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Hard Times? The New “Poverty Chic”

towncountry_1sm[1]I am now receiving “Town & Country” in the mail because, on a tip from a clever friend, I went to fatwallet.com, and told a few casual lies.  (I could be practicing entertainment law and making $150,000 a year). Based on my fictitiously rarified self, I became a free recipient of the self-described “luxury lifestyle magazine.”

If you are not a regular “Town & Country” reader, I will help you to understand the nature of the publication by telling you that most of the advertising is for diamonds (and not the kind that come from Zales in the mall), with a few luxury cars and exclusive resorts hawked along the way. Society weddings are featured in the back of the magazine. The focus is not on celebrity glitz, but on the homes, clothing and entertainment of the kind of Old Money that owns a summer-house on Nantucket, orders curtain fabric from Braunschwig & Fils and stays at The Connaught when in London.

In this issue, the Editor’s Letter focuses on the effect the recent economic downturn has had on the halcyon days of the, well, the right-up-until-a-year-ago era. She calls 2009 “the year of ‘no mores’- no more lavish spending, no more whimsical investments, no more doing things just for the hell of it.” On the following page, she comes to her senses and recommends that we consider purchasing as a Christmas gift a $325.00 chinoiserie enamel ring box. This would, I imagine, be a stocking stuffer along with a 2 carat diamond ring from Cartier (to put in the box) , a perfect black truffle, a cashmere dog sweater, and a pair of airline tickets to Anguilla.

During my recent magazine addiction (from which I recovered completely in the Conde Nast wing of the Betty Ford Clinic), I saw this “Poverty Chic” idea again and again.  I have been reading fashion magazines for a long, long, time, and while one might find articles about “Six Outfits Under $100” in media targeted towards suburban moms, teenagers or the socially disenfranchised, the push in high-end publications has always been to buy what was new, regardless of cost, or at least want it enough that it hurt. You might have had to figure out on your own that Payless was selling a pleather version of the Jimmy Choos that blew you away in “Vogue,” and make your own, less “luxe” version of Marc Jacobs latest ensemble, but the mission of the magazines was to get you to buy the real deal, from $40.00 lip balm to $10,000.00 necklaces made of raw aquamarines mined by Indonesian virgins. To my astonishment, in my most recent reading I found articles about “shopping your closet” rather than buying new, fashion spreads that included at least one item from Target or H &M, and articles about how to go longer between highlights, blowouts, manicures and other essential personal maintenance.

target400[1]Although I am not happy that many at the tippy top of the socioeconomic pyramid have lost jobs or taken a bath on investment returns, it is interesting to me to watch the process by which the realities of my daily life have become “chic.” We have a more than adequate roof over our heads, and are sufficiently fed and clothed, but we do not eat out regularly, take vacations, buy hardcover books, buy expensive theater or concert tickets, or spend lavishly on holiday gifts. If I need a pair of black flats, I go to Target. My diamonds were inherited, and I buy my hair color in a box at the grocery store, blow out my own hair, and do my own nails. We are completely entertained through a combination of Netflix, free local concerts and tickets to theater performed at local high schools and theaters. I love beautiful things, and admit to having cravings for everything from a Kate Spade bag to a Cooper Mini, but those desires are filed in a brain compartment far away from the realities of my actual life. They are in the toile-covered, expensively scented “if I had a million dollars” compartment, right under paying off all of our debt and giving a huge donation to the local food bank.

penny[1]

We have been, and continue to be, the recipients miraculous generosity from a wide variety of people – my parents, who outfit Sam in Abercrombie before school starts and take us to Florida every year, my mother-in-law who sends me St. John suits and bags, Rob’s former employer who sent us on annual vacations to beautiful resorts in the Caribbean in the dead of winter, and friends and family who take us to amazing restaurants and pick up the tab in such a way that we never feel like “poor relations” but like essential and valued company. Those things, for us, are breathtaking breaks from penny-pinching pragmatism. They are not “business as usual,” but treasures. Four months ago, when I bought the first new car I have ever owned in my 31 years of driving, I was as pleased and in love with my tiny Hyundai as I would have been had we bought a Mclaren coupe. I still get a little rush every time I see my own tiny, shiny, stubby  wheels, parked in the driveway.

We have made some choices about what we value in this family, some of which mean that I have to consider every purchase from an expensive spice I can only use in one recipe, to a whole album (!) on iTunes.  I worry about the cost of potential orthodontia, prescription medicines,  failing washing machines, and lurking old-house disasters. The fact that this life, which we have lived for many years, is now considered novel and maybe even fashionable, is somewhat surreal. It is, I believe, how many Americans live, and compared to billions of people in this country and in the greater world, we are fabulously wealthy. For families living in real poverty, our big (heated) house with running water, our full refrigerator and our medical insurance would be luxuries. Shopping at Target and coloring one’s own hair are not novelties discovered by the editors at “Elle;” they are the realities of average American lives.

I am genuinely not happy that the mighty have fallen; I am not happy when anyone falls. I might wish, though, that there was less media focus on the getting and spending aspects of hard times, and more on the silver linings. This focus on what can be “bought” skews incorrectly the image of what it means to focus less on the material world, whether by choice or necessity. My books come from the library, my toilet paper is generic, and my cashmere used to be my mother’s, but despite my inability (and unwillingness) to spend $325.00 on a ring box, I have a sound marriage, a circle of friends and family who could only possibly love me for who I am (since I have nothing else to give them), and a great kid who is already learning how to work and plan to get what we can’t easily afford. Our family, and not what we buy, or where we go, is the center of our lives. There isn’t a job loss or investment disaster that can change that; long after the market has righted itself, and Biarritz and haute couture  are bullish again, we will continue to have the most luxurious things of all.

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About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

95 responses »

  1. I have started getting that magazine too, as a free subscription. I had no idea what it would be! I now just flip through and laugh. The December issue gives you Christmas gift ideas ranging from “up to $150” to “$10,000”!!! I think my Christmas gifts will again be home made this year…

    Reply
    • Agreed. It is pretty to look at, but apparently going too deep (like actually reading) makes me think mutinous thoughts. I’m sure they’re okay with that; I’m not exactly their “target market.”

      Reply
  2. I’m making my gifts this year too! Some of the best gifts I’ve gotten were handmade ones. They take time, energy, thought, and are so personal. That means more than a price tag to me.

    Reply
    • Well, I just saw an ad (for eBay) on TV last night about how much everybody really secretly hates homemade gifts – I LOVE them, and agree that they are the best kind. Again, we are pushed in the direction of spending rather than using our own hands and hearts to make life good.

      Reply
  3. Very smart yet witty article. I was always a devout Targét customer but it is nice that now it has become fashionable to shop on a budget.

    How did you get the free subscription?

    Reply
    • Thanks! I do feel more Kate Moss lately. I got the subscription started ages ago, but as i recall, I went into their “forums,” one of which is “free stuff” or something like that. From there, you find the free magazine offers, and you can set it up so that fatwallet sends you e-mail when someone adds a “free magazine” post to the forum.

      Reply
    • I run a freebies website and put out loads of Freebies for magazines among other things. I am a For Profit site, some links I run are what keeps me “ab;e” to put up links for freebies. I currently receive about 25 free magazines including TV Guide, Town & Country, Redbook, just to name a few. Lots of serious mags for News, my hubby is a news freak and watches CNN or one or the other. He loves getting free Business Week, Guitar Player, etc too.

      So yes they are out there. I just found your blog. I are currently trying to get a blog up. I do write html and have had 2 websites for 5 years. One is for Women’s issues, and the Freebie Cafe, I publish to about 8,600 subscribers.
      I also put it out on a Yahoo group, but Blogs are where I am heading. I’ve made a decent income running 2 websites, though times are surely getting tough.

      But if it’s free mags you are after or enjoy, those I come upon loads of them.

      You as you say tell ‘little lies’ To get some Mags you must be their type or a certain income etc.
      Most I have recv’d with no sign ups at all.

      One warning : I get many Herst mags. When you go to get the magazine, be very sure to NOT be replying as you want to subscribe, simply hit the link that takes you to the very same mag but just tells them, no thanks. I got too quick with Redbook and ended up getting a bill, and Mag. I told them I meant to get your free offer, and do not want to subscribe and pay for it. They took it off.

      Good thing I get all the Baby and Childrens mags free as well. I have one 2 year old grand daughter, and just found out my daughter is expecting again. So glad we kept the baby things and I’ve always order her a free copy of all those anyway. She’s about 2 months pregnant, she wants a girl again, but none could be as cute as my sweetie, so we are due for a boy.

      Happy Days to you and yours. Loving your blog.

      Thanks for your writing.
      Char

      Any advice on setting up a new blog? I do want

      Reply
  4. Really good article… haha christmas gifts for 10000 dollars? i wonder what magazine one will get if he says that there yearly income is 1 million.

    Oh yeah and to celebrate the opening of our blog were giving out 5 first class vouchers, To take part just tell us what your favourite dream getaway is and why? …so check out our blog http://dreamytravels.wordpress.com/ to take part in the competition….

    Thank you,

    Dreamy Travels Team

    Reply
    • Thanks dreamy; in general I prefer that folks not use my blog to promote their own, but since you’re a fellow wordpress-er, I’ll let it stand. Good luck with your new blog!

      Reply
  5. Amen. And then some.

    For some of us, 2009 is more of the same, but we’re a year older, a year more tired, and the fatigue of trying to survive recession accumulates. So – a little humor, and a sizable (if flagging) dose of optimism – and we truck on. We great $5 finds at Ross, or a local estate sale when it comes to holiday gifts for kids who understand – but still want something under a tree to unwrap.

    As for the Condé Nast Wing of the Betty Ford Clinic – were you able to negotiate a discount, or might they have lay-away?

    Reply
    • Oh, I LIKE you. Since we only have one kid, we are still able to do well for him at Christmas by (reasonable) objective standards, but your suggestions might definitely help with that stocking business. As for Betty Ford, yes, it was layaway; they come and leave a pile of magazines on the porch if we miss a payment.

      Reply
  6. Hilarious and so true … I agree with everything except that part about a Hyundai being as thrilling to drive as a McLaren. Of course, I’ve never been within 100 feet of a McLaren — let alone driven one — so maybe you’re right.

    Reply
    • Thank you. I suspect you are right about the Mclaren, although I am not really a Car Person; I’m not sure I would properly appreciate all that road-feel and torque stuff. I am mostly interested in my car being a) functional and b) pretty.

      Reply
  7. You write so well and make such a good point. It drives me crazy when the “bargain” recommendations in magazines feature $200 sweaters. That’s not average American, peeps, that’s well-off Americans. Get with it, ELLE! 🙂

    http://www.ThePrettyProject.com

    Reply
    • Well, thanks! I know they have to feature clothes and accessories sold by their advertisers, or there isn’t any more magazine, but you’re right – $200 for isn’t “bargain,” it’s “expensive.” Thanks for reading. 🙂

      Reply
  8. How refreshing.

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  9. ” It is, I believe, how many Americans live, and compared to billions of people in this country and in the greater world, we are fabulously wealthy”

    Ann-this is so true. I tell myself this whenever I pine for some stupid bauble or toy or high-end gadget. We have a house, food and friends and we are happy. This materialistic mind-set we have as Americans is totally exposed when we go to Mexico and witness the birthday parties of little kids or family get-togethers done with shoe-string budgets, but everyone’s so happy to be together and family bonds are so tight there. It puts it all into perspective. Health and Happiness are all the wealth I want.

    Reply
    • Well, you do actually see it, don’t you. It’s real, too; they aren’t just “sadly making due” because they can’t take all the kids to Sea World for the birthday party.

      As for health and happiness…we are both blessed.

      Reply
  10. I appreciate your comments. They were not bashing anyone but were insightful, well thought and full of meaning. Lets home just as many people read your article as they do Town and Country!

    Reply
    • Thanks so much. I’m not a big “basher” (at least not in print :)) and I do really love magazines; this issue of real life v. magazine “real life” has just been burning a hole in my brain…..

      Reply
  11. “Six Outfits Under $100″ LOL. How about with $100 I can buy six outfits. I was born to be el-cheapo. This isn’t something I am ashamed of, either. I actually brag about it. If you had $100 in your pocket right now to go and buy one outfit, how great would you feel if you could buy six equally appealing outfits for the price of one? That’s how I feel about it. I love bargains. I shop clearance racks. Besides, if it just went out of style and was marked at 50% off for that reason, I can just tuck it away in my drawer for 6 months and by then it will be BACK in style. I just don’t understand why someone would spend $65 on a “vintage find” when they could easily go to a consignment shop and get the real deal for $6. But that’s just me lol.

    Great post!

    Reply
    • So, this is kind of amazing – I think I may lack either a gene that you got, or sufficient energy. I am very envious, though. I feel pretty well clothed these days, but I’d love to be able to keep my growing boy in Abercrombie and all of that other stuff he loves. We do have a Plato’s Closet…you’ve inspired me….

      Reply
      • Yeah, we have Platos Closet. But believe it or not, they overprice their stuff here. I don’t like any of their clothes. I dress rather nice, no one would ever be able to tell that I am infamous for finding unique jackets for only $5! You just really have to keep up with sales. One thing I have learned is things look way different on the rack than they do on your body. So I started trying on clothes I thought I would never like- and they look great! I had a baby last August and had either lost all of my pre-preg clothes or grew out of them. I was able to build an entirely new wardrobe for maybe $350. That’s shoes, pants, shirts, accessories, coats, dresses- the works.

        My son is only 5 so I don’t have to worry about the brand spanking new namebrand clothes just yet. I shop secondhand or target and he is one of the best dressed kids in his class. Also, online shopping is great when you can find deals like free shipping. Bargain stores are awesome too. My John Frieda Brilliant Brunette shampoo and conditioner are $6 a bottle at Walmart- but at Big Lots the SAME product is $2.50. I think most people splurge on convenience. If you are willing to hold off on things and hunt around for the best bargain- you’d be amazed at the money you save. You would laugh hysterically if I told you what kind of income our family of 4 lives off of- and are still able to own a Mercedes.

  12. Very, very well said!

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  13. I just don’t know what some people would do if they woke up in our real world.

    God bless us every one!

    ~grin~

    Laura

    Reply
  14. Ya gotta wonder what planet these people are living on because it ain’t the middle class planet I occupy. The christmas presents we are doing this year are from shutterfly – great little photo album books (looks like hard cover children’s book) that are about $15 – $25 per book… and we are only doing 3 – 4. Everyone else gets a card!

    Reply
    • I suspect it is a planet on which personal finance looks very much like corporate finance in the 1980s – easy credit, little contact with a concrete balance sheet, and huge pressure to “keep up with the Joneses.” I love shutterfly; back when I was more wholesome and made scrapbooks (interesting ones, not the icky kind), I used to make those and give them as gifts.

      Reply
  15. I don’t often read non-business oriented blogs, but WordPress has yours on the homepage today and I was intrigued by the title of both your post and your blog. And how true! One person’s reality is another person’s luxuries and yet another person’s dreams. Today I just discovered Kiva and made a $25 loan to an entrepreneurial group of women in Mali who sell fish. We live here in California in a house but have a tight budget, possibility of layoff looms over my husband, no one buys my grandson anything from Abercrombie and F. and I haven’t been on vacation in quite some time…but I’ll tell you, I feel wealthy.

    Reply
    • Linda, I’m glad you strayed from your usual pattern – and that you liked it. Kiva is a fabulous organization; I’ve given them money and wish I had more to give. I suspect you are wealthy, and how nice that you know that!

      Reply
  16. helo . i’m behnam i like take a link of my website in your websit . i can ???
    please send to i your comment !!!

    Reply
  17. it is funny what kids of stuff is out there

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  18. I also found your blog on WordPress’s homepage. I grew up poor and for a short amount of time (before my husband quite his job to go back to school) had a decent amount of money. While we had disposable income, we blew it on expensive beer, eating out, and stupid stuff.

    For the last two years, we’ve been on a budget. It’s not easy.But I’m glad we got our finances nailed down before the economic downturn.

    To be honest I’m much happier now than when I was having disposable income. Little treasures mean so much more. Being on a budget helps you to realize the important things in life.

    Reply
    • Aleta, i hear you – when I was single and worked full-time, I had all kinds of money to blow, and I did. I had beautiful clothes and saw some great shows, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for what I have now. There is a kind of numbing that goes on when everything can be had, and nothing means anything special.

      Reply
  19. Thanks for the trip into a “land” I know little about. Makes me thankful for MY land.

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  20. Well said! I couldn’t agree with you more about the true value of family and friends. They’re the only thing that really matters.

    http://danakennedy.wordpress.com
    http://oldcameras.wordpress.com

    Reply
  21. I loved your post. I used to be the editor of a fashion magazine in my country (Venezuela) and somehow i always felt guilty for publishing luxury ads and articles in a third world country. Nice blog.

    Reply
    • Wow. My first impulse is that I envy you having had that job (it used to be a huge dream of mine), but the second impulse is to be impressed by the fact that you functioned in the fashion magazine world and retained your moral compass and sense of compassion towards the rest of the world. There are areas in this town that seem like a third world country, and I feel guilty because I have a safe home and enough food. Thanks for reading; I’m kind of honored.

      Reply
  22. “. . . compared to billions of people in this country and in the greater world, we are fabulously wealthy.”

    How true! It’s so easy and tempting to tell oneself, “I don’t have . . ., but I should.” It takes conscious effort to acknowledge, “I am blessed.” Thank you, Annie, for reminding us all of an ‘oh so easy to forgot truth’!

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  23. Our eldest daughter is now a freshman at a private university, and we have another one headed for college next year. Thank you for confirming what has become crystal clear to me in the past month or so, that “we have made some choices about what we value in this family…”

    It’s easy to think I’ve had to give up luxuries like the yearly vacation, the regular pedicures, and the impulse buys. But since adjusting my thinking, I have never felt more blessed or privileged. We have simply made the choice to re-allocate resources to invest in what is of immeasurable value – a better life and the promise of a wonderful future for my kids.

    Breaking it down further to the daily latte level – I’d much prefer sending a little extra $$ so my daughter can buy those lattes to fuel her late night study sessions, than sneak home with yet another pair of shoes that “looked cute in the window”. No more buyer’s remorse!

    Reply
    • I totally agree. It really does FEEL better to spend extra cash (should there be any) on the comfort and joy of someone you love than to spend it on a “splurge” for onseself.

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  24. Bravo!

    You’ve so beautifully described exactly what is RIGHT with America. Family, friendship and sacrifice. (Not to forget hand-me-downs.) I too would love to have a nice rolly polly bank account, but I’m old enough to know it wouldn’t make me happy.

    Thank you for a lovely read.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Heather, especially for seeing this (as I intended it) as positive rather than negative. It may be the most giant cliche in the world, but we are “rich” in family and friends, and I could be happy if I had them AND a lot of money (!), I wouldn’t trade.

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  25. I loved this article. It’s nice to express gratitude for our lives, and more important, the people in that life. I’ve been in the Laguna Beach Real Estate market for many years and it can be easy for many to see only the luxury of the area, and Orange County Homes, and forget the people and relationships behind those doors that are so important.

    In a recent article, I shared a personal story about my mother and her important role in my life and my business. I was willing to take a chance to please my mother during a business deal, and I have never regretted that decision – and I wouldn’t have regretted it had it turned out the other way.

    Relationships, people…that is what is important! Thank you for this article!

    http://www.LagunaBeachRealEstateMarketBlog.com

    Reply
    • Hillary, I’m glad you like it – and yes, most of us look at Laguna Beach as LAGUNA BEACH and not as a community of humans. I think MTV did that. 🙂 I’m glad you took a chance to make your mother happy, and that in the midst of so much affluence you still see what’s most important.

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  26. i guess us regular joes have a lot to be thankful for. without all of the glitz, it sure is easier to get excited about things. i don’t know a thing about Catier, but i looove the ends of the loaf of bread, the library, knowing a 101 ways to prepare lentils and the fact that my 2 year old got a huge kick out of a refrigerator box the local appliance store gave me this morning (amen to those hand-me-downs heather!). i’m pretty easy to please. i’m glad i got a chance to reflect on all those happy little mundane everyday things i just get a huge kick out of. not a bad way to live.
    enjoyable read! thanks for posting!
    p.s. i think hyundai’s are cute too 🙂

    Reply
    • Amen. Bread ends make great breadcrumbs, too, and I am well stocked with lentils, peas and beans. As for the library…it is maybe in my top 5 places in the world, including London. Thanks for reading!

      P.S. It is the cutest car in the world. I even named it. Her, I mean.

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  27. I loved your post! You say it the way it is. I often feel the same way — eternally grateful and terribly wealthy, simply because I have a roof over my head, heat, running water — hot and cold, enough to eat, decent clothes, and can afford to pay the rent on time and feed two cats. What more could I ask for? And I must say, gratitude makes me happy! I’m not much of a magazine reader, except at doctors’ offices — which I rarely visit.

    Reply
    • Thank you, and I think it’s a good thing that you are not often at the doctor’s office! (It’s probably better for people not to read magazines, too; I’m working on that).

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  28. I am true Poverty Chic…always have been. Our society cracks me up. I’m constantly fascinated by it. Great post! Check out my more earthy comment on a similar topic: http://thepovertydiet.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/poverty-fitness-and-beauty-satillo-mosaic-patio/

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • You did something absolutely beautiful! It is, far more interesting (and just as lovely) as if you had paid professionals to do it, and will always mean more to you because of the process.

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  29. I loved your post !
    I am poverty chic even if I love new shiny things. I know I don’t need them I just really want them. I’m addicted to magazines and I subscribe because they cost less than buying them each month. And I can’t believe when magazines do “incredibly cheap clothes” articles in which nothing costs less than 50$.
    I wish we had Targets in Quebec…and Macy’s…arg.
    http://pandabox33.wordpress.com
    http://bazookah5.wordpress.com

    Reply
  30. Loved this!

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  31. theres nothing wrong with buying nicer things if you can afford it, it depends on where you feel comfortable about how much money to spend on a certain item. for me I’m cheap on pretty much everything except clothes. thats my kryptonite, i have to look good, it always gives me that confidence booster that makes me shine. But im all for great deals at the save time, a penny saved is a penny earned!

    http://redlinemg.net/about

    Reply
    • Chuck, I agree, and I have in the past spent pretty hearty amounts on “investment” pieces. I can’t do that any more, though, and I guess my “kryptonite” is my family and friends, which stays powerful even when times are tight.

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  32. I think it’s just another case of the media setting the norm. The masses are so distracted and dumbed down by that unattainable monetary goal. Even if it were attainable for the “average American”, is that what our existence amounts to?

    For quite some time it was to my understanding that I was the average American: no gas to heat my late-rented house and my water, sending my son to kindergarten in yesterdays clothes with a belly full of ramen noodles. Getting your free health care to provide you with free medications for the medications of the medications the doctor ever-so-quickly prescribed you.

    Study the era before industrialism. The era before that. Learn how we became what we are. This coerced pin hole perspective in which we see the world has us as cattle herding ourselves into a dark existence.

    It’s beautiful to live in poverty and to adversaries to the corporate world. And it’s trashy to worry about trash.

    Reply
    • Interesting take. Obviously, I agree that the media is setting a kind of norm, and that for most folks, it’s not what you would call a “normal” norm. My guess is that you are rich in many things, if not in cold, hard cash.

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  33. poverty chic is absolutely
    contradiction.

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  34. My husband and I were talking about this similar thing the other night. TMZ was talking about how Nicolas Cage was eating out a fine dining restaurant while he was “broke.” Hubby commented on how there was such a thing called, “rich broke,” which is made apparent by these types of “poverty chic” articles.

    Until society stops being fascinated by these “rich & famous” types, I think we will all try to live by their standards. Like you said, we should focus on attain good, long lasting, happy marriages and content where God placed us on this earth. While we strive for something “better,” the richer may not always be the “better” lifestyle, even for cheap.

    *Bravo on your blog post*

    Reply
    • Thanks, Mary. We tend to do “broke broke” around here. 🙂 I do notice that many celebrities, despite being quite well-heeled (even when “broke”) tend to have difficult marital and sometimes parental relationships……

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  35. So glad to have found your blog on the front page of Word Press. A great post and I have to agree with so many who have commented about your writing and your realism. I find it interesting how the media portrays things but LOVE when I see that others are just not swallowing it! 😉

    I am a thrift shopper. Why? Because I can walk away with designer clothing (not that that is necessary) with the original price tag still on there and spend $2 vs. the $50+ that someone else spent, never wore and donated. That…that right there amazes me.

    The fashion magazines cater to a minority and it is very easy to get caught up in it all. I love to look through them to get ideas but I certainly don’t feel the need to run out to the, name your brand store, and get said item for $150 (which is groceries for my family for a week) so that I can “appear” to look good for someone(s) I don’t know and will see for a few seconds. Who benefits from that exactly? Many of these brand names pay good money for advertisements/recommendations.

    Ever look into advertising costs? Now if a company can afford such an expense, think about how much profit they must be making to allocate towards this. Which leads me into thinking about these major Red Tag Sales that go on and how stores can slash prices down so low from the original price to begin with. Some interesting thoughts right there. Someone is making a huge chunk of change off of us and our egos.

    You have given us so much to think about and remember – thank you for that!

    I will be putting you in my list of blogs and be back.

    Cat

    Reply
    • Thanks, Catherine! Like you, I mainly refer to magazines for inspiration (and I like to look at pretty thing) but there is nothing in them for me. I also totally agree with you about the profit issue. There must be people who can still buy $400.00 tank tops, but I don’t know any of them….

      Reply
  36. Awesome stories!

    Reply
  37. Ah, poverty in Amerika, having to watch a reality program on a crt TV

    Reply
  38. great writing-very appealing style. I have book marked you!

    Reply
  39. emilysvitalvinylrecords

    Great witty and truth-filled post! I found your post because it was on the wordpress homepage. Ugh, I agree, I hate stores trying to sell me “Recessionista” and “Frugalista” tips, as if all of us before bought everything new, as extravegant as possible before. I’m a recently graduated graduate student with a master’s degree. I still can’t get a a good job and am wieghed down by student loan debt. I have always shopped at Ross, Target, and cosignment and thrift stores. It’s not trendy if it is a nessicity, even for some of us who though we could do a little better by getting degrees. I am a little bitter, but mostly just annnoyed as you are about the whole marketing being thrifty gimic. It won’t last, I am sure.

    Reply
    • Emily, having been a “Frugalista” for many years (I am also a victim of hideous loan payments) I was first amused, and then ticked off by that campaign. Here in Michigan, where the unemployment rate is 10% and schools are at the point of shutting down due to budget cuts, it is astonishing to me to cast our economic woes as anything other than awful.

      Reply
  40. You and yours will be taking ‘it’ to the next phase of this world, as people with your approach of living and loving without anger and judgment know what to do.
    Blessings upon you to keep on, and spread it thick to others. Your approach is strong but not anti anything…it is of gratitude and reverence.
    It is just a ch-ching $$$$ facade that we are in lack, and without worthiness. We are BORN worthy, we inherit lack, and then suck on the breast of an empty teat that MORE is better. We have all we need, if we open our hearts, and close our minds, we will see it.
    namaste and go on!!!
    xxxooo

    Reply
    • What a great comment. I hope others can find the contentment I have found with what I have. I’m guessing from the “namaste” that you may have an idea about where some of my acceptance of reality comes from.

      Reply
  41. This story reminded me of a fashion movement I tried to kick off. (It didn’t get anywhere, yet. Anyone else have ideas how to promote it??? -KW)

    The Curtain Club and Voluntary Simplicity

    http://georgianacircle.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/the-fashion-of-politics-series-part-two-the-curtain-club-and-fashion-in-a-recession/

    What can one woman do to carry herself, her family, and her country safely through the current economic crisis?…

    My solution is to make a partly symbolic and partly meaningful shift in the culture with a new fashion trend: applying frugality and voluntary simplicity to women’s fashion.

    In World War ll, people in America and England started to feel the impact of war on their daily lives. Sometimes through choice, and sometimes through government programs and rationing, new attitudes had to arise concerning consumption. Food was rationed. Clothing was adjusted. And, fashion was affected by the need to save resources for the wars. For women, this trend meant an involuntary end to long ball gowns, pleats and vests.[1]…

    My vision for the Curtain Club includes: Voluntary Simplicity, Shabby Chic, World War ll Utility Fashion, Do-It-Yourself, Historical Costume Drama, and a little bit of bling from the bottom of the jewelry box. I think that it is possible to dress like a Princess or a Duchess for less. And, that by wearing beautiful things, it will bring some brightness into the dreary days our country may face with the current economic crisis.

    There is already a fashion trend which has been leading into the Curtain Club: Recession Chic. That term has been applied to Michelle Obama, in part for her elegant wearing of off-the-rack fashions. Though, even the black-and-white Donna Ricco dress that Michelle Obama wore on “The View”, which was thought to be very egalitarian, was $148. I expect that genuine poverty and/or genuine Voluntary Simplicity would require a much lower price tag….

    Reply
  42. Pingback: Poverty Chic « Georgiana Circle: Women Healing History

  43. who are all these people and what did you do to get seen by so many fresh readers? curious marketing types crave to discover your secrets…email me secretly, please.

    Reply
  44. Forget the Fendi; great studies show that spending money on vacation and time pursuing activity rather than stuff has far more positive lasting affects on happiness than material objects.

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve turned into a “doer” rather than a “haver.” Getting out in the world, going down to the ocean, making new friends, spending time with my family… It’s really the most gratifying stuff of life.

    Reply
    • I absolutely agree. The best times I spend with my son are on the beach in Florida, looking for beach glass and sticking our toes in the cold surf. There is nothing I could buy either of us that would ever mean more.

      Reply
  45. Great post. Thank you.

    Reply
  46. My hubby and I have been thinking along the same lines…. It’s just too weird to see our lifestyle become a fad. I imagine the Grunge folk from Seattle felt the same when torn jean and flannel were in vogue.

    We rent, but like you, we feel we are blessed: we have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, good food and great friends. We rent films from the Red Box and splurge on movie theaters on dollar days, we visit local parks and city events which cost nothing but the ride to get there. Just this past weekend we volunteered time at a local powwow so as to get in at no cost 🙂 We were able to enjoy all three days and returned home exhausted but fulfilled. it also gave my daughter the opportunity to share of her time.

    Thanks for a wonderfully written article.

    Reply
    • Nanu, you’re welcome – we also get to do great things for cheap or free because we live in a college town, and never feel that we are deprived; in fact, there’s more to do than we could ever squeeze in.

      Reply
  47. interesting and refreshing perspective, and I’ll take it just a little bit outside of the average American neighborhood. I am an Indonesian, and like some people on the surface of the world, have been exposed to American related media since way back when.

    I recall reading some magazine on cars and lifestyle when I was in high school, and have this assumption: the Americans manage to buy all this? What rich community they have there.

    Time, Newsweek and the gangs don’t fare any better, with BMW’s and Rolex between the pages. One day I encountered a fellow digital artist on the internet who cursed his luck, his graphics tablet went hellish and he can’t afford to buy a new one, since he had to save for other necessities that very month.

    I said: but you’re an American!
    He said: Duh!

    I’m afraid that this kind of material world mongering (pardon me) is not only quite meaningless, but also misleading.

    Come to think of it… I wouldn’t mind to ride a McLaren, but I rather own a Hyundai, it’s, I quote “a) functional b) pretty” and c) cost effective. I’ve been to this site of luxury car owners, saw them uttering expression of headaches about maintenance, same thoughts, same steel, and I thought: well, good luck guys…

    Reply
    • This is so interesting; I’ve traveled to places where the expectation was that we would have tons of money because we were Americans.

      As for the Hyundai, I say go for it, if you can – I am so in love with my car (who is named “Dalai”) and she runs like a dream.

      Reply
  48. Great Article.

    I am sure to check this website routinely for more great quality content.

    Reply
  49. Pingback: Search Engine Watch » Blog Archive » Hard Times? the New “Poverty Chic” « Forest Street Kitchen

  50. Your style is unique compared to other folks I’ve read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this site.

    Reply

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