Skirting the issues.

Commentary about business and finance.
Aug. 20 2008 5:49 PM

Skirting the Issues

Reading between the economic hemlines of September's fashion mags.

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Marie Claire Magazine, September 2008.

Marie Claire Attitudinal hemline: Midcalf Ads: Up 6 percent

Q: "What stresses us out now?" asks Marie Claire. A: Only one Prada sheath? Right. How about "widespread layoffs, housing foreclosures, and record-high gas prices." The economy is clearly heavy on the minds of the editors churning out pithy headlines for this relatively light issue—at under 300, pages it's easily the thinnest of the weighty bunch. "Recession jitters? Stash your cash in a hardware-fastened top-handle bag," recommends one perky page. But the best venue to address those jitters isn't the mall, the magazine suggests, but in your cubicle, dressed in "ladder-climbing accessories" and "401K traditional pieces," and aided by the gleanings of several office-related advice features. Of course, if you're one of those ladies stressed by layoffs, consider the following Jane Birkin quote, accompanying a model in a $1,675 Blumarine top and $305 Just Cavalli jeans: "When you've got nothing left, all you can do is get into silk underwear and start reading Proust—"or your horoscope.

Glamour Magazine, September 2008.

Glamour Attitudinal hemline: Ankle-length Ads: Down 10 percent

Does Louis Vuitton make a life vest? If they do, you can't afford it! The magazine's "Life & Happiness" section offers suggestions for "10 jobs that need you now … you'll never be out of work until you want to be," and how to deal with credit-card interest. (We're tanking, girls, tanking!) The alarm rings on in the fashion spreads. Victoria Beckham advises readers to invest in a good pair of jeans, not because they're fabulous, but because they'll last. Nicole Richie, in a pair of Anna Sui sunglasses, is effusive instead about her $3 pair at home, "from the gas station." And a drugstore-vs-department store beauty roundup recommends a $10 Bath & Body Works body lotion because it "smells like a $60 perfume"—and those perfume inserts smell like panic.

Lauren Sandler writes for Slate, Time, the New York Times, and other publications, and is the author of One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One.