It’s no secret that the runways dictate trends, from the chicest accessories to the favorite color of the season, but their influence goes far beyond fashion. According to economist George Taylor’s hemline index theory, the length of women’s skirts and dresses can be indicative of the direction of financial markets. Meaning, hemlines rise in times of economic prosperity and elongate when the economy slows.
Taylor, who was an economist at Wharton, first declared his study in the mid-1920s. He observed that women’s skirts were shorter in thriving times, so they could show off their silk stockings. When finances were tight, hemlines dropped as women hid that they couldn’t afford hosiery. Since then, market analysts have studied the correlation, and while the theory is far from foolproof, there is a proven relationship between hemlines and the economy.
Two researchers, Marjolein van Baardwijk and Philip Hans Franses, analyzed monthly hemline data from 1921 to 2009 and found that the economic cycle leads hemline lengths by approximately three years, so rather than skirt lengths dictating where the economy is headed, the financial markets may predict what styles will be seen on the runway.
A news outlet put this take on the Hemline Index to the test in 2012–just over three years after the 2008 Great Recession–looking at the average skirt length in designers’ collections during New York Fashion Week, comparing the Fall/Winter 2011 season with Fall/Winter 2012 shows. It appeared that major names in the industry like Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Diane Von Fürstenberg, and Oscar de la Renta were opting for more abbreviated lengths than the year prior. Perhaps this was representative of the upturn of the economy following the recession. Industry leaders were also hopeful that consumers would respond favorably to the trend.
Of course, this doesn’t account for the midi skirt craze that began in 2013 and resurged with last year’s bourgeois trend–or what about the rise of the slit skirt? The hemline could be to the floor, but just as revealing as a mini skirt with a thigh-high glimpse of leg. How does that reflect the economy? Besides, fashion is largely subjective to a designer’s vision for any given season and the taste of the shoppers buying into the trends.
Fashion is fickle. But as we’ve seen with the recent plunge amidst the coronavirus, the economy can be, too. Perhaps more urban legend than economic signpost, the Hemline Index continues to serve as one of the many data points economists may look to. (Another is a haircut index, where cropped locks prompt a market drop.) While it’s difficult to predict where hemlines will fall in reaction to this specific period, shopping trends have already revealed what type of fashion and beauty people are buying. Along with an uptick in at-home hair dye, consumers are investing in comfortable loungewear and pajamas.END
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createdAt:Tue, 14 Apr 2020 19:25:29 +0000