Recession Chic - une femme d'un certain âge

Recession Chic

With the economy reeling like a frat boy after a third consecutive night of binge drinking, everyone from bloggers to the LA Times is offering advice on the virtues of making do with less, wardrobe-wise.
Fashion publicist Ali Froley, usually on her sixth or seventh designer shoe purchase by this time in the season, is on a spending freeze, forcing her to take a fresh look at the clothes she already has. “I have been recycling old things trying to make them look new again, calling them ‘vintage insert-designer’s-name-here,’ ” says Froley, who vows to buy only timeless, classic pieces once her freeze has thawed.
While uncertain economic times may dictate restraint, une femme didn’t need a big, ol‘ nasty recession to appreciate the charms of a wardrobe built on classic pieces. But I’ve come to realize that “classic” doesn’t have to mean dreary or conservative, or even traditional. It can also mean those items that feel like a second skin, that make you feel most like yourself, that work for your life and with your style. One woman’s classic may be a cashmere sweater, for another (like gorgeous blogger Wendy B) it could be a vintage Ossie Clark coat.

But restraint is tough when retailers are throwing themselves at you like the band’s roadie at last call. Discounts on top of discounts, interest-free credit, designers doing lines for K-mart…all designed to play into our need to feel like we’re saving money as we spend. But it’s no savings to buy stuff we won’t wear, no matter how low the sale price, or to buy cheap crap that won’t last a season. Now is the time to stay strong, to be discriminating. It’s fine to take advantage of markdowns, as long as the tags aren’t still hanging from the sleeve in the back of the closet a year from now. (And by my Amortization Axiom, it’s also alright to pay full price, if the cost-per-wearing makes fiscal sense.)
Strategies such as mine and Froley’s work on a lot of levels, Roy-Jarboe says. “Classic pieces make sense because you can wear them over and over again. It’s less wasteful,” she explains. “These are scary times and people don’t know how to react. So at least they can go into their closets and give their things to people who need it more right now.”

Which brings up another excellent point: with thrift stores seeing dramatic increases in traffic and sales, what better time to pull those seldom-worn items out of your closet and donate them? Clear out your closet and do a public service at the same time…c’est très chic!

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  1. November 14, 2008 / 4:36 pm

    “Timeless, classic” is translated by too many people as “dull, boring,” don’t you think? I think something’s timeless when you love it and decide to wear it no matter what, regardless of what other people are wearing or telling you to wear…like my Ossies. I agree with Couture Allure that cheap clothes are the worst. I think my best “timeless” buy this season are my crazy and expensive Prada shoes. Unless my foot size changes (it does happen), I’m planning to keep those for the rest of my life.

  2. November 14, 2008 / 5:29 pm

    My mother wore the same St John knit suit to occasions for over 25 years, to the mortification of her daughters. She was unashamed. It did hold up. I hope for 3 years for most pieces, (but pants get shiny on the seat) and hope for 5. I’ve actually worn out a few pieces but more often I “outgrow” them, boredom sets in.

  3. November 14, 2008 / 5:31 pm

    Ooops, all that attempted posting made me sloppy, I wanted to say, “I hope for 3 years but am now wanting 5” out of my pieces. My longest-worn items are cashmere sweaters.

  4. Anonymous
    November 14, 2008 / 7:27 pm

    Another classic essay from deja. A gem. Especially your redefinition of “classic”.

  5. spacegeek
    November 14, 2008 / 7:42 pm

    My problem is the ever-shifting-weight. What fits, what doesn’t? I have a larger-than-previous closet of clothing, because I have timeless, classic pieces in multiple sizes!! Frustrating, of course.

  6. Sal
    November 14, 2008 / 3:17 pm

    You’re so right. So much of what we’re being offered right now IS “designed to play into our need to feel like we’re saving money as we spend.” And we bite. But we’re better off investing in classic, well-made pieces … or drawing on the classic, well-made pieces we already own and spicing them up with new or different accessories.

  7. Couture Allure Vintage Fashion
    November 14, 2008 / 3:25 pm

    I’ve been posting about this subject this week, as well. We’ve become such a throw-away society. Cheap clothing does not last, nor does it fit well.

  8. La Belette Rouge
    November 14, 2008 / 4:48 pm

    I agree with WendyB that timeless and classic does not have to mean boring. For me it means buying things I love and will love next month, next year and maybe in 10 years. It is a waste of money to buy things that I don’t LOVE. However, it is easier to find things that are just so-so. I really try to only buy when something makes my heart race with excitement.I save so munch money by turning to my pulse as an indicator.

  9. November 15, 2008 / 2:06 am

    sal – that’s been my style philosophy for years; keep the clothing simple and let the accesories nod to trends.

    couture allure – you were one of the bloggers I was thinking of when I referenced. It’s so true that cheap clothing doesn’t fit well, but I’ve also found that some pricey clothing doesn’t either. It’s important to find those brands and styles that work with your body.

  10. November 15, 2008 / 2:11 am

    WendyB – yes, that’s exactly it! Classic is in the eye of the wearer.

    LBR – yes “love” vs. “like” is how I discriminate these days. Like gets a pass.

  11. November 15, 2008 / 2:15 am

    Duchesse – when it comes to pants, I’m happy to get 2-3 years wear. But I tend to replace one pair with another with similar styling, fit and fabric as necessary.

    And about your mother’s St. John, we may cringe but if it worked for her and made her feel great, it’s tough to argue with that kind of success.

  12. November 15, 2008 / 2:17 am

    anon @ 11:27a – thank you; you are too kind!

    spacegeek – I’m having a bit of the same frustration, only because that makes it tougher to hone the wardrobe down to those core pieces. I’m afraid I don’t have an answer, unless it’s to keep the best pieces that fit you NOW, and box up the rest and store out of sight.

  13. November 15, 2008 / 7:15 am

    It is my mission in life to help people find the “I love it’s” rather than the “it’ll do’s” which is what most people have in their wardrobes.

    I can’t do ‘classic’ as it’s not my personality, but the clothes that work for me (more creative) are never really in fashion, so don’t go out of fashion, therefore I get much more wear out of them and don’t look dated.

  14. November 15, 2008 / 1:00 pm

    SUch a great post. I also wanted to say some resale boutique owners have an incredible eye for classic (but not boring). If you have that kind of store and owner, love her. I bake for mine.

  15. November 15, 2008 / 2:35 pm

    Imogen – that’s kind of what I was getting at, that each woman needs to find her own definition of “classic” based on what you gravitate to year in and year out, and what resonates.

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