How I became a recessionista.

So says Wikipedia.

Blend of recession and fashionista.

  1. A person who can dress stylishly on a tight budget.

The budget currently is not tight. It is non existent. It is the kind of mythic creature that Albus Dumbledore had in Fawkes, which burnt to cinders and reincarted itself. Mine is at burnt out stage. I am waiting for the reincarnation.

The challenge is tremendous. And I am the kind of person who needs to be coordinated even if it means getting dug out of the grave and being reburied with shoes that match. Metaphorically speaking of course. In reality I would rather be dumped into an electric furnace and be reduced to ashes in a few minutes. But the imagery of my spirit moving around in the afterlife, miserable because I’m consigned to eternity with shoes that dont go with my outfit is so appropriate that I’m compelled to hang onto it. I am currently on austerity drive so austere that I window shop from 50 ft distance from show windows like some stalker with a restraining order forbidding her from entering the vicinity of store windows for fear she will attack the mannequin with a pen knife from sheer frustration and not being able to cart off said outfit to the cash counter.  I have kept my credit card in the ice compartment of the refrigerator to ensure such ‘I must have that now” moments dont occur. Ever.

Frugal fashion. Being fashionable on a budget. Searching for bargains. It rather feels like I’m back in college again, walking down the length and breadth of Fashion Street in the blazing sun with my painstakingly saved up precious few rupees in my hand, agonising over every purchase and ending up making completely inappropriate ones that I end up taking the scissors to. I must confess though, that I’ve always, despite my public image of being a spendthrift, been a bit of a tightwad when it comes to purchases that are an indulgence. That department has always been the husband’s and I’m doing the chicken dance now with the ‘nyah nyah nyah nyah’ at him, seeing how broke we’ve managed to get ourselves. But this is not about the fillings being pulled out and weighed to be sold. They dont even do silver fillings anymore. And teeth have no resale value. What’s a girl going to do in trying days like this when everything is on 50 and 60 per cent sale, but she cant even justify buying stuff even on sale? For two reasons. One, being the overflowing wardrobes which contain many clothes still absolutely virgin. The second being the sad state of the bank account which doesnt leave even chewing gum money to help us curb hunger pangs after payments for essentials are made. Anyone know anyplace where chewing gum is available on discount?

Seriously though, I have metaphorically tightened my belt. No more impulse buying. I have developed the will power equivalent to an iron band which allows me to drive through Lokhandwala market and not make a quick stop to run shrieking into a store with 70 percent sale emblazoned on its windows. Or the kind which are definitely engineered towards you emptying out your handbag on the cashier’s counter, with the “Store Closing Sale. Everything must go!” stuck all on the glass windows, ensuring that the everything that does go is your sanity when you actually buy shoes that are too small in your excitement thinking you can diet your feet down to fit into them. I’m actually taking pride in cutting corners. Its a tough call for me. I’m feeling the kind of virtuousness that I have never experienced before. Well, maybe in my childhood. I had a rough one. I’m so not going back there.

Here’s what I’m doing:

Concentrating on making my body as perfect as I can through portion control, a healthy diet and exercise. Paying attention to my skin and hair. This is not, repeat not, the buying of sell your soul level of La Prairie cosmetics and such like that will make the skin glow and the hair bounce, but simple, cost effective home remedies done consistently. Oiling the hair. Henna. Besan malai haldi on the face.Staying out of the sun. Using a sunblock regularly. Creaming the hands and feet before sleeping. I use the drug store variety brands (not my make up. I am particular about my lipstick and eyeliner, thats all I use, apart from a compact). Except for my face wash and scrub (Neutrogena), the rest of my skin care is very basic. Johnson’s Baby Cream for the face. Vaseline for the feet. Vaseline Body lotion for the body. But done consistently and regularly, it does make a difference. The skin glows. The hair bounces. You feel good. You know you are looking good. If your hair, skin and body are in their best shape possible, anything you wear will look good. I’m not at optimum hair, skin and body levels yet, but I’m getting there. And I’m clutching onto that to see me through till I can afford to go shopping again. Also, this is my way of pampering myself. I think I deserve it.

Re-creating my clothes. Dig out clothes you had packed away. You can still get some use out of them. Crop pants that are out of style to a mid calf length and pair them with tunics and kurtis. A nice embroidered chiffon dupatta can become a long tunic with simple stitching down the sides, and space left for the armholes. Cut out a neck, and hem it. Wear with a cami inside and jeans. Will rock any party. Wore one to a party the other day, and was swamped with compliments, and I’m hoping none of them were the sniggering “Gawd WHAT is she wearing!” kind… A nice huge printed scarf can be converted into a scarf top in the same way. I have a couple of Satya Paul scarves I never use which are going under the knife soon.

Keep your accessories good. Dont stint on spending on bags and shoes. You dont need too many, but a couple of good quality bags and shoes are worth the investment and the ‘should I, shouldnt I’ agony, and the plucking out of the eyelashes while you decide. Good shoes and bags and classic jewellery are musts. Dont, for the love of fashion, wear an ensemble that is totally rasta. Have one saving element that is a good brand, maybe shoes, or a bag or a pair of trousers. A good quality handbag is always an investment. Dont opt for funky if you have a choice between funky and classic. Funky dates, classic stays.

Stay manicured and pedicured. You will feel better about whatever you wear when your hands and feet are perfect. You dont need to visit a salon, just take time out and DIY. Keep your eyebrows in shape and your body exfoliated. Half the battle to looking good is won when there is no superflous hair on your body. I must pay attention to this dictat though. I slide on this one quite often until the doctors start examining my teeth for unusual growth of incisors, given that the rest of me has morphed into a wolfwoman.

Throw out everything in your wardrobe that is obviously frayed, faded or stained.Push clothes that are slightly faded to home use. And visit good export surplus stores for tshirts and tops and dresses. Always choose colours that will go with anything you own. Keep the staples in basic colours, and build the rest of your wardrobe around them. You need a black trouser, a deep blue trouser, a pair of dark denims, a pair of light denims, a straight skirt in a navy/ beige. Build your top/tshirt collection around this. Buy these on sale. Always. Know your size and the style you want before the sale starts so you can get in on the first day and get what you want quick.  Invest in good trousers and skirts as the base of your wardrobe and build around it. My motto is, if it is not on sale, I dont buy it. I will window shop, tongue leaving trails of drool in mall aisles, for months, waiting for the store to go on sale, and then swoop down on what I had my eyes on, and feel completely vindicated for all those months of wait. Which also brings me to my moot point, pick up the classics on sale. The formal trousers. The office/formal bag. The classic denims. They will give you years of use.  Educate yourself about what looks good on you and what is in vogue and combine the two. Know your body and dress appropriately. Body fits do not go with muffin tops. And hipsters are really really meant for them with no tummy. If you wear ethnic wear often, dont be afraid to mix and match, pick up interesting dupattas from handicraft exhibitions and pair them with self coloured kurtis and churidars. Always buy kurtis and churidars in basic colours to ensure they can be rotated. Dont buy expensive, but buy interesting. Prints, textures, cuts.

Invest in a good haircut. I havent. To be honest. My haircut is long overdue. My kind of hair looks the same cut or uncut. But a good haircut immediately ups your look. Check out training colleges looking for volunteers for demos in your neighbourhood if you arent averse to experimenting with your look. Learn to trim your bangs yourself, to save on trips to the salon. If you colour/highlight your hair, find out if your regular hairstylist from the salon will do you a home visit. You can buy your own colour, and this will work out much cheaper than getting it done at a salon.

Buy accessories that can multitask. A scarf that can be used as a belt. A hair ornament that can be a brooch. If you are into accessories that is. My personal look is very non accessories. I wear the same damn jewellery every single day and couldnt be bothered to change. Keeps me sane. I am also not a person who wears funky jewellery. That much less of a hassle on an everyday basis.

Have swap parties. Have friends get together at a common place, bring along stuff that is brand new but never worn or barely worn, and exchange stuff.

Finally, be creative. Use old upholstery in interesting weaves to create carpet bags from the local bagwallah. Cut up torn chiffon dupattas to make stoles. Make interesting kurtis from old silk sarees. Recycle everything you have.  And have fun.

Here’s a list of places I like to shop at (And no, they’re not giving me free clothes for writing this):

Hum India Fab Pvt Ltd, Plaza 61, Next Tp Cheap Luck, Opposite St Joseph School, Bandra(W), Hill Road, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400060

Choosy, 2/3 Silver Spring, Lokhandwala Complex, Andheri W, Swami Samarth Nagar Road, Mumbai 

The Apparel and Clothesrack stores. Branches all over Mumbai.

And I wait till I can go back to MNG and Guess without guilt pangs.

 What are you doing to stay hip in these frugal times??

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About Kiran Manral

Author of The Face At The Window, ( 2016), Karmic Kids, All Aboard (2015) , Once Upon A Crush (2014) and The Reluctant Detective (2011).
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to How I became a recessionista.

  1. Ruchira says:

    //Stay manicured and pedicured. You will feel better about whatever you wear when your hands and feet are perfect.
    I so agree with this!
    This post makes a very interesting and educative read ! I really haven’t done anything to stay hip in frugal times but I wear a lot of ethnic and end up mixing and matching a lot so that leads to a lot of dupattas and churidars being reused. And like you said I always always invest in branded, good quality shoes and handbags – they do make an impression !

    Like

  2. Violet says:

    That was such an educative post.. I mean I kinda know it all, but you lay out everything in such a nice manner that it sounds really inspiring. Though I wonder if the inspiration is strong enough to shake me out of the slumber I spend half my days in..

    Like

    • Kiran Manral says:

      Violet: If it doesnt bother you, dont bother. Its for manics like me who need to be top to toe ‘dressed up’ (and who also obviously have self esteem issues) who need it.

      Like

  3. mumbaidivasuggests says:

    I liked the idea of tunics/kaftans from old dupattas. I have so many of them where the suits have kinda become night clothes.

    And Oh yes. I have a new haircut. You’re right. It’s amazing how ‘new’ one looks with a good haircut. The same damn jeans everyday, yet am looking so hip, fresh and young 😉

    Like

  4. shilpadesh says:

    The manicure pedicure part I like. I hate it when someone touches my feet, so going out for a pedicure is ruled out. Now I need to invest in a nice tub to soak my feet in!

    Like

  5. Suki says:

    I’m still young, just beginning to earn. Recession hasn’t hit too badly in my wallet at least.
    But. College = being broke. An entire everything to set up, so much to save up for(including a Masters in the UK – schols are as rare as jobs in this recession dammit).

    For me, it’s one quality pair of jeans, and several tops to go with it. 100-rupee Tshirts from sales. 100-rupee skirts from the footpath. 5 or so staple tees per season, to be worn, worn out and then replaced. NOT buying bags, though I’m soooo tempted! Oh yeah, 100-rupee bags are also an option. Basic, solid colored tees with multicolored wraps are also good.
    My cosmetic needs are limited to shikakai, coconut oil and lip balm. Unless you count that kajal that has lasted… how many years now?
    Got myself a haircut recently – that too, 100 rupees :P. The hair is MUCH easier and cheaper to maintain now that it’s short. No more hair packs and all that.
    Oh, and quality lingerie. A good bra lets me wear many tops that would otherwise be totally out of the question. And it lasts years. Skimping on the inside front is just NOT an option.

    But seriously – I’ve spent more on myself this year than in the last three combined, I’d say. Recession just isn’t the name of the game for me. Yet. Thankfully.

    Like

    • Kiran Manral says:

      Suki: You are young enough to carry off all the Rs 100 stuff. When you come to –ahem– a certain age, you need to be judicious in your mix of 100 buck stuff… and yes, I agree on the lingerie. I always go for the functional simple stuff though. In cotton. In boring brands. I need the sturdiness of horse harness support.

      Like

  6. Deepa says:

    I’m wearing a huge big smile! Its all I can do:-)

    Like

  7. Silvara says:

    one word: eBay 😀

    But yes – all those points are so so good to know – not just for the recession times but in general.

    I mix and match a lot of my clothes….works wonders

    Like

  8. Chanda says:

    Q for you – where in Mumbai/Pune do you recommend I go for good cheap sarees. I am looking for some office wear and some evening cocktail/party wear.

    Thanks!!!

    Like

    • Kiran Manral says:

      Chanda: The markets outside Santacruz and Parle Stations. And Natraj market at Malad. Or Tirumala, Manish Market at Andheri Four Bungalows. Lots of cocktail sarees, with bling bling, but search long enough and you will find a budget saree that is tasteful enough to wear to a party.

      Like

  9. Parul says:

    I got pregnant. I now have an excuse to look frumpy all the time. Wickkkkedddd!

    Like

  10. girish says:

    If I may be so bold, a tip from me: Borrow and share clothes with siblings and friends .

    This is my Recession driven business idea :

    Name of outlet is ‘The Frock Exchange’ — Bring in clothes worn no more than thrice, good as new but a season too old. We get them nice and fresh, dry cleaned, fragrant. We find a buyer(who lives in another part of town and visits the outlet looking for bargains) . And you and your friends can buy someone else’s freshly laundered, barely used etc clothes[will soon publish names of labels we accept on our website] .
    The lending library concept tweaked to serve recessionistas.

    Like

  11. Childwoman says:

    Your are truly my fashion guru..for clothes and for the soul too…:D

    Like

  12. troll beads says:

    kiran manwal..nice reading your post.. so styling and full of soul

    Errr….okay….thankyou.

    Like

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