03/20/2008 02:07 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Lipstick Effect

It's called the Lipstick Effect or the Leading Lipstick Indicator: During times of economic uncertainty, women load up on affordable luxuries as a substitute for more expensive items like clothing and jewelry. It's a phrase coined by Leonard Lauder, Chairman of Estee Lauder, who saw a huge jump in lipstick sales after September 11th.

When it's time to tighten (nay, cinch) the economic belt, unlike certain former New York governors, I'm all for cheap thrills. A quick (and calorie free) pick-me-up that doesn't come with the downside of a lighter wallet, a heavier midsection, or that "leave the Barneys bag in the corner of the apartment and stare at it with longing and trepidation" feeling of post-shopping guilt is, to me at least, simply priceless -- or at least $100 or less.

I always wonder whose diamond studs are actually real. But, like "How much did you pay for your apartment," and "Are you pregnant?" it's not a question you can actually ask someone. Mine are real, thank you, but I see no problem with a little faux, especially when it comes from Rich Rocks. When the double Cs aren't in my budget, I click to these double Rs, where every piece is under $100. From hammered chains to dome rings to /' target='_blank'>gold champagne chandeliers ($100), cubic zirconia never looked so good.

Behind every French girl who oozes seemingly effortless style, you can almost guarantee there's a dog-eared La Redoute catalog. Graciously bringing its budget trends to U.S. shoppers, the French online and catalog retailer has been operating stateside for a few years now. Call it the undercover H&M. By that, we mean spot-on pieces (that every won't recognize) at wildly affordable prices and a talent for wooing designers to guest in its apparel studio. (Recent lines have come courtesy of Sophia Kokosalaki, Et Vous and André Courrèges.) When this Christian Lacroix, silk mini dress is out my league, I'll spring for this one (on sale for $69.99).

I have the same problem with Ikea that I do with H&M: While I appreciate the design effort and can stomach the you-get-what-you-pay-for quality, I can't face the ubiquity of the brand. At least until they open one in every strip mall, I'm shopping for my apartment at CB2, Crate & Barrel's hipper, edgier and considerably more affordable offshoot. (There are only three locations plus the e-shop.) If I'm forgoing dinners at the Waverly Inn (as if I could ever get a resi in the first place--Store Adore isn't that cool--yet), I can still have some fun with these Marilyn Monroe Andy Warhol melamine dessert plates ($3.95 each). Come on over for cupcakes!

If Jimmy Choo becomes Jimmy Who?, hook me up with these sweet sweet peeptoe flats. They may be a bit cutesy, but they boast the same wooden flat and cutouts as the ones I've been eyeing--and at only $24 each, I can fill up my shopping cart with a guilt-free treat for every day of the week at zany online boutique Fred Flare.

Finally, if my frequent flier miles don't quite earn a trip to Cap D'Antibes this year, I'll take a day at the beach deskside from Wishingfish, our favorite source for quirky yet thoughtful gifts. (What does it mean that the $10 item is already on back order?)

As for my weekend shopping trip at Jeffrey? Well last I checked, browsing is still free.