IT'S USA OR BUST FOR SARA LEE'S WONDERBRA

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Cleavage. It's big. It's back. And because of it, a battle of the bras is taking shape in the U.S.

Only last fall, the slight-chested look was in. Now, even waif queen Kate Moss confesses a desire for occasional cleavage, with the model admitting in a recent issue of Vanity Fair that for some comely decolletage, she wears a Wonderbra.

A what?

A Wonderbra, a 30-year-old feat of engineering that with some stylistic tweaking has become a phenomenon of modern marketing. An overseas hit, its U.K. sales have quadrupled since 1991 to $28 million, driving market share to 12.5% of the $225 million U.K. branded bra market.

Industry estimates place push-up bra sales at 25% of the $2 billion U.S. bra market but expect them to surge as Wonderbra and others join the fray.

Until now, Wonderbra hasn't been available in the U.S., but its reputation as a cheap, impermanent alternative to breast implants has been spread by word-of-mouth.

Now, the Wonderbra is coming. In May, Sara Lee Foundations will introduce the $23 bust-booster in New York stores, with national availability planned by fall.

Already, push-up padded bikinis from Darling Rio and Catalina have become best sellers as a new generation of women discovers cleavage enhancers.

A pricier alternative has already arrived. Last week, Gossard Group, Sara Lee's U.K. and European licensee for Wonderbra until last December, introduced its own padded bra in the U.S. The Super-Uplift Push-Up bra sells for $39.50, a price that covers an intricate system of 46 wired and padded parts concealed behind lace confections and other frothy designs.

Gossard calls the results "miracle cleavage" and has begun promoting them with co-op ads and in-store promotions. Saks Fifth Avenue, which sold 600 Super-Uplift bras in six days, is also considering an in-house national campaign.

Abbott Mead Vickers/ BBDO, London, handles Gossard overseas; it isn't known whether BBDO Worldwide will do the super-bra's U.S. advertising. If it does, the competitive jousting will remain in the family; sister agency TBWA, New York, is handling Wonderbra's U.S. launch.

Sara Lee Foundations President Paul Mischinski said details of the marketing campaign haven't been finalized. Executives close to Sara Lee believe national ad spending could reach $10 million.

In the U.K. and Europe, where Wonderbra is handled by TBWA Holmes Knight Ritchie, London, a new campaign broke in February featuring models flanked by bold headlines such as "Hello boys" and "Look me in the eyes and tell me you love me."

From the start, TBWA has avoided the wrath of U.K. feminists by emphasizing that every Wonderbra campaign is photographed and created by women.

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