Two competing skirt lengths from Emilio Pucci FW10 collection test the hemline theory. Photo: Marcio Madeira / FirstView.com
Skirts functioning as a barometer for the economy is not a new theory. And as Seattle author Ali Basye points out in her book on the history of the skirt, it's a theory that had largely fallen from favor in the 21st Century because lengths vary so widely from woman to woman and day to day. In Chapter 4 of her book, The Long (and Short of It): the Madcap History of the Skirt, Basye points out that in the early 1970s, when "hot pants were the rage ... the advice at Dow Jones was 'Don't sell until you see the heights of their thighs!'"
Photo: Marcio Madeira / FirstView.com
Pyle is correct in writing that the idea of skirt lengths predicting economic upturns is more "legend" than fact. (Miniskirts, for instance, were still worn through the 1973–74 recession, and women literally protested in the streets against the coinciding introduction of maxi skirts!)
Still, fashion myths are some of the most fun (my two favorites: Oscar Wilde creating the legend that Queen Marguerite of Valois carried the embalmed hearts of her lovers in the pockets of her skirts; and the bra-burning episode that never happened at the 1968 Miss America pageant). The brokers who perpetuate these myths in hopes of creating upticks in the stock market are not disimiliar to fashion designers and clothing buyers who insist on a change in styles—whether women want it or not—in order to increase sales. Savvy shoppers should keep their eyes wide open and view fleeting fashion trends with a dose of skepticism.
Unless I amp up my winter workout routine, I won't be contributing to the miniskirt trend this time around. But as a self-employed freelance writer, I'm hoping this is the one time the theory holds and short skirts and flush times are ahead!
You can read all about the hemline theory, as well as other great fashion stories, in my book, The Madcap History of the Skirt.