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Women' s Wearables - A Look Of Her Own

By Chartlotte Thomas

After years rolling up their sleeves and lopping off too-long shirttails, women now have other options. Corporations have realized that if they want women to wear a logoed garment, it had better fit and look stylish. An explosion of promotional apparel choices has made selection easier than ever.

The old trick of downsizing men's clothing to make wearables passable for women wearers has been officially tucked away for good. With women making up about 50% of the workforce, a lot of them now make the decisions about apparel buying for their company. It's a no-brainer to guess what they'll choose if there's a line of womenswear available that's cut and styled especially for them.

Though it might be "a pain in the neck to split out some ladies' shirts when you're ordering 500 for a convention, ladies are putting their foot down," observes Rick Cesere, a promotional consultant. And according to Karen Benton, another consultant, women's wearables are finally taking hold: "Women want to wear what's fashionable - not just put a logo in six-inch block letters on their chests. Women want wearables to look like what they would wear otherwise, though more on the conservative side."

For example, there's now a combination cable stitch with jersey being offered. Though the style has been out in retail for a while, it's new in the promotional market, and women love it. The ideal is to look feminine and professional while wearing a corporate logo. Fortunately, they can now do just that.

Different But The Same
Apparel for women with the same look as men's, but styled for them are now called "complementary wearables," a term you should add to your promotional vocabulary. And it's taking off.

Counselor Jason Temme says that when companies offer complementary wearables in coordinating colors and fabrics, they're promoting a team environment where everyone looks and feels good. "Traditionally, companies would order a unisex-style shirt. Women would lop off eight inches and re-hem it," he says. "Now they don't have to."

Today, though, your counselor can show you entire lines of wearables specifically tailored for women. Most styles have matching counterparts for men. According to counselor Connie Woodward, sales for ladies' apparel has doubled in the last five years.

Deborah Long, a promotional consultant, has also noticed a move toward complementary styles. She feels that's where the growth in logoed women's apparel will occur, rather than in styles made exclusively for women. In the future, women's companion pieces will be constructed of the same fabric and matching colors, but the detailing will be more tailored for them.

Cut And Feel Count
Today's women's wearables are made with softer fabrics, have slimmer silhouettes and styling details such as smaller buttons. They're shaped, not slouchy, contoured, not fitted. One common theme that promotional consultant Hal Rhodes hears is that women want to match the look of men's wearables but want garments cut for them. For instance, an interlock 100% cotton shirt instead of a pique gives a smoother hand to a woman's knit shirt. Eyelet trim on the collar can also add a feminine touch. Even on polo shirts, women are getting cap sleeves, not the straight-across sleeve found on men's shirts.

Other details, says counselor Catiana Celentano, include finer buttons and a narrower and shorter placket that doesn't go down to the middle of a woman's chest the way it would if she was in a men's size small. Women want the option to wear a match of a man's polo with reverse plackets or to have a scoop neck. "A lot has to do with how women feel about themselves," she observes. "It's a matter of body type and individuality."

Another departure from men's wearables is a hip-length jacket with a cinch cord and keepers. According to counselor Scott McFadden, women like the length and style, which can be pullover or with a zipper. They'll take the jacket and add a matching tote and cap for an ensemble look.

The Trendy Side
Though you're not likely to see pink leather pants as a promotional product anytime soon, that doesn't mean logoed stylish stuff can't be had. Frank Gordon, promotional consultant says that doesn't mean some won't borrow a little hot-pink flare. "[Many women like] urban wear - what's out in the streets but toned down. The urban look can be safely transferred into corporate wear for a younger, more up-to-date look, but still something a corporation can put its name on," he says.

Jin Kang, a West coast promotional consultant, says among the current top trends for women are "retro '80s," from punk glam to military inspired prints with a feminine twist and anything with glitter, foil, or rhinestone embellishments. That's the look over low-riding jeans, printed Capri pants or floral and jungle prints.

Outlook?

Asked about the growth of women's wearables, just about everyone agrees the market is gaining popularity. "Women's wearables will grow as long as they start to relate better to the retail level," says counselor Astrid Castro. "Start by not underestimating women."

COPYRIGHT © 2002 The Advertising Specialty Institute. All rights reserved.
Charlotte Thomas is a freelance writer based in Colorado Springs, CO.

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