I guess it should come as no surprise to anyone paying the least bit of attention that bebe (NASDAQ:BEBE) is still struggling to regain its catwalk-worthy strut. The retailer that went from sexy to conservative, and is now trying to return to sexy, is finding the process more difficult than it probably imagined. If its third-quarter results, which were slightly better than lowered forecasts, provided investors with a glimmer of hope, its fourth-quarter projections completely dashed that hope.

In its fiscal third quarter, bebe reported a 3% decrease in earnings to $12.9 million, or $0.14 per share. The company did post a 16% jump in sales to $154.4 million, but comps fell 0.4% in the quarter.

While its third-quarter results were certainly nothing to brag about, its fourth-quarter projections are really what doomed bebe. The retailer projects fourth-quarter earnings of $0.17 to $0.21 per share, which would be below analysts' expectations of $0.25 per share and 12.5% to 29.2% lower than the $0.24 per share it earned in last year's fiscal fourth quarter. Additionally, bebe expects comps to fall by low to mid-single digits.

Companies lose key personnel all the time, but they figure out ways to move forward. However, for a company like bebe that's so reliant on its ability to define sexy, losing its trendsetter has a lasting impact, and the company is continuing to face that reality. In the fast-paced, constantly changing world of fashion, bebe faces the daunting task of playing catch-up.

Like a plethora of other fashion retailers -- including Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF), Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO), and Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ:URBN), to name just a few -- bebe has never been a stock for the faint of heart. However, now you really have to wonder if it has truly lost its appeal. For daring investors, bebe presents an interesting possibility. Compared with its peers mentioned above, bebe ranges from moderately priced to downright cheap. Of course, those retailers aren't in quite the same predicament as bebe. I don't think I'm quite daring enough for bebe, but I am interested in seeing how this one unfolds.

For more on bebe's attempts at bringing sexy back, check out:

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Fool contributor Mike Cianciolo welcomes feedback and doesn't own any of the companies in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.