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Lingerie trends in bad times: simple or sexy

Susan Carpenter Los Angeles Times
Lingerie trends in bad times: simple or sexy Blair Thornley/ For the Times

Lingerie trends in bad times: simple or sexy Blair Thornley/ For the Times

Two types of buyers are lifting the strapped market during the economic downturn.

Sugar and spice -- or everything nice? It's opposites that are propelling the lingerie market as the U.S. economy unravels and more Americans stay home. Whether it's blasé basics or come-hither costumes, nesting is giving rise to dueling trends in the lace-trimmed world of intimate apparel. Comfort is paralleling escapism.

"It's almost like the good girl and the bad girl," said Rita Nakouzi, North American director of the fashion forecasting agency, Promostyl. "People are definitely [staying home] more, and what's interesting is that it plays out in two ways. On the one hand, it's about wanting things that are more second skin that make you feel cocooned. On the other, it becomes a little bit more naughty and about fantasy."

Like so many other aspects of the American experience these days, today's lingerie climate is taking at least some of its cues from the Depression. Back then, "If women had any money at all to spend on clothes, it was something to help the clothes look good on them," said Jane Farrell-Beck, author of the book "Uplift: The Bra in America." So, foundations, as they called them -- brassieres and girdles -- "those were the thing," she said.

That trend toward sturdy foundations is mirrored in today's fragile economic climate. Women still need something to cover their backsides and to keep the girls in place.

"If you can't go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, you can at least have a good bra that makes you look good in the clothes you already have. A little treat in lingerie is less expensive than going out and buying a new outfit," said Jen Abercrombie, owner of the Panty Raid boutique in Silver Lake.

"People aren't taking as many chances," she added. They're sticking to the basics, and they want the ones that work.


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