Reflections of a Recessionista

The weekend before Black Friday, there was a huge sale at Saks in Manhattan. This surprised everyone, because it wasn’t advertised and because it came a week earlier than expected. You see, the after-Thanksgiving sale at Saks is legendary. Every year, fashionistas of all ages drag their turkey-hangovered selves out of bed at some ungodly hour just to line up outside the Hallowed Doors of Saks so that they can be the first ones in. These lucky few get the best selections in sizes and styles and the best deals, as the savings drop from 50% back to 30% after 12:00 noon. Well!

Not this year, ladies. This year, if you weren’t at Saks the Friday before Black Friday, you basically missed the boat. Let me tell you what I know. And then, let me tell you why it matters.
First of all, I wasn’t there, so I am relying on data collected by a fellow fashionista, my friend Dana. Dana fell upon the sale accidentally, merely by walking into Saks to buy some cosmetics. “It was insane! I’ve never seen anything like it!” she told me afterwards, shaking her head as she reported that women were literally snatching up 8-10 pairs of brand spanking new Jimmy Choos, Manolos and Pradas for about a hundred to two hundred dollars a pop. She said that the shoe salon looked like a bomb had been dropped into the middle of it. I immediately pictured a scene from some black and white World War II drama where a shell-shocked woman wanders around aimlessly among the rubble, calling out for her lost loved one. “Tods! Tods? Where are you, Tods!?” Smoke and ash hang in the dead air around her, but she must go on.

The second day (yes, Dana went two days in a row), Saks had hired security to watch over the horders. Women were fiercely clutching snakeskin pocketbooks they didn’t need or want just because they were so darn cheap. Dana found this absolutely fascinating to watch, like some sort of sociological experiment. Her normally restrained step-mother even purchased three pairs of shoes retailing for $1,700 for a little over $400.

At this news, my already palpitating heart started to do the Macarena.

She and I happened to be 4 blocks away from Saks on the Sunday of the sale, walking around the city with our children. She turned to me, a knowing look in her eye. “I think we should go,” she said, left eyebrow raised conspiratorially.
I glanced longingly in the direction of Fifth Avenue. “I do need some black boots,” I sighed.

“Then you’ve gotta go there. Like, now.”

I was on the verge of saying yes.

So, here’s the thing.

I didn’t go.

Why? Because it sounded too tempting, too amazing. And although I feared I’d be missing out on The Chance of a Lifetime, I also worried that my credit card and I might not get out of there alive. The fact of the matter is, a year ago – six months ago – I would not have even hesitated. Of course I would have marched right in there and shopped. It’s a sale, after all! Good deals to be had on beautiful designer items! There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself now and then.
Except when the “now” is, well, now.

Welcome to my world: I am a recessionista.

What is a recessionista? On the surface, it seems fairly self-explanatory: it’s the way a fashionista behaves in response to a recession. The recessionista — or “frugalista,” as William Safire prefers — is still glam, but on a (much tighter) budget.

So, what does being a recessionista really mean, for us here in Scarsdale? Let’s take a closer look.

Have you cut back on haircuts, blowouts or color in recent months, or perhaps switched salons so that you are not paying New York City prices for your coiff? You are a recessionista.

Have you dug out a vintage pocketbook from the back of your closet and fallen in love with it again, instead of buying the latest Balenciaga? That’s a classic recessionista move. (And a great recycling technique, too. Very anti-consumerist. Bravo!)

Are you considering getting rid of that second (or third) car, the little sporty one that only goes out with you on Saturday nights? You are a recessionista.

Have you stopped decorating your living room, calling the sparse furnishings and lack of art “The New Minimalism?” Rock on, recessionista.

Is your next vacation being scraped together with frequent flyer miles and Amex points? Now that’s a practical, globetrotting, recessionista.

If it’s time to cut back on personal training, take a jog around the track, recessionista!

An important note: some things are worth fighting for. I have a friend who, no matter how dire the situation becomes, will never give up on getting her eyebrows waxed once a month by her beloved top-secret groomer in the city. Babe, I’m here to say that holding on to one or two time-honored rituals like that is completely recessionistic, too. A recessionista knows what makes the most sense for her, her family’s wallet, and her extraneous facial hair.

And lastly, I’d like to say that, somewhere, a line in the sand must be drawn. My friend Jodi really wants some red-soled, stiletto Louboutins. She understands that now just is not the time for such frivolity. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. When last we spoke, she actually contemplated getting some spray paint and – you see where I am going with this and it isn’t pretty – turning the soles of her Nine West pumps red.

“Those would be your LoubouNOTs,” I declared. “And doing that is just downright depressionista.” I shivered. “Let’s hope we never get there.”

The fact of the matter is, we – as fashionistas, Scarsdalians, and Americans — were maybe more than just a tad bit out of control before. It’s time to prioritize and to do a little soul searching instead of sole searching. If Obama can trim the fat and cut back national spending, isn’t it time we do the same at home? Don’t just do it because you have to economically. Do it because cutting back is the right thing to do.

So, my fellow recessionistas, chin up. I know old habits die hard. There will certainly be an adjustment period as we learn to accept that less really is more. For the time being, how about we try this: I’ll let you borrow my slouchy Chloe bag if you’ll lend me your YSL tote.

Who knows? If we go for lunch after, it may even feel like real shopping.

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