Do Short Skirts Really Mean Better Times?

But if sales of mini skirts do take off, analysts say that would be a good sign for the economy and the retail sector, because it would show that consumers are willing to take a chance on an article of clothing that is completely different, not just something to replace an item that has worn out.

"When you see a trend that does stick, that is a good sign that people are willing to invest in their wardrobe," says NPDFashionworld's Cohen.

What About Market 'Research'?

But it's not just the economy that determines what people will ultimately buy. Also stirring demand for a certain item, no matter what's going on in the stock market, are cultural influences and what celebrities are wearing.

And some market watchers even say that the worse things get in the economy and the world's political situation, the more some consumers might embrace fashion to get their minds off of things — if they have the money to do it, of course.

For example, short, sexy numbers graced the runways during the Spring-Summer 2003 collections shown in Milan last fall.

"Psychologically, it doesn't make sense, but people want something different," says Andreas Kurz, chief executive officer of Italian-based fashion firm Diesel.

Diesel is even poking fun at the notion that marketers can pinpoint the latest fashion trend in its new ad campaign this spring, which lampoons market research with nonsensical "facts" about "Diesel individuals."

"Fashion is a coping mechanism," explains Stefani Bay, a faculty member of The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago's Fashion, Marketing and Management department. "We use it to make ourselves feel better when times are bad."

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