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Lipstick and miniskirt effects.

There are two different but similar consumption pattern theories that prevail in the area of consumer spending and that serve as informal indicators of economic growth, in contrast to formal ones like GDP and GNP: the so-called lipstick effect (or necktie effect when referring to men) and the equally interesting miniskirt effect.

How exactly is the lipstick effect an economic indicator? How about the miniskirt effect? The lipstick effect is based on the underlying assumption that consumers are more willing to buy relatively less expensive luxury items, like high-end lipsticks instead of rare jewels and other precious goods, in times of crisis. When consumer trust in the economy is dwindling, consumers buy items that have less impact on their available funds, like higher-priced lipsticks from prestigious brands.

More recently, however, a more nuanced view of the lipstick effect has come to light, rooting it in the pre-historic urge to preserve the human species. Lipstick sales sometimes increase during times of economic distress, but also during periods of prosperity. In other words, there is no clear correlation between lipstick sales and times of crisis or prosperity. Rather, the effect is driven by women's desire to attract mates with resources and depends on the perceived mate attraction function served by these beauty products.

On the other hand, wearing miniskirts and other provocative outfits are popular not only among young, long-legged girls, but also among more mature women with body shapes that are far from perfect. They are convinced that short skirts make them younger and more attractive. As a matter of common sense and decency, miniskirts should not be too revealing to prevent sanitary, health and safety issues associated with exposure and not wearing "anti-infection stockings" and to avoid provoking men's aggressive actions, as many girls would know.

However, the miniskirt effect was not necessarily applicable to Korea, where the skirt length lengthened instead of shortened during the financial crises in 1997 and 2008 and where sales of long skirts or one-piece apparel were higher than those for miniskirts or short styles of clothing. Seeing provocative words like "miniskirts" can affect consumers' thoughts and attitudes drastically but differently. Many consumers have never thought that a miniskirt could lead to reproductive issues. It is important for consumers to be careful in the interpretation of sanitary, health and security information by wearing miniskirts in public, grabbing the attention of viewers seemingly looking sexier than consumers really are.

Even though any common theory can be developed for the general public, there is no rule without an exception, so long as the variable elements exist. Consumers create their own feelings. Conflict is the difference between feeling an effect inside and outside. Whether it is the lipstick effect or the miniskirt effect, a theory is neither bad or good. It just stems from an observation of the day-to-day activities humans perform for their own interests and survival.

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Publication:The Korea Times News (Seoul, Korea)
Date:Dec 11, 2017
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