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If you needed any more evidence that we’re in an economic slowdown, search no more.

Hemlines are falling and hair styles are softening.

It’s quite an interesting take on the economy’s effect on beauty and style.

Hemlines are falling and hair styles are softening– both bellwethers of declining economic fortunes, according to Barbara Middleton, one of Wine Country’s leading hair and fashion experts.

Tradition is that when the economy goes south, so do women’s hemlines. Longer hemlines demand more glamorous hairstyles, which are softer, not only in cut, but also in color,” explained Middleton, who owns the La Coupe Sauvage salons in Santa Rosa and Healdsburg. “Fall fashions are showing much longer hemlines this year and we’re seeing much more demand for more feminine hairstyles as well.”

In other words, spiky hair is out, replaced with a more romantic look that Middleton describes as “diffused, with softer layers.” Contrasting hair color, popular in recent years, is being replaced with “tone-on-tone — a softer dimensional color that doesn’t have as strong a line of demarcation,” she said. “The objective is to achieve a style that doesn’t require frequent touch-ups, which allows one to go longer between appointments.”

And bangs are back!

“Bangs have taken a back seat recently, but they’re on the fashion runway big time this fall,” Middleton said. Starlet Katie Holmes and supermodels Kate Moss and Heidi Klum were among the first to get more bangs for their bucks. Textured bangs and swept bangs are preferred — “more of a softer flirty look that offers options in styling. They can be worn down, swept to the side, or blended when worn back,” Middleton explained.

While hem lengths and hair styles seem to go hand-in-hand with changes in financial fortunes, Middleton has one more economic indicator to share. “There’s the lipstick barometer,” Middleton said. “When the economy goes down, everyone in fashion knows that lipstick sales go up.” Sure enough, according to Mary Kay Inc., sales of lipstick during the first six months of 2008 were up a whopping 60% over the same period in 2007.

“The theory is women buy more lipstick in brighter colors to cheer themselves up,” Middleton said, “and right now a lot of us need a boost in spirits.”

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