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Prozac Runway

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Designers use Great Depression as motif for fall lines.

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Coming soon to a shopping mall near you: Depression-themed clothes.

Fashionistas say the new duds reflect what they call a "grim" economy.

This fall, Banana Republic, Gap (GPS) and H&M will offer the fashion-conscious shopper baggy dresses, pencil skirts and caps.

The 1930s newsboy look – baggy pants, crumpled caps, pinstriped vests and oxford lace-up shoes – is expected to be hot this fall.

Designers are serious about making a statement and, presumably, about making money.

During the 1930s, unemployment was about 25% and many joked, "If we had some ham we could have some ham and eggs, if we had some eggs."

The current economy is sour, and the stock market is bumpy. But it's nothing like the 1930s. For starters, people still have money in their pockets to drive their Toyota (TM), Honda (HMC), Ford (F) or General Motors (GM) cars to the mall where they can buy 1930s-themed clothes to remind them how tough things are now.

For most Americans, the boom that started in the 1980s, and with a few rough spots lasted through September 11, 2001, has erased all memory of poverty. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is still above 10,000, despite recent roiling.

So, all this talk about Depression-era clothes reflecting current tough times is just a bunch of designers flogging the latest offering in the rag trade. It may make good sociology, and it's smart marketing. But it's not much for economic theory or even reporting.

But here's hoping some clever executive at Warner Music Group (WMG) or Clear Channel Communications (CCU) picks up on a variation of this theme, notices that we're at war and brings back 1940s popular music.

Does anyone remember "Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered," a song written in 1940 by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers? It's subtle and playful in its assessment of how this man/woman stuff plays out. Here's a taste:

I'm wild again, beguiled again
A simpering, whimpering child again
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I.


The song, from the musical Pal Joey, is saucy without being blatantly sexual. Madonna, Amy Winehouse and other so-so popular singers of the day, please note.
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