NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - So much for ostentation being gauche in the new U.S. economy.
Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus published its 2010 holiday gift catalog on Tuesday, marking a return to excess after a recession-mandated frugality.
Items for sale include a $1.5 million privately commissioned art installation by glass sculptor Dale Chihuly for the bottom of a swimming pool. Spending $250,000 gets you a his-and-hers luxury houseboat.
In 2009, Neiman Marcus offered a more modest catalog in deference to tough times. But as the wealthy gain more confidence, they spend more money on luxury goods.
"There's a segment of the population that has gotten even wealthier: Goldman Sachs bankers, Silicon Valley venture capitalists," said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of consulting firm Luxury Institute. "They have so much money, they don't know what to do with it. They're in the mood to spend and that's what Neiman Marcus is tapping into."
Neiman Marcus Group, which includes the eponymous chain as well as Bergdorf Goodman, is enjoying a rebound. In the most recent quarter, combined same-store sales at both chains rose 6.5 percent.
Department store rivals Saks Inc and Nordstrom also reported a sales resurgence in recent months.
Other standout items in Neiman's Christmas Book catalog include an edible, life-size gingerbread playhouse with a price tag of $15,000.
A private party by celebrity event planner Colin Cowie, where premium Tequila Avion liquor will warm up the guests, goes for $125,000. Photography aficionados can own a Leica M9 Neiman Marcus camera for $17,500. For $75,000, car lovers can drive a 2011 Neiman Marcus Edition Camaro convertible.
The catalog, which began as a Christmas card for shoppers in 1915, showcases the latest in fashion, shoes and luxury items from jewelry to wallets.
But Neiman Marcus is also aware of the need to cultivate "aspirational" shoppers, and has a tiny section on items costing less than $100 on pages 152 and 153.
Reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Robert MacMillan