A recent survey of more than 1,000 shoppers indicates hemlines are headed above the knee which, legend has it, means the economy is improving. Of course, the observation that skirts will be moving up to "just above or below the knee" -- the response of the vast majority of respondents -- also indicates these folks have not been spending much time with teenage girls in recent years. Knee-length is an upward trend? Hmmmm.

Skirts functioning as a barometer for the economy is not a new theory. And as Seattle author Ali Basye points out in her book on the history of the skirt, it's a theory that had largely fallen from favor in the 21st Century because lengths vary so widely from woman to woman and day to day. In Chapter 4 of her book, The Long (and Short of It): the Madcap History of the Skirt, Basye points out that in the early 1970s, when "hot pants were the rage ... the advice at Dow Jones was 'Don't sell until you see the heights of their thighs!'"

There have been uncanny correlations, with the short skirts of the flapper era giving way to longer gowns during the Great Depression, and the Bull Market of the 1960s correlating with micro-minis, as this snippet from a 2006 video, History's Hidden Engine, explains. Those mini skirts, in turn, gave way to granny dresses and pants suits as the market once again declined.

The newest skirt-length survey, conducted on the Internet from Jan. 21 -- Feb. 12 by Market Strategies International, acknowledged history, asking: "They say that hemlines will go up when the economy improves; if that's true, where do you think skirt lengths will be this spring?" Possible answers were ankle duster (uncertain times ahead), just below the knee (cautious optimism), above the knee (light at the end of the tunnel) and cheesecake (good news ahead).

In all, 82% fell in the below and above the knee categories, with 14% more pessimistic and 4% going for the cheese. While the results are encouraging -- if you put stock in the theory, that is -- consider that in 2004, 51% of those surveyed predicted above-the-knee skirts, compared to 38% today.

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