Column: Put the soup on: A guide to recession retrenchment

Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2008

How, precisely, to dress for a recession? Modestly, resourcefully, with an eye toward vintage. Moth-eaten sweaters will stage a comeback. Holes are huge.

Worn shoes, too. Hand-me-downs, share-arounds, what-was-I-thinking and if-it-still-fits-wear-it will out-Vogue Vogue.

The old-money look will be the epitome of style. Without, understandably, the money part.

Slippers are a sound purchase, unlike stocks, as many Americans won't be traveling anywhere with their farcical dollars. We will be spending much, much more time at home, with the heat turned way, way down.

Contrary to conventional hemline economics, short skirts - normally a sign of rising markets - will resurface in the spring. This is because old skirts have remained the same length while we, perhaps, have gained more avoirdupois in the intervening years.

Correspondingly for men: behold-the-flood pants, useful in inclement weather.

Overpriced, oversized handbags will be rendered the sartorial equivalent of the dodo, a dead joke, akin to paying too much with a subprime mortgage. If India's Tata Motors can turn out a $3,000 car, then women can do without four-figure handbags that are enriching somebody but certainly not them.

In? Reusable shopping bags.

What to eat for the recession? Soup. Soup is always good.

Also, apples, a historical crowd-pleaser from the Great Depression. For some reason, broccoli. Water, drunk from a glass, will be the height of elegance while mindful of the environment. Bottled water is so 2007. Four-dollar coffee, too.

Four dollars is what we'll spend on soup. Made with broccoli. Purchased with reusable shopping bags.

Know what else is so 2007? Discretionary income.

How best to travel? By foot. Bike, too. This is healthy for the body and planet, to say nothing of cash flow. As we shrink, our savings will grow, along with the lengths of our old skirts and pants, a win-win all around.

Rediscover the exoticism of regional rail. Compete with friends and family to play Skip the Pump, seeing how long you can go between gas-station visits.

Know how wretched air travel has become? Give it up! Listen to others commiserate about late flights, missed connections, lost luggage and mystifying comestibles while being freed from such anxiety, disappointment and lost hours crammed inside such joyless, germ-infested vessels.

This is virtuous in all regards. Every dollar saved on oil is another one not directed toward Saudi Arabia, which is so busy buying our banks, businesses and precision-guided bomb kits while repressing its women back to the 12th century.

How to entertain ourselves recession-style? Bundling, snuggling while playing How Low Can It Go? with the gas bill. (Alas, not much.) Reacquaint yourself with dear friends, loved ones, and adolescents who share DNA and a residence but limited information and affection.

Other possible parlor games for the new economy: Let's Pay Cash!, Don't Check the Investments (Till the Mess Is Over), and, for those given to delusion, Recession? What Recession? It's Just a Little Ole Correction.

See? There are so many creative ways of adjusting to the cumulative effects of an oil addiction, costly war, stalled economy, trade imbalance, mortgage and banking crisis, and overdependence on countries with horrible human-rights records.

Fun! Let us eat soup.

• Karen Heller is a columnist for Philadelphia Inquirer.



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