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Ted S. Warren/AP

“Recessionistas” Balance Style and the New Economy

December 25, 2008 01:54 PM
by Shannon Firth
As American consumers cope with a recession, companies are rebranding their stylish clients as “recessionistas” to encourage measured consumption.

Staying Stylish on a Budget a Trend all its Own

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A “recessionista” is the term for the sophisticated yet savvy shopper suddenly trending away from the kind of conspicuous consumption deemed offensive in today’s crumbling economy. “Recessionistas” champion a cause previously unheard of in their chic circle: saving money.

Before the financial crisis, the credit crunch and the greatest number of layoffs in decades all piled onto the nation’s plate of woes, the term was “fashionista.” Natasha Singer, a New York Times writer, explained that the term has now been rebranded by the fashion and beauty industries to make spending money less threatening.

The Times quotes Derek Blasber, a writer for the Vogue-owned Web site Style.com, who explained, “while the fashionista may have locked herself in the vault with her tiaras, her younger, hipper sister—recessionista—is at the mall finding designer threads … at discount prices.”

The term seems to be gaining traction. Mary Hall, a marketing manager for IBM, launched the blog The Recessionista, which spotlights both online sales and sample sales in New York, San Francisco and other metropolitan areas. Borjois, a French make-up company, created “the Recessionista” collection, a line of affordable mascaras and lip glosses.

Singer explains, however, that while the term is new, the concept isn’t. In 1930, at the start of the Great Depression, Sears advertised “coats of the new mode in the spirit of smart economy” for less than $25, and following the stock market crash of 1987 retailers like Donna Karan created more affordable second lines.

Allison Kaplan, a writer for Pioneer Press, identifies the recessionista as “[t]he Neiman Marcus regular who now shops at TJ Maxx and brags at parties that her dress cost less than $100!” Writing under her breath, so to speak, Kaplan adds, “The coordinating boots were four times as much, but no need to dwell on that.”

Opinion & Analysis: Preaching to the choir; the merits of the term

Wendy Atterberry, a writer on the blog “The Frisky,” offers advice for women looking to fit the label. Instead of lavish spending sprees, she suggests swapping clothes or buying them second-hand. She also encourages women to forego some beauty treatments: “Ladies, it’s not even sandal season anymore, so I think you can DIY your bi-weekly pedicure for a while.”

As chat forums reveal, such advice may inadvertently upset some readers and viewers. One frustrated commenter responded that Atterberry was out of touch: “Bi-weekly pedis? We’ve been doing them ourselves for a long, long time. 2nd hand stores? Absolutely, we know where they are and frequent them often.”

Some shoppers have bristled at the term “recessionista,” but others have embraced it. Jennifer Skinner, who writes the blog “The Very Small Closet” is a fan: “it puts a positive spin on what could otherwise be a really touchy subject.” She also offers sound advice to any woman who wants to be a thrifty shopper without being cheap, and believes women should buy the highest quality clothes appropriate for her budget. She adds, “We don’t need nearly as many clothes in our closets as we’ve been led to believe.”

Reference: Find bargains like a true recessionista

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