Hemlines and the economy

Miniskirt

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Does the economy affect hemlines?

Have you noticed that in the past few years, the style of clothing has changed, specifically with the hemlines of women’s dresses and skirts?  Only a few short years ago, I remember moms complaining about short skirts and shirts that show tummies when their teens would leave the house.  Was it a Brittney Spears or Beyoncé influence or was it correlated to the economy? In the nineties businesses were booming, jobs were lucrative, shoppers were buying everything in sight.  Both male and female shoppers spent a great deal on their wardrobe, which included current trends, fads, building a diverse wardrobe, emulating superstars and replacing old items.

If one looks around in their department stores now, shirts are long, tank tops are long, skirts are long, and clothing is loose fitting.  Clothing seems to be all business and back to basics. Perhaps the length of hemlines is affected by the economy.  Do we care less about our appearance in a poor economy?  Do we spend less on our clothing in a poor economy which results in a less fashionable look?

In the past, economists believed that hemlines were shorter when the economy was booming.  Women went with a shorter hemline to show off their silk stockings[1], which was a sign that people were spending more money on textiles and had more money to spend.  Hemlines were longer around the time of the great depression, perhaps to cover the fact that people could not afford silk stockings.

In the sixties, miniskirts were everywhere, people would be daring and buy new things.  Perhaps it was a sign that the economy was lucrative.

Today, with the longer hemlines, one could argue that it is not a significant factor in the economy due to the fact that textiles cost so much and the more material that is used to create one piece, the more expensive the item of clothing will be.  But one could also argue that people are replacing basic pieces in their wardrobes and not concerned about the extra accessories as basic pieces are needed for job interviewing and it could be a sign that things are tough when everyone buys boring basics and does not expand their wardrobes to include fun fads.

When consumers begin to expand their wardrobe and start buying extras to keep up with the fads and not just basics to replace worn out items, then they are investing in their wardrobe again, and economic times may be improving.  So perhaps it is true that the hemline theory, which states that shorter skirts are a sign of good economic times[2], is accurate.  If not, I think I’ll just go with the casual day theory and it’s a new world order for the fashion industry.

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