Style File: Depression Chic

Despression Chic
Fashion columnist Addysen shows off some of her favorite "depression chic" clothing items. (Melissa Stihl | Foghorn)

Turning on the evening news is not a mood elevator these days. Doom and gloom have seeped into our minds when it comes to the economy. This has unfortunately triggered a mandatory change for my cardio regimen, which previously included combing the San Francisco shopping scene for my latest fashion obsession. I have come to realize that our current economy has shoved the phrase ‘cutback’ down my throat. I quickly turn my attention to see how the runway at fashion week would support my current predicament.

Needless to say, I was not disappointed when it became obvious during fashion week that, while our economy tends to differ, fashion ain’t crashin’! While collections may have been hijacked by news headlines of a failing market, the shows went on to set a trend of “Depression Chic.” Designers turned to the crash of 1929 to reflect the mood of our country today. The spring 2009 trend demonstrates both sides of the earlier fashion depression, including flashy flapper frocks and serious sack dresses. The melancholy financial slump that we feel today directly translates to the runway in reference to the despair of the depression years ago. My favorites include: coming home to the prairie at the Marc Jacobs show and the flamboyant and feathery Roberto Cavalli runway designs. These designers who brought the dust bowl to the runway focused on what people want right now by showing clothes that tell the story of America, with a little fantasy.

While a model malnourishment parallel to the depression-era economy starvation is not desired, the clothes that stemmed from the economy’s hunger are now sought after. This “touch of crash” can bring great things to your closet and your investment wallet. So all you recessionistas can feel a sense of fullness because designers have given us an opportunity to shop for the classics that reflect their attitudes on the economy. Many of the trends that we saw on the runway this season are actually not considered trends as much as they are considered timeless styles that will last a few seasons instead of one.

I must admit that depression chic is not likely going to fix my cardio kick. Closet shopping does not do much for my metabolism, but it does give me a little budget boost. Some things to look for might already be hiding in your wardrobe. Scan your closet for that classic trouser pant, newsboy hat, or that sack dress that converts from style to style. Now take these classic pieces and defy depression. Throw a dramatic swing coat over that sack dress, wear your newsboy hat (even if you are not having a bad hair day) and top it off with that costume jewelry that has just been sitting in your closet for next Halloween. Make the most of what you got. Burberry Prorsum demonstrates this look just right.

A mix of bold color and drab gray combined create a laid-back yet cool vibe (click on to get the full effect).

Nevertheless, if you need a little spring pick-me-up that is not going to spring you into bankruptcy then take a trip to the Gap to find the “Split-Neck Shift Dress” that is just as comfortable as it is stylish. With many colors to choose from and chic neckline, this shift dress is $54.99 on sale. For an adorable headwear option, go for the S Loves C by Spring & Clifton “Bow Beret” $38.00 exclusive only to Urban Outfitters. Don’t be afraid to sport a cute little “bow do” in the spring/summer season, especially in a San Francisco summer with clouds in the sky.

Use the concept of that little flapper dress for a little aerobic enhancement while shopping for only the best.

Think about the possibilities… your new shimmering frock with your hair slicked back and heals ready to walk the walk for an evening out, or with your man’s blazer and cute flats (even if they are your most comfortable pair of Converse)…or even imagine it in the winter with a little layering action. Just make sure that you pick one that will conform to each desired style and that will last for longer than just a season. Pick for the investment.

For beautiful inspiration look to Alberta Ferretti. Her style employs a subtle layered look which can lead to endless possibilities. My favorite piece that came down the runway was a long, dramatic and, while “depression chic,” it was hardly miserable. The bottom tiers of fringe and the beaded work at the top make for week knees (to see for yourself just click However, while Alberta Ferretti keeps me on the “track,” I need a little freedom from the chase once in a while. Free People provides a wonderful alternative with their “Lovely Lace Dropwaist” valued at $188. This dress comes in a rich turquoise with a deep V neckline (perfect for an interesting layering option) and a lace crochet detail. For another option, get it while it is hot at French Connection. This fabulous shift dress covered in colored sequins has been taken down from $248 to $69.99 called “Alix Abacus Dress” at Jazz things up with this flapper style while keeping things modern but a little reminiscent to the great crash.

Go ahead and slip into depression chic to give a little nod to the current recession. Many of the great movements of fashion and style grew out of periods of economic hardship. In tough times, why not express yourself through how you dress? This is not the time to recess your style. As a matter of fact, acclaimed shoe designer Christian Louboutin sparked my ignition when saying, “If I were a responsible person, I would say it seems hardly the right time to be doing extreme shoes… but I’m not responsible. I am a designer and I think if you work in fashion, you have to give people fantasy.” Now that kicks my cardio into gear.


9 thoughts on “Style File: Depression Chic

  1. I love the photo! You make such a beautiful model.

    but i dunno… to me dropping $188 on a dress that looks “depression chic” is kind of making light of the serious economic hardships a lot of people are really facing.

  2. Thank you so much for all your comments!

    Keep in mind that I did stress that closet shopping should always come first and foremost. It is important to know what you have and how much each piece of clothing can do for you.

    When on the hut for something new, keep in mind the CPW or the Cost per Wear. This is something that is hard to stray away from but it is crucial in this economy. If I am thinking of purchasing a new frock, I do a petit calculation in my head: How many times am I going to wear this in the next six months? Then I divide that number by the price. And there you have it… your Cost per Wear!

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