High Fashion in Low Times

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The New York Times gave a nod to sensible cheap chic this week, with a lengthy piece touting second hand haute couture describing shoppers "spelunking for treasures at the Goodwill store on West 25th Street." It was a fun and informative story, and a charming respite from the now chillingly familiar sagas of home foreclosures and families having to chose between medicine and food.  The Times wrote:

 

   "The 5,500-square-foot thrift outlet is a laboratory of sorts for Goodwill and its 2,200 stores around the country. Intent on sprucing up an image that conjures low-end castoffs and no-frills ambience, many Goodwill stores are courting the shoppers who scour high-end resale shops and department store sales racks for bargains."

 

  The especially good news here is that the recycling of high quality merchandize--in this case thoughtfully crafted clothing--has suddenly become not only acceptable but cool.  What a wonderful alternative to the trend toward "disposable" clothing--the cheaply made "shabby chic" we've endured for too long at H&M and its ilk.  What cartoon superstar Homer Simpson calls "fallapart" is precisely what American consumers have come to expect from too many of our purchases.  How wonderful that today's "recessionistas" are fighting back by flocking to low cost, high quality "kindly used" garments--that they may even pass down to their kids!        

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Ellen Ruppel Shell is a professor and science journalist who teaches at Boston University. She is the author most recently of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. More

Atlantic contributing editor Ellen Ruppel Shell teaches at Boston University, where she co-directs the Graduate Program in Science Journalism. She writes on science, medicine, the media, economics, and sometimes even sports and the arts, and tends to focus on the underlying cultural and societal implications. She is the author most recently of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture.
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