M. Milien, Damaris, Loungewear Betty, Snatch, Zazi and Buttress, said Apsan.

The push at the designer end for “Chicago”-inspired items is taking place primarily in the domain of new, entrepreneurial companies or the young designer arena.

Designer Leigh Bantivoglio, said, “It’s been all subliminal. I saw the movie, and I thought, ‘my gosh,’ a lot of my new ideas, silhouettes, laces and glamorous looks are inspired by the musical.”

Key ideas for spring 2004 will include the introduction of silks and rigid laces, soft triangle bras, bias-cut slips and chemises that are “kind of boxy looking but sexy,” she said, adding, “I’m also bringing in garters, something I’ve never done before.”

Los Angeles-based Claire Pettibone noted: “I loved the silk robes in the movie. Very decadent looking. Spring 2004 would be a good time to do those robes. Silky pajamas and kimonos and little chemises, and camis and tap pants are a natural now. I’ll be using very delicate silks and laces with unconstructed, pretty-looking daywear and sleepwear. There’s definitely room in the market for those looks.”

“I loved ‘Chicago’ so much that I got a jump-start for fall,” said Moni McCleary, designer of Loungewear Betty. “I’m doing chemises with soft triangle bras; a ton of HotPants; a fishnet halter top with low-waisted panties that tie on the side; a little polkadot mesh skirt with garters, and bustiers with garters. Response has been very good, and I plan to do more ‘Chicago’ looks for holiday and spring.”

Christine Kim, designer of the daywear and sleepwear label Mariposa, said: “I’m sticking with this ‘Chicago’ thing for holiday. I think it’s going to be a big hit in lingerie. We’ve gone through the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. Now, people are starting to look back to the nostalgia of the Twenties and Thirties.”

Kim said she plans to work on a number of ideas for garters and garter belts, as well as rich-looking solid velvets and retro burnout velvets.

Toronto-based Banu Khurana, designer of Khurana daywear and sleepwear, said her best-booking items for fall are soft, pliable bra tops and coordinating retro tap pants, as well as fuchsia and black lace panties.

“We’re always into things that have a retro look, but now it’s more glamorized, not just vintage pale colors,” said Khurana, noting that the shimmery lingerie in the musical has inspired her to use more dramatic special effects. For holiday, she said the focus will be on “lots of silver and glamorous black with a bit of gold, as well as stark white charmeuse. I’m also thinking of doing silk garters and corsets with built-in garters.”

Flora Nikrooz, designer of Flora Nikrooz Lingerie, said the movie has inspired her to introduce more daywear and sleepwear that “looks extremely seductive.”

“Instead of concentrating on floral laces, I’ll be showing more geometric-pattern laces of that era. The glitz will be very important, and I’ll be doing a lot of pearls and shiny beads on chiffons and charmeuse in silhouettes that are bias-cut and feature geometric flairs,” said Nikrooz.

Top Trends

Soft, unconstructed triangle bras and coordinating retro tap pants.
Garters, whether a single garter on the thigh, or garters attached to panties,control briefs, waist cinchers, corsets or micro skirts.
Modern and vintage-looking bustiers.
Shimmer and shine, from antique-looking laces with Lurex to pearls and gold, silver and jet black beads.
Anything with mesh, fringe, fur trim, marabou or fishnet.
Velvets, especially retro burnout looks.

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