G-strings and angel wings. Is the owner of Victoria's Secret a sin stock or a saint?

The flagship brand for

Limited Brands


presents an interesting case. Underwear should be recession proof, but $50 bras are turning out to be luxury items that women can do without.

The stock has tumbled 41% over the past year along with most retail stocks. More telling is that December comparable same store sales tumbled 10% and resulted in increased promotional activity. According to the company's conference call, January sales are expected to be down in the mid to high teens.

Credit Suisse analyst Paul Lejuez slashed his estimates on Jan. 8, citing lowered sales and margins going forward. He expects that earnings will be at risk throughout 2009.

In the midst of a recession, ladies are cutting back on lingerie purchases. Since underwear is hidden to most, women can get by extending the life of their existing wardrobe. When it does come time to replace it, women can make their purchases at discounters like




JC Penny's

(JCP) - Get Report

, or hit sales at


(M) - Get Report


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Victoria's Secret has marketed itself as glamorous and sexy, which is great in times of easy money -- but not so great in a recession. The less glamorous


(HBI) - Get Report

saw its underwear sales jump 2% or $15 million in the third quarter ending Sept. 27. Granny panties are in, garter belts are out.

And if ladies aren't buying fancy underwear, it also seem like they aren't buying fancy soap either. Limited Brands owns

Bath & Body Works

, which is located mostly in malls where the traffic levels are dwindling. The soaps and bath items are reasonably priced, but women are looking at these purchases as an impulse item and opting to buy soap at the grocery store.

Comparable same store sales slid 11% for Bath & Body Works, with the merchandise margin rates down significantly for the past December, according to Amy Preston of Limited Brands. By contrast, consumer giant

Proctor and Gamble

(PG) - Get Report

saw its beauty sales increase 12% in its most recent quarter.

The bottom line: If recessionistas aren't shopping for black lace these days, Limited Brands stock is a sin in your portfolio.