What a week this has been! The blog received a whole new audience this week as Reuters covered The Recessionista Blog. Following publication of the article, a whole new group of readers around the globe has discovered this blog. During these tough times, I truly believe that frugal living is the key, and that includes fashion. But I’m not talking about a complete “austerity” program. I believe that when you go into deprivation mode, it can only result in one thing, and that is a binge. For me, the key is practicing savvy shopping and looking for the things you love, that flatter you, raise your spirits, and are easy on your wallet. Remember, even in the midst of the Great Depression there was fashion and entertainment (the movies).
To better explain my “Recessionista manifesto,” I want to share my recent interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Today Show with Nancy Wilson. Not all of the interview answers were aired, but I wanted to share the full interview and my answers with my readers.
Q: How would you define a Recessionista?
A: Recessionistas are those of us struggling to survive the recent global economic challenges while still enjoying some of life’s pleasures. We are still looking for great fashions and styles, but now we are looking at quality plus a great price. This is what I call “Recession Chic.”
Q: Why was it important for you to put your ideas on a blog?
A: I wanted to share with others how I was feeling as I saw the economy slowing down. The blog is a way of reaching out and saying, it’s okay to be frugal now. There is no shame in it. I had always shared my shopping tips with friends and family, so the blog became a way of sharing with a larger audience and developing a community. To me, writing The Recessionista is empowering. (I’m developing a book to further share my tips and recession survival strategies.)
Q: What sort of reception have you been getting ever since you started?
A: The reception is truly amazing and it shows the tenure of the times. It has grown from a couple of hundred readers, to thousands from all over the world. Obviously, people are looking for this type of information.
Q: Walk us through your transformation. What led you to stop free-spending and become more of a frugal shopper?
A: I saw the economy slowing down and I realized I needed to be saving more and spending less. I call it “The Courage to be Frugal.” I had to dig deep but I found it. I realized that by taking some time and looking around for the things I wanted, I could still find a way to be fashionable and save money.
Q: So if you want to spend tens, or a few hundreds, instead of many hundreds or thousands, what should you be looking at in terms of how you shop?
A: Here are a few basic tips:
Private shopping clubs: I have found many great bargains, including high-end designers via the private shopping clubs. Those are all listed on the blog and readers should take advantage of them.
Consignment stores: I love to shop consignment stores. This is how I buy Chanel and other high-end designers for less. I have found many great items for much, much less, like the Chanel sweater I am wearing today.
Clipping coupons: Take the time to look around the Internet for a coupon code to use before you buy. And don’t forget coupons from the paper and local mailers. (Check out the H&M coupons on the blog today.)
eBay: I am big on eBay. I have found many great deals there on designers like Stella McCartney and Alice Temperely. I look for the designers with fashions that flatter me, and when they are there at the right price, I buy.
Q: What about cheap chic clothing—like H&M’s designer collections ... are the low prices worth it?
A: Absolutely, I go to the annual H&M designer collection sales every year. I love my Viktor & Rolf and Stella McCartney H&M pieces. I am still wearing those. I think it’s wonderful that these are now available. They make fashion more accessible and affordable to a larger audience. I wear my $20 Normal Kamalli dress from Walmart with my best pearls and it looks like a million dollars. I think it’s great that designers are now offering low-priced versions of their lines.
Q: Handbags can be so expensive. It now looks like people are sometimes renting designer bags! Have you heard of that?
A: Yes, I have heard of the rental. Handbag buying maybe the area of my greatest reform! I am a big handbag lover and have bought many great designer bags. My take on the clubs is this, there are hidden costs there and many times the rentals are not cheap. Take a close look at them. I have seen Chanel and Dior bags for several hundred dollars for a rental. (Note: there may be also be a wait list for those bags.) To me, that’s not a “deal.” You must pay for shipping and insurance for that bag. You may also have to pay a club membership fee for some of the clubs. And all of that adds up. Some people also worry about returning the bag in perfect condition so as not to incur even higher fees or penalties. For me, I would rather buy the Anya Hindmarch bag at Target for $49.99 or buy a designer bag on eBay, or a bag on sale at a retailer. If I buy a great designer bag, I can always eBay it later and recoup some of my investment. In contrast, the handbag rental fee is just for a one time use with no return.
Q: I just love the term Recessionista. Do you think it’s just a trend that will go away once the economy rebounds?
A: Thanks, I like the word too! It has just that little touch of “bling” and again makes it sound like shopping cheap and cheerful is a very cool thing to be doing. I don’t believe that living the “recessionista lifestyle” will go away. I will continue to live this way even after the economy rebounds. To me, this is the challenge of our generation. We haven’t faced this type of economic issue before. We were used to buying what we wanted when we wanted. In contrast, my mother was a child of the Great Depression. She sold apples on the street corner with her parents when she was three and four years old. The Depression ended, but she has remained frugal her whole life. She learned a huge life lesson from that period, and now our generation is learning the same lesson.
Although it wasn’t part of the interview, I want to add a little postscript here. I believe my mother, with the exception of Shirley Temple, may have been the best dressed child in the Depression. Her two aunts made most of her clothes using Vogue patterns and their own patterns. These were her two wonderful aunts Alice and Eunice. They were in their late teens during the depression and they were avid fashion fans. Times were tough, but they would make the most beautiful clothes without spending much money using their sewing skills and whatever materials they could find. I remember Alice telling me how they would recycle old dresses, use burlap sacks and even reuse old sheets to make beautiful things. This type of thing is still possible today. Remember when the fabulous Laura Bennett made that beautiful dress out of peanut sacks for Project Runway? Just another great example of how a true fashionista can do more with less.