Have you traded in your Designer Denim for Levi’s lately?

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We posted this article the other day about how some experts are saying the designer denim industry seems to defy the downturned economy. Now this article by a fashion columnist says the opposite – that women are no longer buying as many luxe goods and that they are trading buying designer denim for cheaper brands. What’s your take?

Thanks to high gas prices and higher food prices, the days of the Starbucks-toting, gluttonous fashionista are over.

She’s stopped buying multiple pairs of $250 Citizens of Humanity jeans, opting instead for just one pair (well, maybe two) of $50 Levis.

She’ll buy $400 Christian Louboutins but will limit her color choice to black. And the $1,500 camel Chloe “It” bag has been replaced with a reasonable facsimile from Nine West.

Yes, the shopping habits that defined the most casual yet expensive era in women’s fashion are on the brink of extinction.

“People are shopping, but instead of choosing to go upscale for the simple things, they are going downscale,” said Kathryn Finney, who writes the Budget Fashionista, a New-York-based blog she began while living in Philadelphia.

“For a while, it was about mixing up the high and the low,” she said. “Now it’s all about the low.”

So, what exactly are we buying during these belt-tightening times?

After three summers of strong sales, the dress is still selling very well, said Marshal Cohen, market analyst for NPD Market Research. But the motivation behind purchasing the frocks, Cohen says, has changed from novel idea to necessity.

“Women bought them, first off, because they were fresh,” Cohen said. “But now it passes the complete-outfit test. It’s economical, and it will be strong into fall.”

But this fall the dress will be belted and in somber, matte shades. Gone are the crystals and fabric with sheen. Who says fashion doesn’t reflect real life?

The tight squeeze on the economy is forcing us to look at our finances, but it is also taking the whimsy out of fashion. Until now, fashion was not only a creative endeavor; it was a carefree pastime. Bargain-shopping – finding the best designer deals at Target and H&M – was a sport.

Well, the game is over. Gas prices have nearly tripled in the last three years, and our discretionary income is the victim. Bargain-shopping is a necessity. The heyday of luxury is gone.

Last month, 39 percent of 7,500 adults polled said higher gas prices have caused them to spend less on clothing, according to Big Research. That’s up almost 13 percentage points from the same time last year, when only 26.6 percent said their closets were affected by the fluctuating prices.

Oh, the sadness. There was something about finding fabulous dresses, wide-legged pants or dangling earrings for $150 or less – OK, that was my threshold for impulse shopping – and buying it spontaneously because we thought we deserved it.

So what’s a girl to do if she’s to stay chic?

Today, at least, there are more options. Unlike lean times that sent people to the sewing machine, our chic-for-less culture has created a bevy of places to shop. And according to Cohen, they are doing well and will continue to do so: Namely, the Forever 21s, Targets and Zaras of the world.

Even Wal-Mart is going beyond its basic George line to include a collection by California luxury designer Norma Kamali. Paige Premium Denim is now at T.J. Maxx. And more designers like Kate Spade and Alice + Olivia are having online sample sales.

Of course, there’s always consignment. Over the last four months, the Chestnut Street location of resale boutique Buffalo Exchange has seen a 30 percent increase in revenue over the previous year, said Leslie Weinstein, the store’s manager.

“We still have people come in looking for the great T-shirt and jeans,” Weinstein said. “But the volume of people has grown tremendously. We have more people looking for more value for their money.”

What does this mean for fashion?

There will always be people who can afford the best of everything – from a $250 Neal Sperling T-shirt to a $1,000 Pucci pantsuit.

But as our true necessities become more expensive, those of us who got a tiny taste of luxury may be forced to perk Maxwell House at home and dream about the Diane von Furstenberg dress.”

Pffft…personally, as a coffee snob as well as a designer denim snob, I could never drink Maxwell House. Ugh! If I find myself broke, I’ll wear t-shirts from Walmart with my designer denim that I got on sale, whilst drinking my Starbucks, thank you very much! A girl’s gotta draw the line somewhere!

Have you changed your shopping habits for designer denim in this slower economy?

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One Comment

  1. I know you’re writing for an audience and saying stuff like “I would never give up starbucks, a girl’s gotta draw the line somwhere” I know that sounds good but when it comes to a crunch. You’re going to give it up, heck you’re going to give up coffee in general if it means 4 dollars a cup because it adds up. If not, you’re just being financially stupid along with the other half of this country and their credit card debt because they can’t afford to live within their means. The rich are rich not because they spend frivolously, it’s because they know how to spend wisely. /rant