I am not a Recessionista: Thrifting is a way of life, not some fad

by Diana Deaver

Diana came to me with this well-written piece on recession buzzwords and exactly why they piss her off, and while she thought perhaps it may be too “political” for Painfully Hip, I am stoked to present it to you. Diana’s “rants” are consistently a fun read and I’m hoping beyond hope that this might get a discussion going because, for some reason, comments on this blog have slowed to a drizzle (Did I do something wrong? Is the new layout confusing? Let me know!).
EDIT: Ah! Mystery solved. Spinnerette noticed that my theme was making her comments dissipate into the atmosphere! Sorry about that everyone, it is now fixed). To reward you for your patience (and your comments), I have now installed CommentLuv, so you can promote your favorite blog post in your comment.

Now get dressed up in some ridiculous pastel confection and go eat some eggs!

Like a good portion of the world, I am beginning to find myself having unpleasant physical reactions to phrases such as, “in these difficult times,” and any advice suggesting I give up pretending we’re not in the throes of an economic crisis and “button up” the proverbial purse snaps. It’s only worsened by the fact that more and more frequently these phrases are being uttered by multi-million dollar corporations who have been silently clawing through well-intentioned posts on entirely non-corporate indie fashion blogs, and are starting to realize (oh, say, half a decade too late?) that “diy,” closet “remixing,” and thrifting are the “hip” thing to do right now. God forbid we start a trend that isn’t mass-market friendly.

(And to answer Tricia’s question, yes, it fucking infuriates me that these marketing departments are scouring personal – and usually entirely non-profitable – blogs, and making money off of the creativity and ingenuity found within, by selling it back to us.)

It pisses me off even more that such sources are touting this eco-friendly approach as the “hottest new trend,” as if it actually were such, and not in fact a mind-set, as well as a way of life.

The sickening attempt at the mass-market sell-ability of thrift – with the even grosser title “recessionista” – is about as nauseating as Wal-mart throwing the words “emo” or even – god forbid – “indie” – on a tee-shirt tag. (cue swarms of high-school girls stashing their Miley cd’s and hopping in the family Escalade to buy the newest Deathcab. It is not my intention to judge someone’s worth based on personal taste. I am simply trying to point out the fickle nature of “trend.” Original of me, I know.)

Ask any true music aficionado if pasting “emo” on a tee-shirt makes it so, however, and you’ll be lucky if the least you get is a death-stare. “Emo” (as well as “indie,” “metal,” “country,” “hip-hop” and any other gross generalization of a genre I might have over-looked,) isn’t a style of clothing. It isn’t a floppy haircut with pink tips. It isn’t even really referring to the music category itself. If you somehow get lucky and pose this ridiculous question to a friendly music-lover who happens to have a lot patience that day, you most likely will be graced with an answer along these lines:
“(insert music genre) actually refers to a way of life that said music style results from.”

Art and opinion are both results of our day-to-day experience, and every day (most of us) wear clothes.
It’s not hard to make the connection then, that the style we choose (if we consciously choose it) would reflect back to our personal opinions on what it means to exist in this world. I enjoy thrifting. I think creating a new look with recycled garments is fun. These are the precursors to my dressing myself each day.
They are not the goal I am trying to achieve by layering just the right diy-looking pieces that I recently purchased at the mall.

I grew up poor. I am not saying this to invoke sympathy or to build a soapbox. It’s just a fact. I grew up in an economically depressed corner of the country in an even more economically depressed family.

But here’s the thing – growing up I was taught that thrift stores weren’t something you shamefully ducked into – they were the most magical dress-up box you could imagine. They were the only place where you held the possibility of finding a brand new pair of jeans, a fantastic psychedelic dress and a perfectly broken-in tee shirt from your favorite band, all in one place. For under $10. And somehow, sorting through all the crap just made finding the good stuff even better.

The other thing my “poor poverty-stricken parents” taught me was that raw materials are cheap, skills are invaluable, and if you have any sort of creative instinct, you’re not likely to find the things you’re dreaming of in a department store anyway. Being passionately interested in fashion, (and – ahem – dressing in “period costumes” from wagon-trail times – I was 9, ok?) it is only logical that I taught myself to sew.

These interests and skills (along with a sense of responsibility towards preserving the planet and our natural resources – thanks mom and dad,) transitioned into adulthood with me and became an integral part of who I am.

I am not a recessionista.
Therefore, I will never stop being a recessionista.
(God, I feel like I just typed, “punk’s not dead…”)
If the world woke up tomorrow morning and this recession was nothing more than an awkward dream, I would still schedule in a quick trip to Saver’s on my way home from class.

Referring to this trend of being more conscientious with our dollars as being a “recessionista” implies that we’re all just sitting here waiting for the big ugly fad to blow over – we’re stoically poking fun, and maybe even wearing it like leggings in a, “These Are Pants – Seriously Guys,” sort of way. We’ll buy in for a season or two for the ironic, eye-rolling humor of it all.

Calling oneself a “recessionista” smacks of that same stale air of self-entitlement, which seems to have brought us into this “troubled” situation to begin with. It implies that – although this monetary shortage (or debt increase?) is actually putting us out quite immensely – and it’s not really fair that this season we can’t buy the entire new wardrobe we deserve – we’ll shrug our shoulders, giggle a bit, coin a new term and call it trend-setting.

Besides, I feel it’s pretty safe to assume the people who genuinely call themselves “recessionista’s” aren’t the ones who are living off of beans and rice at the moment, anyway.

It seems that it all boils down to a desperate attempt to appear (to whom? The rest of the planet, who quite often are living in third-world conditions?) to be a free-spirited martyr of a spoiled hostess – “well, the crudités platter wasn’t at all what I arranged with the caterers, but I managed to show the guests a fantastic time anyway.”
But in reality, this is a gift – we are suddenly given the chance to slow down and think about what exactly it is we are attracted to aesthetically – what is worth spending our dollars on? What do we own that can be re-fashioned? What can you sew when you combine the forces of your creativity and your own two hands?

So I propose this, recessionistas – and everyone else as well (myself included.):
How about we stop focusing on what we don’t have – how about we stop prefacing every success with a “despite everything that was holding me back” – how about we stop listing what we want, what we feel we’re owed, what we think we’re entitled to, and all the ways that we’ve unfairly had to make the best of a “bad situation,” and start narrowing in on all the self-sufficient ways we’re able to gracefully express who we really are?