WOMEN'S SKIRT LENGTH, as you probably know, has long been viewed as an economic indicator: Short skirts, prosperity; longer skirts, recession. There are even some seers who regularly chart the ups and downs of women's skirts as a leading indicator of the stock market.

We're not quite sure what it means, but there may be some similar significance in men's beards. The news, just in from Washington, is that after the recent election the number of beards in congress doubled - to eight. That's not too many in a 535-member institution. But at the margin, as the economists say, it could have significance.Interestingly, seven of the beared ones are Democrats and only one a Republican, Rep. Bob Dornan of California. And he acquired it as something of a bet. As the Iranian arms affair unfolded, he told his wife he wouldn't shave until the crisis was over. He thought that would mean a two week's growth. But now, he said, it looks as if the beard will be with him until St. Patrick's Day.

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