Thursday, 10 July 2014


For this weeks #throwbackthursday I'm going to delve into the history of the hemline. My #tuesdaytrends post was all about the return of the maxi, so, sticking to this theme, I'm going to take us through the rise and fall of the hemline.

Until the 20th century skirt hemlines scraped the ground. It wasn't until 1915, with the creation of the wartime "crinoline" dresses that hemlines started to rise. With the suffragette movement empowering women to become more independant, skirt lengths rose above the ankle for the first time in history reaching 15 inches above the floor in 1925. The androgynous look of the 1920s flappers with their short bobbed hair, loose drop waisted dresses and fitted hats took obvious inspirarion from mens clothing. Perhaps this was a reflection of young women narrowing the gap in equal rights between men and women, both in terms of politics(women got the vote in 1918) and past-times.

“The New Woman of the 1920s boldly asserted her right to dance, drink, smoke, and date—to work her own property, to live free of the strictures that governed her mother’s generation....She flouted Victorian-era conventions and scandalized her parents. In many ways, she controlled her own destiny.” 

― Joshua Zeitz, 'Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern.'

An interesting theory regarding hemlines was presented in 1926 by economist George 

Taylor, this has come to be known as the Hemline index. According to Taylor, "The higher the index the shorter the skirts and the better the economy." Taylors theory suggested

that womens hemlines rise in relation to the stock prices. In a good economy, skirts are 

shorter (examples include the miniskirts of the 1960s and 1990s) and in a bad economy 

hemlines are lowered, 1929's wall st crash being a prime example of this). according to an 

article in the dailymail (

depression-Skirts-long-past-recession-indication-bad-times.html), hemlines have recently

reached the same maxi lengths as in the great depression of 1929. Should we be 

expecting another economic recession!?

The most complete recent study of hemlines and the economy was carried out by two researchers(Franses and Baardwijk)  at the Econometric Institute Erasmus School of Economics. They examined monthly data on hemlines from 1921 to 2009 and, although they couldn’t find any evidence that hemlines predict dips in the economy, they did find that the financial atmosphere and the stability of the stock market can predict hemlines with a three-year to four-year delay.In other words around 3/4 years after a financial dip, skirt lengths drop.

Taking all of this into account, although I love the new take on the maxi trend, I am slightly apprehensive about what the implications of this are in relation to the economy. Is George Taylor's hemline index still applicable to contemporary fashion?Should we be expecting another recession, or are we simply reacting to the most recent economic dip 3/4 years too late? I guess it all hangs in the balance, if hemlines rise we can let our hopes of financial stability rise with them. 

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