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What is a Recessionista?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A recessionista is someone who seeks out fashionable items which are also low-cost. This term is a portmanteau of “recession” and “fashionista.” Recessionistas aren't going to let a thing like a poor economy stand in the way of fashionable dressing, and they may develop a distinctive and unique style using low-cost but still fashionable items.

Many people turn into recessionistas by necessity. When the economy experiences problems, paychecks tend to fall in response, and people have to think about new ways to use their money, ensuring that their money goes further, since they have less of it. For people who place fashion at a premium, coping with a downturn in the economy usually involves rethinking fashion, and coming up with new ways to dress stylishly.

A recessionista might hit discount stores which offer designer goods at low prices, or stores which focus on offering low-cost, stylish clothing. Many companies have realized that the recessionista market is a well of untapped potential, and they have responded by making contracts with well-known designers for flashy lines of clothing that won't break the bank. Others have long-established positions in the niche market of discounted or low-cost clothing, and they take advantage of recessions to promote their business model.

New clothes aren't the only option for a recessionista. Many hit consignment stores, where used high-quality clothing is sold at low prices, or they scour the racks of thrift stores for stylish bargains. Thrift store shopping can sometimes yield very interesting garments which are also one of a kind, allowing a recessionista to stand out from the crowd. Others may sew their own garments or modify clothing to make it more stylish.

Fashion on a budget does not have to be dull, and many a recessionista can be seen stylishly turned out in cities all over the world. When the economy picks up again, a recessionista may continue his or her low-cost buying habits, thereby saving money for a rainy day or a particularly fabulous purchase.

Becoming a recessionista can take some work, especially for people who are accustomed to big fashion budgets. Many people like to start with basic garments which can be dressed up with stylish accessories like shoes, scarves, and jewelry. Sometimes a few more expensive items can be used strategically to flesh out a more low-cost wardrobe; for example, a really good pair of shoes can be used in a variety of ways, justifying a comparatively higher cost.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By starrynight — On Oct 04, 2011

@KaBoom - I'm not much for thrift stores either. However, I've had great luck shopping for stuff online.

First, I always look for website that offer free shipping. If the clothes are discounted but the shipping is a lot, it's not worth it.

Second, I shop around. I know this is a no-brainer, but you would be amazed at how many people don't! If I want to buy something, I don't just buy it from the first place I find it. Check a couple of different sites. Sometimes the same item will really vary in price.

Anyway, I suppose I'm an online shopping recessionista!

By KaBoom — On Oct 04, 2011

@Mykol - I know some people have really good luck finding stuff at thrift stores, but I am not one of those people. Every time I go, everything either looks horrible or is the wrong size.

However, I do have a recessionista strategy of my own: coupons and sales. If I need to buy clothing, I stalk stores I like on the Internet for upcoming sales. I sign up for their email lists and also try to get coupons. I've gotten some really great deal on good quality clothing with this method. It's great if you can combine the coupons and the sales!

Also, if a store has a rewards program, I always sign up for it.

By Mykol — On Oct 04, 2011

I know some people don't like the idea of shopping at a thrift store, but I always see it as an adventure.

There have been many times that I have found stylish, unique clothing at thrift shops that I would never find at the clothing stores I usually shop at.

I have also found may items there that are brand new with the tags still on them. I found a beautiful, name brand black dress that was brand new. The tag showed a price of $149.99 on the tag, and I bought the dress for less than $4.00. Since I think every woman needs a little black dress in her closet, I couldn't pass it up.

When you can find bargains like that, being a recessionista is the best way to go.

By SarahSon — On Oct 03, 2011

I am not one who always has to have the most recent fashion, but like to dress stylish and up to date. I also get tired of wearing the same thing very often, so like to have a variety of clothes in my closet.

My favorite thing to do is shop the clearance sales at the end of the season. Most fashions stay in style for more than one season, so this is a great way to buy fashionable items at a low cost.

I think that recessionista fashion is a smart way to shop. You are getting the same quality of clothing but at a much reduced price. There are many major department stores who also offer money saving coupons on top of the clearance prices where you can really save a lot of money.

By candyquilt — On Oct 03, 2011

@Sara007-- I agree with you that being a recessionista is pretty challenging, not to mention tiring.

I'm not quite sure if I'm a recessionista now but there have certainly been periods in my life where I have been. I know that it was a lot of work, it means spending much more time shopping than most people do, because you have to sift through sales to find the perfect items.

I also think that it is easier for some body types to be recessionistas than others. When I was in high school and college, I was very petite and always found great clothes at stores for a very low price. Now that I'm older, it's almost impossible because everything seems to be too small!

By nextcorrea — On Oct 03, 2011

I think a big and often overlooked part of being a recessionista is getting more use out of the things you already have. Lots of people could come up with whole new looks for themselves if they just thought differently about the clothes and accessories and makeup that they already have.

Instead of going out and trying to find cheap stuff, why not take a long hard look in your closet and see if you can come up with something exciting and new. The true recessionaist doesn't just spend a little money, she spends no money at all.

By summing — On Oct 02, 2011

My sister is probably what you would call a recessionista except that she maintains her style in good times and bad. Every since she was a teenager she has bought almost everything she owns at thrift sores and flea markets and garage sales.

Her look is a real mish mash of all kinds of colors, cuts and styles. I'm amazed at what she can pull off. She is 25 but can go out in clothes that were made for a 70 year old woman and look great. I am kind of stylish myself but I am always jealous of how well my sister can pull off her look. I think it is about how she carries herself. You can dress in the wackiest clothes in the world, if you go out and look and act confident you will turn heads.

By Sara007 — On Oct 02, 2011

@manykitties2 - Recessionista fashion is really something I admire, as I think it takes a lot more work than most people think it would. It is easy to go to a store and buy a made to go together outfit, but putting together your own outfit combination and having it work is tough.

I am a beginner recessionista and I love shopping on online auction sites because you can get some really great bargains on high-end clothes. The only thing you have to be careful of is the quality of the goods you buy. A lot of knockoffs are circulating on online auction sites. The best way to figure out the quality of the goods is to check all the reviews.

By manykitties2 — On Oct 02, 2011

When I had my hours cut back at work earlier this year I had to make the move to recessionista fashion so that I could save some cash, and still look stylish. To be honest, I actually love the challenge of looking great on a budget and wonder why I didn't try this out before.

I have found some amazing deals at consi

Ωgnment shops and even at vintage stores in my city. I never walk away with nothing, and love finding quirky things that look great together.

I think if you want to start as a recessionista you should survey your wardrobe and see what you can mix and match before hitting the consignment stores for more clothes. You'd be surprised at what you can revamp.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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