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Fashion rage: high-low hems

Worn with flats, this sassy coral stripe long-sleeved

Worn with flats, this sassy coral stripe long-sleeved chemise dress from Madison Marcus can go to work -- or you can amp it up with heels; $278 at select Bloomingdales and bloomingdales.com. Credit: Handout

Fashion has its ups and downs in the hemline department, but, lately, garments with both long and short hems are all the rage.

The dual length is sometimes (and rather unappealingly) called the "mullet," referring to the short in front, long in back hairdo, and is "an absolutely gigantic trend," says Stephanie Solomon, Bloomingdale's fashion director. "It is everywhere from Helmut Lang . . . to Rachel Zoe to Diane von Furstenberg. And Eileen Fisher has mastered it."

The mix has been around for a while. At first, it was, well, kind of cheesy and costume-like, worn by Miss Universe contestants, prom girls and performers who went to extremes. "I had an aversion to that look," Solomon admits.

But now, she says, it has evolved, and designers have become more balanced in terms of the proportion. "Your eye adjusts, it becomes the norm and looks right," says Solomon.

"We've been dabbling in high-low for a couple of years and believe in the silhouette more strongly now and going forward," says designer Jay Godfrey. He suggests a mini-maxi number can do double duty. "Wear a jeweled thong flat during the day in the Hamptons, and throw on a high heel to dress it up for a cocktail party or dinner on Madison Avenue."

Freshest looks include moving things up to high-low hems on sweaters and jackets, which, besides being of-the-moment, have an added benefit. "They hide a multitude of sins," Solomon says. 

The hemline theory

That old hemline theory that lengths are somehow connected to the stock market -- short skirts mean a boom, long points to a slump -- is amusingly spot-on when it comes to the current high-low trend.

Amanda Drury, co-anchor of CNBC's "Street Signs," says that although the theory is probably the stuff of lively dinner-party conversations more than a reliable predictor of trends, "the currently fashionable high-low hemline is rich in economic symbolism." Last year's buzzwords were "cautious optimism," she says, while this year it's "uncertainty." Fashionably speaking, what says that better than the "mullet" look? It "represents this market that can't make up its mind," says Drury.

For the record, Drury made up her own mind about the high-low look. She recently purchased a navy dress boasting the hemline.

"It's perfect for on-air, as it's still very professional," she says. And here's a hot tip. "The longer back hemline elongates and frames the legs."

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