A new mix 'n' match approach to lingerie styling was prevalent at the recent Salon International de la Lingerie and Interfilière trade shows in Paris. Focusing on designs that blend lingerie looks with sportswear styling this trend is giving rise to a new genre of double-duty garments, writes Sonia Roberts.

Several new garment types, some so new that the retail trade has yet to coin catchy generic terms to describe them, made their debut at the recent Salon International de la Lingerie in Paris.

Their arrival marks the further progress of a 'mix and match' approach to informal dressing and was also echoed in the decision by the organisers of the companion Interfilière fabric trade fair to introduce a new section to their event.

Called Open Generation, it focused on designs for the younger consumer, taking its inspiration from the blending of lingerie looks with sportswear styling to create garments which would subsequently be worn as streetwear. This look probably reaches its ultimate among the Tokyo teenagers who like to hang out in the city's Harajuku district.

The move to mix 'n' match also means more dual purpose, or even multi-function garments are at this show as new genre under or outer wear.

A typical new genre garment, and one which this season could be found right across the price spectrum, is the bra that thinks it's a camisole or even a mini petticoat. Adding a skirt, usually of sheer fabric, suspended from just below the bust obviously also has flattering advantages.

The version presented by the French house of Alumette, where it tops a sugar candy pink, guipure lace thong, could also do double duty as a baby doll nightie.

Meanwhile Turkish seamless garment specialist Atateks takes this new look jauntily into the beachwear sector. It offers a scarlet and white polka dot bra with a scarlet and white striped 'skirt' designed to be worn over a scarlet and white polka dot bikini bottom.

In the same vein, but with the fabric choice defining its ultimate function, is the spaghetti strap vest top which in its most extended form becomes an underslip or a mini dress. At Canat, made from delicate cotton jersey, lace edged and with a satin ribbon tie loosely defining the waistline, it becomes the most demure item of night/house wear. From the same manufacturer, executed in sexy scarlet satin it can take Cinderella on to the ball.

In mini dresses of this type an important, topical detail is that as it approaches hemline level, the skirt flares out in the bias cut look so favoured in the l930s.

In the 2lst century, an era when the majority of the fabrics which find their way into lingerie are knitted rather than woven, this easing of tension in specific sectors of the garment is helped by the latest developments in circular knitting equipment by market leading manufacturers like Santoni.

Improved seamless garment technology also means the re-emergence of detailing seen since in the heyday of full fashion knitwear and hosiery. Simulation seaming to diagonally join sleeve to body sections in sweater-like tops is, for instance, now a feature of the Infil range.

Meanwhile in its T-shirt collection this Italian manufacturer is building bagginess into the area between rib cage and waist in many of its summer 2005 styles.

Tween trends
Branded garment manufacturers, like Belgium's Flow with its Junior Flow R collection, and in Italy Franzoni, are now targeting tweenies - the market of ever more fashion-savvy seven to ten year olds. Styles from their standard collections are now available scaled down to suit the figures of pre-pubescent girls.

And in the male market Alexanders believes it can tap into a similarly large customer base with its style conscious 'just like dad's' junior vest and pants sets.

"Even toddlers are now allowed to be picky about the patterns which decorate their pyjamas," was the comment of Roberto Pagone of the Gary group. "This means when selecting character merchandise motifs we have to be sure that we are on the same wavelength not just as the parents but the kids themselves," he adds.

Night-time attire
In adult nightwear multi-function garments are once again tipped as moving into the best selling slot for summer 2005. Sleep suits and shell suit styled designs merge to become reclassified as house wear.

However the big new story in feminine sleepwear is the adoption of the classic English cardigan as the additional item in two or three piece sleepwear sets, overtaking the conventional dressing gown or negligee. These cardies are created from cosy fleece or pile fabrics rather than apparently hand-knitted.

Often too there's a hint of a return to the nursery in the decorations selected for these cover-ups, as with the giant, cartoon-style giraffe appliqués which embellish the Spanish-made Moda Intima Vania collection.

By contrast, in men's nightwear a strong retro element seems to be driving the market.

Chaps who have probably never before in their lives worn traditional striped pyjamas, much less a Noel Coward look-alike silky robe, are apparently suddenly seeing these items as a new bedtime ensemble.

Expert Analysis

Lingerie 2002
Key Note estimates the total UK retail sales of women's hosiery, corsetry and lingerie to be £1.77bn in 2001. This represents a 6.9% rise since 2000. The market is made up of the hosiery, corsetry and lingerie sectors. Retail sales for hosiery and lingerie stood at £624m and £552m respectively, in 2001. Brassières alone account for 33.4% of the market, with retail sales of £589m in 2001. This is a popular report with forecasts to 2006. Find out more here.

 

It is a trend now providing impressive additional business for houses like Spanish manufacturer Kif Kif and, on the dressing gown front, Pilus, which has always stayed faithful to traditional nightwear styling.

Thigh high
Hoisery producers looking to escape the treadmill of ever more keen pricing insisted upon by customers in the volume sector are bringing back stockings and suspenders rather than more practical tights. Italy's Lilly, for example, has attached its suspenders not to a girdle or suspender belt but to baby blue garters themselves worn on the upper leg.

In a similar move to escape the boredom evoked by conventional tights, Trasparenze aims to inject glamour into its collection with a style split from centre front waist-line to crotch with the missing V-shape fabric section replaced by contrast colour corsetry lacing.

Fabric panels with mock corsetry lacing, but none of the compression corsets were originally designed to achieve, appeared as trimmings on camisoles, bra camisoles and bustiers throughout the show.

It is only however within the German Revanche de la Femme that an authentic whiff of 19th century revival emerges. Revanche's boned bustiers are designed to truly nip in the waist creating an hourglass silhouette with maximum emphasis on hips and bust.

The feeling of garments which could have come straight from the showcase of a costume museum was further underlined by Revanche's choice of fabrics - mostly artfully faded florals which could indeed have come from the pre-chemical dye era.

Period inspiration was also evident in the coyly named Billet Doux collection. This was introduced to visitors to Salon International de la Lingerie with a live fashion show which the organisers pretended to be taking place in the 1930s rather than the first decade of the 2lst century.

Simulation bias cut slip dresses, and nightie plus negligee sets in navy, with white coin dot decoration, paraded to the accompaniment of 30s song melodies played by a pianist seated at a baby grand.

By Sonia Roberts.