) -- At least the dismal economy isn't forcing shoppers to go commando.

According to a report released today by the NPD Group, underwear was of the only positive sectors in apparel during the first half of the year. The group dollar volume of underwear jumped 4.8% to $2 million from $1.9 million last year.

In comparison, total apparel dollar volume was down 7% to $84.8 million in the first half of 2009 from $91.2 million last year. The biggest loser was in the tailored clothing category, aka suits, which tanked 11.4% to $9.5 million.

So how can you play the underwear sector? For starters, there is

Maidenform Brands


, which on Wednesday posted a 6% decline in second-quarter earnings, but raised its full-year outlook.

During the quarter, the company earned $7.3 million, or 31 cents a share, compared with $7.8 million, or 33 cents, in the year-ago period. Analysts expected earnings of 25 cents.

Its sales rose 6% to $114.2 million from $108.1 million.

Looking ahead, Maidenform now expects full-year earnings in the range of $1.10 to $1.16 a share, up from a prior forecast between $1 and $1.10 a share. Third-quarter earnings should be between 34 cents and 38 cents.

Shares of the company jumped 6% to $15.05 in afternoon trading.

There's also rival



, which said on Tuesday that its second-quarter profit fell 8%, but it too boosted its full-year outlook.

The maker of Calvin Klein underwear earned $17.8 million, or 38 cents a share, compared with $19.4 million, or 41 cents, in the year-ago period.

Excluding one-time charges, its profit was 47 cents, a penny shy of analysts' estimates. Its revenue dropped 9% to $455.9 million from $503.3 million.

Warnaco now expects full-year earnings in the range of $2.60 to $2.75 a share, up from its prior guidance of $2.50 to $2.66.

And then, of couse, there is


(HBI) - Get Report

, which said that its second-quarter profits were nearly halved, but excluding charges, topped analysts' expectations.

Shares in that company were up 73 cents, or almost 4%, just before the market close on Wedensday.

-- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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