The Guilt of Luxury

Folks used to drinking Perrier are choosing Aquafina. Others are digging through their designer closets to find an oldie-but-goodie to wear to the next gala, instead of buying the latest from Milan's designers. Yet many of these choices aren't being made because those in the lap of luxury suddenly don't have the cash -- it may be luxurious guilt.

The Dallas Observer's Robert Wilonsky reminds us that months ago, even when Neiman Marcus was laying off 400 jobs, that retailer's CEO said "luxury is not dead." That's evident in many local neighborhoods where the economic downturn just took a line from David Byrne -- "same as it ever was" -- with those on top still having more cash than those below them economically.

So why are some fashionistas wearing that dress a second time? The New York Times thinks it because those on top may feel guilty for being so conspicuous with their consumption. NYT believes the case can be made nationwide, taking examples from Atlanta and our local 'burb of Rowlett.

To the people that have the means, it seems spending lavishly is now passe, though economists tell the Times that those that have the funds should be the ones spending them.

Author Kim Gatlin (who wrote the book "Good Christian Bitches" that we've previously covered) is also quoted in the Times article saying she thinks some of the lack of spending on higher priced items makes those who could buy them feel like "they're helping."

It's almost a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario, with those businesses that cater to a higher-end price point -- like the ones in glitzy Victory Park -- failing as higher-end buyers wont' support them to save face with the same folk that could be employed by that business.

Will the cycle continue? Neiman's boss predicted a rebound was around the corner, but to many with the means to do it, the only way to save it all might be to spend it all.

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