iOS app Android app More

Lauren Cahn

Lauren Cahn

Posted: December 16, 2008 05:06 PM

What Recession?


I was feeling poorly this weekend, and so, for once in a long while, I had the luxury of outsourcing all of my chauffeuring duties to the husband and lying in bed with the newspaper. Like everyone else with access to any form of media, I read about Bernie Madoff. And I read about Lehman's bankruptcy case. And about unemployment rising. And my investments sinking. Blah blah blah. Yep, it's all getting fairly routine, albeit no less worrisome.

And when I get bored or too disturbed by the hard stuff, I move onto my "porn." Which is to say, the gossip glossies, which somehow make their way into my house each week (okay, I buy them at the supermarket) as well as the New York Times Magazine and all of its incarnations, including the one called "T" that came out last week -- the one with Katie Holmes on the cover.

Luxury advertisements, I thought to myself as I flipped the cover page, now those would have to have something interesting into which to sink my teeth in these relatively un-celeberatory days of downsizing, lost fortunes, and emotional depression due to recession. I expected to see far less of the ubiquitous Christian Louboutin red sole and far more authentic "soul." I expected to see more casual jeans, less Herve Leger (which is really getting a bit overplayed anyway, isn't it?), more costume jewelry, less diamonds, less fur, higher skirts.

It was not to be.

A few pages into "T", I found myself incredulous. The featured wares did not seem at all in keeping with the economic times. I began ignoring the layouts and looking only at the "credits", where the featured fashions were identified by designer and price. And by price, I mean, shoes that cost as much as a month's worth of groceries for a family of four. I mean handbags that cost as much as my 11-year old son's entire winter wardrobe (okay, he's not really into fashion, but still). I mean luggage that costs more than that trip to the Caribbean.

I was offended. Okay, so maybe I'm just easily offended.

But apart from the fictional middle-aged ladies of television's oddly anachronistic "Wealth in the City" fantasy, Lipstick Jungle, who is actually, really and truly, out there buying this stuff at these prices?

Now, I have to admit here that I live in a bit of a bubble, myself. And by bubble, I mean the hamlet in which I live. This particular place is so bizarrely affluent (in general... of course there are always exceptions) that there are still (Mc)Mansions going up all around me, and many (Jewish) families are still planning elaborate bar mitzvahs for their children at expensive hotels and country clubs where the evening's tally will reach a hundred grand or more. People still go out for expensive dinners with friends, still shop at Whole Foods, at Bloomingdales and at Neimans, still plan their Rocky Mountain ski vacations and their summer rentals (which is kind of bizarre to me since where we live is a summer rental destination, but whatever).

Nevertheless, I can't help but notice that things are just a bit less flashy here these days. The front door of the luncheonette on Main Street bears a sobering sign that beseeches residents to keep eating there even in times of economic trouble. The traffic into New York City has significantly dropped in volume. It's easy to get a reservation on a Saturday night -- anywhere. The local clothing stores are having major sales. I managed to buy a Nintendo Wii for my kids (for Hanukah) at the nearby Target in the middle of the day on a Saturday, and nearly lost my lunch when I saw how many sat forlornly stacked and waiting, un-purchased as yet. I should have taken a photo, except it would have been too depressing. And then there is this subtle message: I haven't gotten the usual deluge of custom holiday cards from friends who always sent them in the past.

So, notwithstanding the continued sprawl of "Old Iron Estates" and "Stone Manors" here, I think that there is some cutting back going on. It's subtle. But it seems to be there.

So, then my question to anyone who cares to answer is: who is out there buying the Louboutin pumps? The Vivier booties? The Hermes scarves, the Chloe bags? The jeans that look like you borrowed them from your boyfriend, except they are really really hideously expensive and entirely unflattering (even on Katie Holmes). Is it you? Or anyone you know?

I'd love to see some comments here as to how you see the recession playing out in everyday life. Or if it isn't at all...