DALLAS — There are two sides to J.C. Penney right now: the one working its way through a bankruptcy reorganization and the one that's getting ready for holiday shoppers.

The latter is rolling out a new women's apparel brand called Stylus in a category Penney calls "styleisure," a name it's trying to trademark.

The Plano, Texas-based department store is pitching the neutral, solid-color collection as "versatile, stylish and sophisticated" pieces designed for the stay-at-home lifestyle that's accelerated during the pandemic.

"But it's not loungewear. It's not athleisure and it's not activewear," said Michelle Wlazlo, Penney's chief merchandising officer since early 2019. "It's a wear-all-day line and leave the house brand paired with sneakers or booties."

Navy, gray and tan tops, pants, jumpsuits and cardigans can mix and match for looks that are more sophisticated than sweats, leggings, hoodies and workout tees. The muted palette also includes a few more colors such as blush pink, cream and black.

The point of the brand, which is exclusive to Penney, is that shoppers don't have to sacrifice fashion for comfort, Wlazlo said. Stylus clothing is made from knits and lightweight stretch woven fabrics and can be swapped and worn with other brands to create "endless combinations," she said.

While it's "perfect timing" for today's pandemic lifestyle, the brand has been in the works since last year and was planned to launch for this holiday, she said. Penney's strong in-house private-label program wasn't held back by the bankruptcy or the pandemic, Wlazlo said.

The relaxed fit clothing has modern details such as tapered legs, curved hems and twist-front tops. Sizes range from XS to 3X, and the pieces are priced from $26 to $89.

"Our inclusive sizing is a philosophy, not an afterthought. Size should never be a deterrent to style or the ability to feel empowered, confident and comfortable," she said.

A few weeks before stores were closed temporarily for the pandemic in March, Penney had relaunched its a.n.a. women's jeans with updated styles and colors and in extended sizes. In May, it added another private label brand, Linden Street, in its home department, where it has since added other national brands in time for holiday shopping.

"I feel really good and proud of the assortment for the holiday season," Wlazlo said. While she has been working to be sure stores are stocked for the holiday, Penney's bankruptcy threatened assortments.

The Stylus brand is available online and in 394 of Penney's 690 stores. Penney closed 156 stores during its reorganization.

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(c)2020 The Dallas Morning News

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