If The Economy's So Bad, Why Are Hemlines So Short?

Illustration for article titled If The Economy's So Bad, Why Are Hemlines So Short?

By now we've all heard the saw that hemlines fall when the economy's bad. So, the FT asks, what's up with all the minis on the Spring runways? Says writer Vanessa Friedman, "Either American designers are engaging in wishful thinking or they know something Wall Street doesn't." I'm gonna go with, neither. And you know what? I wish anyone in fashion was that aware of the economy! I wish, too, that the way people dressed had anything to do with the larger climate beyond what a few millionaires have decided is transgressive. I wish we didn't live in a weird, fractured time where not just a few oblivious designers were allowed to ignore a recession, but where by extension we all do too.It's not hard to see why in the past an economic downturn was mirrored sartorially: after the taboo-breaking of the 20s something more somber seemed apropos during the Depression; ditto the recession of the 70s, I guess. These were economic realities that couldn't be ignored, after all - people lived them. So, why the minis now? Think about it: in the days when hemlines went with the economy, clothes were just one more part of a cultural shift, Fashion was not the cultural leader it fancies itself today. Whereas before a hem might drop just as the tone of music or film altered, today Fashion is in the vanguard - insinuating itself our lives and our consciousness in a way it's wholly unfit to do. Never before did models and designers feel they had the right to spout off about politics and mores; like any part of celebrity culture it's wholly out of proportion and out of its depth. Unlike the rest of celebrity culture, people still look to what happens in Bryant Park as a financial Farmer's Almanac. I'm sure designers love the idea that they're playing with our destinies and can prognosticate our financial and national future. But the truth is, fashion is resolutely ignoring economic woes, coming out with a Spring collection noteworthy in its use of luxury materials and more reminiscent of the 80s boom than the earlier slump this era more closely resembles. They're not "optimistic," they're oblivious. And what's worrying is that it seems to reflect the larger ignorance and denial of the times, a time that doesn't want to face anything serious or boring or worrisome and would rather raise hems another few inches, pretend everything's great, and assume homeless people dress the way they do because they have such amazing style. Keep It Short [FT]


Erin Gloria Ryan

The idea behind this reminds me of the movie "Metropolis," how the wealthy lived in a pleasure garden above the throngs of coglike factory workers, and the frolicers were completely unaware of anything going on besides what they knew.