When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping—and get superwily at covering their spending tracks.
Without a doubt, the recession has fostered a crafty ingenuity among ladies seeking to quietly fill their closets with the latest loot. While there may be rumblings about the return to conspicuous consumption, most fashion splurging is still being done on the q.t. Whether they’re nicking cash from the family cookie jar, splintering a single purchase across multiple credit cards or having goodies shipped rather than march through the front door with them, fashionable gals have an array of clever schemes up their sleeves.
Although she has toned it down over the past 18 months or so, designer Liz Lange, who sold her signature maternity line to investment company Bluestar Alliance in 2007, feels it’s her civic duty to shop. “Of course I’ve cut back,” she says. “But for so long I was a retailer and an entrepreneur, so I understand all too well that shopping is really the engine of our economy. So that’s how I justify it.”
When she’s not busy justifying, Lange is cooking up subterfuge schemes left, right and center. “Shopping has been a constant issue in my marriage,” she allows. “It’s always been a little Lucy and Ricky with us. So I engage in this massive charade that I learned from my mother: Nothing is ever new. I run into the apartment and shove shopping bags in closets. And if my husband sees an American Express bill and gets upset, I’ll say, ‘I’m sending that back.’”
Equinox gym publicist Jennifer Fisherman-Ruff is another fan of the “This old thing?” strategy. But unfortunately, her spouse is completely dialed in to what she’s wearing. “He notices everything,” she says. “It’s really annoying.” To get around this dilemma, Fisherman-Ruff often stashes new items—particularly staples like leather jackets and “many a pair of Manolos”—for six months or so before wearing them. That way, she can get through the statute of limitations on the forbidden fruit.
About a year ago, Fisherman-Ruff hit on what she thought was an ideal plan for guilt-free, albeit sneaky, wardrobe replenishment—off-loading older duds via consignment. “I’d go and sell my clothes, and then use the money to buy new stuff,” she says. Understandably, her husband didn’t quite get the girl logic behind why she didn’t just funnel that cash back into the family coffers. “I said, ‘It’s free money!’ If I can sell something, why can’t I use that money for new clothes?”
As the business partner of jeweler Janis Provisor, Debi Wisch has been privy to all kinds of wacky buying schemes. Wisch thinks that’s because, with the exception of Gail Rothwell in East Hampton, Provisor’s line is sold privately and through small trunk shows rather than in stores. Evidently that extra cushion of exclusivity emboldens many a jewelry lover. How else to explain the customer who had the audacity to try to use her husband’s health insurance reimbursement checks in lieu of direct payment? Another client, whose cash-conscious better half instructed her to avoid buying “anything she can’t eat,” opted to spread one purchase across three credit cards. Her rationale? “Maybe he’ll think it’s caviar.”