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Recession-core: It isn’t new, it’s just being resurrected

by AJ Craig


If you’ve stepped foot into any UK supermarket over the last couple of months, you will have been affronted by the astronomical prices of eggs, bread, vegetables and just about everything on the shelves. It’s easy to make jokes about how many dabloons or hunks of gold a weekly shop costs but the tightening wallets of many of us can be no laughing matter especially to the fashion obsessed. When affording to live becomes challenging, what happens to fashion?

Photo by Getty Images

When I first moved to New York and I was totally broke, sometimes I bought Vogue instead of dinner. I found it fed me more.”

                                                            Carrie Bradshaw - 2001



We all know that fashion isn’t exclusively expensive but in economic climates like these, it’s hard for the two not to be synonymous. But in these trying times, a new trend has paved its way into TikToks, Instagram stories and editorials alike: recession-core.

Recession-core is characterised by minimalism, naturalistic makeup and just general muted-ness. Think Abnegation and District 12, neutrals and long hemlines, carrying a loaf of bread if you’re lucky. This move to minimalism contrasts with the maximalist trends of bright excess that was popular in 2020-2021. But the term recession-core is not new, let’s dial it back to 2007-2009.


Personally, I was still playing with my pink Nintendo DS and my main worry was how I could possibly look after my Ninten-dogs while I was at school but the financial recession was in full swing by the summer of 2008. Job loss and unemployment were rife during the late 2000s and so was the trademark muted neutrals that have now become synonymous with recession fashion. For prime examples of this, we can look at outfits from the first season of The Vampire Diaries, the majority of Being Human and the first season of Modern family. Modest vests and shawls with midi skirts in shades of khaki green and cream are the main elements of a recession fit. Silver or no jewellery and accessories were also the norm (for more info about lack of jewellery, check out last month’s article on the disappearance of necklaces from the red carpet).


But how does the financial crisis of 2007 – 2009 help us understand the trend of post-modern recession chic? We’ll look into a tiny bit more recent history before we jump back to the present, I promise. In 2020, there was a rise in DIY and self alteration of clothes mainly driven by TikTok and isolation boredom. The lack of consequences and excess of freedom from the entirety of covid lockdowns led to bright, colourful abstract painted jeans, flower eyeliner, multicoloured hair and embroidered embellishments of every colour, texture and finish you could think of. The rise of isolation meant nothing to lose and everything to play with as most people had more disposable furlough income and satiated their boredom with copious amounts of online shopping for pretty unnecessary items.


The effect of recession core is the exact opposite of what we experienced in 2020. Plain colours are cheaper and more wearable (I don’t make the rules here) as well as easily washable and mendable should wear and tear occur. By utilising ‘smart’ clothing as the norm, it gives the effect of professionalism and employability. We start advertising ourselves with what we chose to wear, like a CV on our backs. But ultimately, we will wear what we want. Within our means of course.

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