Hemline Forecasting

Posted on March 31, 2011 | View 994

Fickle hemlines see-saw with business cycles, the saree for steady growth.

In the recent fall fashion collections shown in Europe and the US, the favoured hemlines varied from just above the knee to just above the ankle. The message is loud and clear: miniskirts are passe. This figures with the pronouncements of folks familiar with fashion and business trends: hemlines go up during boom times and come down with recession.

The correlation has been fairly consistent from the early 1960s, a time of terrific growth in the West when the first miniskirts, introduced by the legendary Mary Quant, set ramps on fire. Subsequent business cycles have witnessed a parallel hemline cycle and made forecasting simple as well as easy on the eye. Now, correlation does not quite mean causation. It could well be that the economic mood causes the hemline to travel, or vice versa.

Hemlines could also provide a solution to the enduring riddle of why Indian business cycles are so shallow and short-lived. As the West went through the gut-wrenching financial crisis of 2008 and the economic downturn that followed, India shrugged everything off with a couple of quarters of around 7% growth. And then resumed cruising at 8%-plus rates. Why does this happen?

To put it bluntly, the answer is in the saree, which does not have a variable hemline. Unlike the fickle skirt, whose hemline fluctuates periodically setting off economic cycles, the saree’s unvarying length brings a reassuring stability to our growth numbers. Analysts waste a lot of time tracking hundreds of other, largely irrelevant, variables to try and anticipate the direction of India’s economy.

They should instead look at sartorial trends among India’s women. As long as the saree is their preferred choice, the economy will be largely immune to business cycles. Ask your grandmother. She knows.

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