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Hemlines and the stock market

Many references have been made rather jokingly, usually by men, about how the stock market appears to rise and fall with the length of women's skirts. For instance, it was recently pointed out how high hemlines rose in the Roaring Twenties along with the stock market and how both dropped in the 1930s. When miniskirts reached their high for shortness in the late '60s and early '70s, so did stocks.

Actually, plain logic and a knowledge of women's psychology should offer a simple explanation. It is difficult or impossible to lengthenm a skirt, so when economic conditions become worse and demand shows signs of faltering, the designers apparently decide to lower hemlines. Many women may resist the trend at first, but when the shorter dresses begin to look obviously out of date, they'll usually break down and buy at least some new clothing.

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By the time women on the whole are well stocked on the longer lengths, in the normal cycle of events business conditions in general probably have improved. With more money to spend on clothing, women are interested in buying for the pleasure of it, and they especially desire to purchase something that looks obviously new and in style. Short skirts require less material to meet the increased demand and make the cost per unit less to designers and manufacturers, so shorter hemlines are a natural result. True, old clothing can be shortened, but style quirks can soon make it outdated in other ways, and currently more plutocratic women shoppers may regard shortening hardly worth the trouble with many garments.

Thus, since both clothing demand and stocks reflect business ups and downs, the connection between women's hemlines and the stock market is obvious, at least under normal conditions. Recent record high interest and inflation rates, as well as credit tightening, are new factors that may upset this tradition. Both skirt lengths and the stock market have been uncertain.

Will manufacturers and designers opt for short skirts to save material even though sales may not boom? Will women caught in the money pinch choose to "make do" regardless of style or alter as much as possible? Tune in tomorrow . . . and the next day . . . and the next. History may be being made.

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