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Do hemlines mirror the stock market?

Ever hear the adage, “The shorter the skirt, the better the economy?”

Some experts believe the ups and downs of the stock market mirror hemlines. Skirt hems rose in the 1920s and in the 1960s along with stock prices. Floor-length styles appeared in the 1930s and 1970s, and stocks plummeted.

As fashion week wrapped up here late last week before moving on to Paris, designers appeared to be doing their best to buck up ailing financial markets.

Versace returned to the 1980s heyday of founder Gianni Versace with short party dresses that featured zippers in the shape of hearts. Gucci showed short minis in graphic prints. Robert Cavalli highlighted glazed minidresses that resembled Las Vegas cocktail-waitress attire. And MaxMara featured shirt dresses above the knee.

Ah, if only it were that simple.

“I'd love to say I thought the economy was going to come back because we're seeing short skirts, but I'm not sure I subscribe to that,” said Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour.

Even if minis come back with a vengeance, she noted, women won't necessarily wear them like they're shown on the runway. “One imagines young women all over the world will work that look by putting leggings or shorts or whatever under it,” she said.

And designers also hedged their bets with dresses that scrape the floor.

“It's either long or short. The mid-length is not ‘de rigueur' at the moment,” said Stephanie Solomon, vice president and fashion director for women's ready-to-wear and accessories at Bloomingdale's.

“Some of the best things we've seen are very, very long lengths,” Wintour said. “So I really think it's the length that works for you and how you put it together in your own personal way.”

At Fendi, designer Karl Lagerfeld split the difference with layered skirts of different textures cinched tightly at the waist with a wide belt. He featured a sheer, longer skirt under a short skirt made of weightier fabric to create the effect of “veiled knees.”

In some cases, the tiered skirts resembled aprons. With the models' superstylized twisted hair and the modernized dirndl outfits, it sometimes looked as if Heidi had been caught in a tornado.

Skirts often fell below the knee at Dolce & Gabbana but were paired with – of all things – silk pajama tops and sky-high wedge sandals. Designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana playfully called this look “Pajama Baroque.”

Some of the pajama suits could work as a hostess's lounging attire. Or just to hop in bed and pull the cover over your head if the stock market continues to plunge.

Also on the runway were pants, often cropped and cuffed above the ankle to highlight attention-getting footwear. “It's so important to show off those shoes,” Solomon said.

In addition to minis, Gucci designer Frida Giannini showed tailored jackets in bright colors with matching pants falling loosely at the hips and cuffed at the ankles. Cargo pants dotted with Gucci gold metal hardware likely will be this fashion house's greatest hit next year.

While the Italian collections haven't been earthshaking, they've given retailers a reason to smile: Many of the most noted fashion houses have returned to their roots.

Versace is blatantly sexier than it has been recently – and everyone knows sex sells. And Giorgio Armani has returned to the soft, tailored look that made the name synonymous with refined elegance.

“They're reflecting back to eras when things were a little less tumultuous, and they're bringing forth the best of the best,” Solomon said. “All of the legends seem to be doing that. When the economy is unstable, you return to what you know best. That's human nature – personally and from a design standpoint.”

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