"There is no question that the consumer is buying less. But consumers also are demanding that they get greater usage out of the clothes they are planning to buy or already own," says Maureen Callahan, Lane Bryant's national fashion director.
So, taking a cue from the cosmetics industry, Lane Bryant has come up with a merchandising formula that packakges a dress with a bag of accessories offering a variety of ways to wear it. The dress, a black, slightly A-line silhouette style, which varies its look with all of the accessories packaged with it, also can be worn front-to-back to vary the looks further.
The package deal for clothing -- particularly women's suits with both pants and a skirt and men's suits of several parts with an alternative vest (and sometimes even an alternative pattern for the pants) -- has been experimented with for some time. Recently T-shirts and books and even chacha heels have been given away to generate jeans sales. But the idea of a garment prepackaged with lots of different accessories is a fresh presentation. g
While Lane Bryant has preselected a group of accessories tied to the sale of one dress -- a formula they have used in half sizes that others are sure to boorrow for most size and style ranges -- it is possible to pull together a selection of accessories that can be used to vary the clothes in your closet.
Here are the suggestions offered by several stores:
Marta (Chichi) Labarraque of Woodward & Lothrop suggests knit gloves in white, black or a color to finish off an outfit and lacquered straw hat to smarten up a look. "Neither one is essential but they certainly make an outfit look better," she says.
The mid-heel black patent leather pump is strongly recommended, "and if there is money left over, then an open-toe mid-heel or flat sandal." Geometric-shape jewelry and preppy accessories such as grosgrain ribbon belts and jazz oxfords also are on her list.
Hecht's creative merchandising director, Ron Lichter, suggests that belts no wider than two inches and Gucci-style or plastic buckles, textured cotton sweaters, lace collars and two-inch low-slung heel shoes or flat oxford would be essential to updating and varying clothes. While he likes the bright color hose now being introduced, "It is a mistake if a woman walks into a room and all you see is her bright red legs, rather than the total woman."
A dose of color in the tie, belt, or socks is the suggestion of Molly Ginish, fashion director for Raleigh's. The accent of a bright yellow or red belt with a military buckle, a knitted tie in "crazy colors" or socks in patterns and argyles -- or for the more daring, bright colors -- are some of the options.
And for the man who likes bright colors but isn't up to wearing them in public, Ginish says the underwear industry also has picked up the bright color range. More modestly, men can give a fresh spirit to their clothes, says Ginish, with a straw hat that most will wear in a turned-down brim style.
Mimi Liebeskind, vice president at Ann Taylor, says just about any color outfit gets a shot of life from the addition of purple accessories. "It just seems that purple is a basic color this spring."
She suggests a purple clutch bag and a purple belt to add dash to last year's -- or this year's -- costume. Also on Liebeskind's list of highly recomended accessories are opaque-color pantyhose and knee-high socks she believes work equally well with skirts or pants. Flats or little heels give a fresh proportion to everything.
Liebeskind and others feel that the suits of a season past can be freshened-up with cotton knit sweaters that also will have a life of their own worn in place of the traditional T-shirt this spring and summer.
"The reason the prepackaged dress and accessories work so well this season is that the current crop of dresses around -- and this one is no exception -- is safe, tailored and easy to change with accessories," says Lane Bryant's Callahan.
While the dress is in half sizes, there really isn't any accessory that is suitable for a slimmer person that won't be right for the half-size customer, insists Callahan, "except maybe for a tiny brimmed hat that teeter-totters on the top of the head." Scarves probably should not be tied as high on the neck, and probably not worn around the waist, something that "slimmer sisters" can get away with, she says.
The Lane Bryant package starts with a black polyester crepe dress with pearl button opening on the front, shoulder tucks on the back or the reverse, plus pearls, lace collar, pink sash, narrow black velvel belt, gold pin, gold chain, black- and white-printed scarf and quilted clutch bag. Total price, $54.