Shapewear, the updated version of the 1950s girdle, is hot, and undergarments made from high-tech fibers are boosting behinds, enhancing cleavage and literally sculpting bodies from head to toe.
Kate de Castelbajac, author of the soon-to-be released book "The Face of the Century: 100 Years of Makeup & Style," believes shapewear is popular because women in the '90s "want to feel in control of their lives, which means being in control of their bodies."
Even without major advertising support, sales of such shapewear as control panties and hip, thigh, buttock and waist shapers jumped 3.1% to $349 million in 1993. Although shapewear sales dipped 7% to $324 million in 1994, according to NPD Group, this year has seen a Lycra resurgence; through June, shapewear sales are $171.3 million.
The upward trend should continue, says fashion and apparel consultant Alan Millstein, who publishes the Fashion Network Report. "The future for shapewear is good because the baby boomers are getting older," he said.
"Women are becoming more comfortable with their bodies but they just want a little help, especially as they get older," said Paul Heron, VP-merchandising for True Form, a division of foundation marketer Maidenform.
Sara Lee Intimates' Bali is the top shapewear brand, controlling 30% of all units sold. Elizabeth Meyer, marketing manager for Bali Shapewear and the brand that powered it all, the Wonderbra, predicts "The shape-enhancing trend will be significantly influenced by [this year's] newer fashions, which are much more tight fitting and curvaceous."
To capitalize on that, Bali will include shapewear in a campaign breaking in spring 1996 from Ammirati & Puris/Lintas, New York, but plans aren't yet finalized.
Although the Wonderbra, with $120 million in U.S. sales during its launch year of 1994, comes to mind first when talking shapewear, Ms. Meyer said about 80% of the overall market is comprised of briefs and highcut panties, which control the tummy and behind.
"As long as people are wearing clothes, I'll have something to design to go under those clothes," said Nancy Ganz, president of Bodyslimmers by Nancy Ganz, which markets the Hipslip and Butt Booster.
Bodyslimmers has had minimal ad support for its lines, beginning with a print campaign in Glamour in 1993 from Goldsmith/Jeffrey. Since then, the company has done bus and trade advertising, handled in-house, and will run two print ads in Marie Claire this year from Atelier Creative.
A hosiery shapewear is providing extensive tummy support and receiving advertising support.
Touted as the next generation of control-top hose, this year Sara Lee Hosiery introduced L'eggs Smooth Silhouettes after the successful launch of sister brand Hanes Smooth Illusions in 1994.
The Hanes brand comes with a built-in panty that also maintains support of the tummy and behind, while L'eggs has more spandex in the tummy and rear end to offer firm control. Sheer shaping is provided in the leg.
Hanes advertising plays up the drama of the transformation.
"Liposuction without surgery" heralds the introductory print and outdoor campaign from Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising. The account, which Competitive Media Reporting measured at $3.5 million last year, has since moved to Arnell Group.
While declining to discuss specifics, Olan Beam, director of marketing for Hanes, said, "Sales for Smooth Illusions have been fantastic, growing 60% over the past year and a half."
L'eggs also has performed well.
"As of June 25, our [Smooth Silhouettes] brand has a 4% dollar share of the total food, drug and mass hosiery market," measured at $518 million by NPD Group, said Dan Sullivan, senior marketing manager.
The Silhouettes ads, also from Saatchi and themed "Break the rules," encourage women to reshape their legs with hosiery rather than spend valuable hours exercising.