February 4, 2009 / 7:14 PM / 9 years ago

Recessionistas in, fashionistas out in bad economy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Move over fashionistas -- there’s a new girl in town.

She’s called the “recessionista” and she delights in spending $70 rather than $700 on a cashmere cardigan or $1 to make a kiwi fruit face mask instead of shelling out $100 for a session at a trendy day spa.

As the world economy tanks, recessionistas are finding pleasure in finding bargains rather than splurging in an era where ostentatious consumption -- even for the well-off -- is beginning to appear gauche.

“There is something grotesque about paying full price -- $2,500 - $3,500 on a handbag. It is such a dumb thing to do,” said Mandi Norwood, former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and Mademoiselle magazines.

“It is very chic to save and very chic to get a deal. Any girl wants to look stylish but also be perceived as smart,” she said.

The word recessionista -- originally a person who enjoys dressing fashionably on a budget -- has gained rapidly in currency and now embraces the worlds of dining, entertaining and beauty.

It was declared the word of the week on the Macmillan Dictionary Web site last week and is one of the top fashion buzz words of 2009, along with its sibling “chiconomics,” according to the Global Language Monitor.

Recessionistas enjoy hunting for bargains on sample sale Web sites, in consignment stores and in discount stores which commission inexpensive fashion lines from top designers.

Mary Hall, a 30-something Los Angeles marketing manager and former self-confessed “fashionista,” adopted the word in July 2008 for her money-saving fashion tips blog therecessionista.blogspot.com.

“I didn’t feel it was time to be a fashionista so I called it the recessionista,” Hall said, although the exact origin of the term which began cropping up last year are unclear.

“It has really caught everyone’s fancy. A lot of people are facing the dilemma of wanting to stay fashionable but trying to limit their spending as well.”

Hall said her blog now has about 20,000 regular readers from 80 countries, including Britain, India and China.

She said it’s not just those in danger of losing their jobs or their homes who are adopting a recessionista lifestyle.

“I know ladies in Beverly Hills doing this. They don’t feel like doing the ostentatious shopping any more. The country is hurting and the world is hurting so it’s not chic to be throwing away money right now,” she said.

One of Hall’s proudest buys was a plastic Anya Hindmarch bag which sells in the designer’s own store for around $1,200. She picked an almost identical one up for $49.99 that Hindmarch designed for U.S. discount retailer Target.

Hall’s blog also has tips on subjects ranging from Valentine’s Day (make your own cards) to dining (cook beef bourguignon at home and “with a cheap and cheerful bottle of vino plus some nice French bread, we can still dine like Parisians without leaving home.”)

ShopSmart magazine is devoting its March issue to a recessionista feature with advice for finding bargains in second-hand shops run by Goodwill and the Salvation Army.

But Norwood believes the fashionista -- coined in the early 1990s for a fashion devotee -- is not extinct yet.

“I don’t think the fashionista is dead. I think she is just watching her dollars and cents a little more closely than usual and being a little bit more creative about how she spends them.”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Cynthia Osterman

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