What Is a Recessionista?

A recessionista is a person who can shop on a limited budget and still manage to be up-to-date on the most current fashions. In other words, times of economic hardship do not prevent them from remaining stylish. A recessionista does not let a bad economy, a bear market or high inflation damage their wardrobe, and opts to instead search for sales and shop at discount stores.

Key Takeaways

  • A recessionista is a person who can shop on a limited budget and still manage to be up-to-date on the most current fashions.
  • The word itself is a combination of the words "recession" and "fashionista," implying a person who is able to remain fashionable even during times of economic hardship.
  • The rise of technology products and services has helped facilitate the emergence of recessionistas.

Understanding a Recessionista

The term recessionista derives from a combination of the words recession and fashionista. It is used to make light of a bad situation and demonstrate how people can maintain their former lifestyle even during times of struggle.

Several macroeconomic scenarios can impact the buying power of a consumer wishing to remain fashionable. A job loss or salary reduction resulting from an economy-wide recession, defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth, is one such example. There have been 13 recessions in the U.S. since World War II, a period that has generally coincided with the rise of the luxury retail market that is the purview of fashionistas.

Prior to the ongoing COVID-19 economic downturn, the last U.S. recession occurred between December 2007 and June 2009 and has been dubbed the Great Recession for its severity and its impact on the housing market. Higher personal income tax rates, stagnant wages, and/or a sharp rise in inflation for raw materials or in the general economy can also make goods such as clothing and footwear less affordable.

Evolution of the Recessionista

In the workplace, where expectations for dress have been trending more casual in most industries, especially ones that hire younger workers, the ability to be a recessionista is losing its importance. The resurgence of technology companies and startups in the wake of the Great Recession, plus the rise of millennials in the workforce, has made wearing t-shirt and jeans to work permissible. However, in the fashion and entertainment industries—as well as law and investment banking—dressing fashionably during difficult economic times remains very important.

The retail industry has evolved in ways that make being a recessionista easier. Designer or haute couture brands are now available for purchase at a fraction of their retail markup through outlet stores, consignment shops, and second-hand clothing chains. Traditional department stores and brick-and-mortar specialty retailers, facing increasing competition from Amazon and other retail websites, are taking markdowns on full-price merchandise at a faster pace than they have in the past. When those markdown don’t produce sales, the inventory is bought off at a deep discount by jobbers who resell it to off-price retailers.

Example of Recessionista

Katie is a millennial who works in the publishing industry in New York. Her salary is less than $60,000 per year, but she is able to live comfortably and fashionably in the otherwise expensive city. In other words, she is a recessionista.

Katie uses a variety of tactics to accomplish her goal of living comfortably. First, she shops online, where well-known and expensive clothing brands offer deep discounts on merchandise in their inventory. She also uses e-commerce sites, like Amazon, for grocery shopping as well as to purchase living essentials. This helps her save money and time. She also uses online homestay sites like Airbnb for accommodations during travel rather than staying at hotels.