According to the Hemline Index, which was a theory culled in 1926 by a professor named George Taylor at UPenn’s Wharton, there is a direct and decidedly profound relationship between hemlines and the economy.
As the theory goes, when the economy is strong, skirts are short. When it is weak, they get longer. According to a study by Marjolein van Baardwijk, there is a three year lag period between the economic cycle and the lengthening or shortening of hemlines. This should make spectacular sense when considering the maxi skirts of 2011 and the ankle length skirts of 2012 vis-a-vis the American finance bubble not just burst but explosion of 2008.
Where difficultly arises, as far as I’m concerned, is in the most recent trend to re-emerge and subtly re-enter the fashion psyche and that is the proliferation of uneven hemlines. What may have started as the resuscitation of a reverse mullet, leading way to party in the front, business in the back as championed by such designers as Emilio Pucci, Thakoon Panichgul and, uh, Free People has, in at least the last two seasons, become a brazen clutter of disparate lengths on one garment.
Think the theatrical Roberto Cavalli of yonder — only espoused by the establishment of today’s minimalism.
Now consider the most recent fall endeavors of Céline’s Phoebe Philo, or Christopher Kane (who even went so far as to present an uneven hemmed coat), or Dior’s Raf Simons, or Sacai. Consider Nicolas Ghesquière’s Resort collection for Louis Vuitton or the stuff in stores now — like Clare Waight Keller’s dresses and skirts for pre-fall Chloé, or if you’re very lucky, the leftover loot from her spring offering.
If we’re clocking economic insight and taking the Index at face value, what do these collections infer? Where the mullet skirt may have suggested a tale of two cities — one where wealth populated the upper echelons of a singular town and poverty eclipsed a lower degree of the same territory — these uneven hems say what? That our two cities-so-to-speak under one umbrella have become one? Will become one? Free ready-to-wear for all?
Maybe I’m reading too far into this, maybe fashion is just responding to a request brought forward by an anonymous, enterprising pretty young thing to cover her escalating sunspots. Or something.
All Runway Images via Style.com