In Singapore, loose clothes may point to a slack economy

In Singapore, loose clothes may point to a slack economy

SINGAPORE - Economists and market analysts are always looking for indicators of which way the economy may be heading. One long-observed correlation is that between fashions and the business cycle. Singapore provides another laboratory where this phenomenon can be seen.

"One length long haircuts" and body-hugging clothes were all the rage with Japanese women during the economic boom of the 1980s. Those fashion trends have an echo in Singapore today. Visit any shopping district or train station, and you will come across young and not-so-young Singaporean women in snug garments. They may seem like the latest thing to a generation of workers who entered the job market in the 1990s, people with no firsthand knowledge of Japan's economic boom of the period, but we have been here before.

Ups and downs

Now clothes seem to be loosening up, along with the economy. Unfortunately, the data is anecdotal: There are no statistics on shipments of formfitting dresses. However, according to a shop clerk named Shu Shu who works at Far East Plaza, a shopping mall in the city centre, tight clothing has not been selling that well lately because it is hot. Given Singapore's tropical climate, it seems logical that women might prefer comfortable, breathable dresses to those designed to show off one's curves.

There are a number of studies showing a strong correlation between the economy, stock prices and the length of women's dresses. One of the most famous was conducted by US economist George Taylor in the 1920s. He found that when the economy is improving, women's skirts get shorter. Some have expressed skepticism about this relationship, but that did not stop the creation of the Hemline Index, which tracks the variables.

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