Frugality in Fashion Amid Economic Slump

Now more than ever, Americans are bragging about their rock-bottom fashion finds.

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Consumers are kidding themselves if they think fast fashion distinguishes them from the masses, said Ellen Ruppel Shell, author of “Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture.” Topshop may have certain status for being London based and the same might be said of the Swedish chain H&M, but the reality is that neither is all that different from Wal-Mart, she said. “Frugal chic is kind of a label in itself now. But I would argue that we are deluding ourselves. These goods are mass produced, sold all over the world, available to everyone and they don’t involve a lot of creativity,” Shell said. “Truly fashionable people are able to go to thrift stores to find something stylish.”

Ostentatious displays of wealth are not in fashion, whether that be in relation to clothing, expensive bottles of wine or pricy cars, she said. During her recent trip to Spain, First Lady Michelle Obama made a point of wearing a few repeat outfits “to show some level of modesty,” said Shell — but she was still criticized by the media for being a modern-day Marie Antoinette because she was staying in an ultraluxurious, extremely expensive five-star hotel. “She got lambasted for being extravagant when so many Americans are in a tough situation financially,” Shell said.

In Europe, where sales tend to be held only twice a year, stores are trying to get a handle on price chopping, which has become more of a regular thing in recent months, said trend forecaster Pierre-François Le Louet. “There is a whole cheap lifestyle, which is quite fashionable at the moment,” he said “Prices are going down and down. That is not very good. Brands will have to reposition themselves.

“People are much more conscientious of how they’re spending their money,” he added. “They are trying to recover and are not as open to shopping as they were a few months ago.”

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