Sizing up '84

If you're trying to predict the winner of the presidential election, may I suggest that you examine the bottom line - of women's fashions. Each time hems go down, Democrats lose, although they're always hopeful that they'll be a cut above that dire prediction. This fall women's dresses and skirts will be longer than they have for some time, which just may signify a Republican landslide.

In the 19th century Republicans swept the presidential elections and women's fashions were so long as to sweep the floors. Amelia Bloomer made a valiant attempt to come up short, but the knee-jerk reaction of most women was covered up by yards and yards of crinoline. When progressive Republicans occupied the White House in the early 20th century, the length of women's clothes went up about a hem or two.

The upsweep was enormous in the 1920s even though it was a Republican decade. Older women, however, stuck to their original no-show garments, and party bosses vowed that the radical fabric contours and stitches of young folk would be banned.

Democrats had no such hang-downs. The New Deal lifted spirits and hemlines and encouraged experimentation in women's fashions. With World War II, the long and short of national politics was conservation. Fabrics were scarce, and a 72 -inch girth limitation was imposed on women's skirts. Patriotic feelings were high, from knee to shining knee.

Dwight Eisenhower's moderate Republicanism saw no reactionary clothing styles. Crinolines returned with longer and fuller skirts and dresses. The compromise clothing for most women was pants. Even when hems rose a bit, the look was sacklike rather than form-fitting, which ensured that the midriff majority in the GOP wouldn't get uptight.

With the Democrats coming into power in the 1960s, fashions were scarcely ho-hem. Miniskirts became the rage, as well as short-shorts, both vanishing as the Republicans took office in 1969.

Of course, the Democrats aren't destined to lose this fall as hems go down. But one thing is certain if they really intend to oust the Republicans. They simply cannot afford to hem and haw. Or to skirt the issues.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.