Fashion Observed

Trend observations with a sociological eye from afar...

by Darryl S. Warren  

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More Than You Know

Many people incorrectly assume that hemlines are the barometer of an economy when it’s actually a barometer of the opinion falsely based on the state of the economy. The origins of this assumption fall from research done by George Taylor in the 20s that showed a correlation between hemlines and the stock market. There is a coincidence sometimes, but on the whole it’s no more of an indicator than the number of crows in the sky per hour.

That being said, sometimes the myth can propagate changes in spending habits. If the public sees a proliferation of short skirts, there tends to be an embrace of this myth as wisdom. Populace consensus can be powerful in shifting of opinions that can affect behaviors. Politicians know this to be the case which is why they repeat a phrase multiple times in a speech or debate. If you hear a phrase multiple times, your brain starts to assume this is not a singular idea but one of consensus and is more likely to accept it as fact. Hence simple sound bites, regardless of whether they are true, can cause a population to sift their belief if the story is repeated. So as the myth of hemlines has been so strongly ingrained, the public is more readily willing to accept it as fact, a detail not lost on hopeful retailers.

The 20s is not just fondly remembered for the good times and energy but also for the darkest economic day on record in 1929 when the market “crashed”. Oddly enough, the signs were visible in the years leading up to it and effects were not immediately felt throughout the world. However, despite the recovery of the market within the year, the damage had been done to an extent that the effects were felt right up to the start of the Second World War.

The cause is traditionally attributed to a system of bank failures, fiscal policy from the American Federal Reserve, the lowering of the Gold Standard in the UK and the market crash resulting from a hyperinflated stock market. Some economists also look to underconsumption countered by stock market overinvestment as a factor.

These details are eerily familiar when looking at the past few years economically. Some economies in the EU, such as Greece and Portugal, are looking dire. It does not help to see that the USA is close to reaching its debt limit or that China holds a significant level of that debt.  And remember how many world economies are tied to trade with the USA. It’s more precarious than most people realize, with traditional investment structures no longer as safe.

How fitting that the 20s influence has been quietly showing up in more collections as they roll out. Besides the ones mentioned n the last few articles, there have been some traces in collections by Alberta Ferretti,  Emporio Armani (done in the most minimal architectural fashion), Imitation, Sonya Rykiel,  There was some jazz swing at Lanvin and Tribune Standard (although theirs was more 70s arts and crafts and that’s another story) and pre-Depression era florals found at Philosophy. Less prevalent but not absent , the odd reference such as the drop waist short dress was found at Matthew Williamson, Prabal Garung, Steve Alan, Givenchy, Naeem Khan, Rochas (a very post-retirement collection), Emanuel Ungaro and Gucci.

It’s true that there is also the expectation of the remake of the 20s novel (and 70s film) The Great Gatsby, but also recall that some films are chosen for their cultural relevance. And if those economic cracks don’t get repaired, then drink up; the party doesn’t last forever and we may be feeling the roaring 20s in more than just a wardrobe reference.

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