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Earlier this fall, when editors assembled their holiday gift guides and wish lists, many had no idea to what extent the economy would contract. But an environment where General Motors and the largest financial firms in the country need bailouts, unemployment is creeping up and foreclosures are on the rise doesn’t make for a cheerful holiday shopping season. That said, most editors in their December issues were sensitive to the current financial decline – pondering in their editors’ letters how to change their consumption habits, picking budget-friendly gift ideas for $100 or less and promoting their gift guides with cover lines such as “50 Fabulous Gifts Under $50” or “Gift Guide: Cheap and Chic!” Here, WWD surveys the editors’ letters of fashion titles for their words of wisdom and advice on surviving this particularly cash-crunched seaso – and beyond.

Anna Wintour, editor in chief, Vogue

This story first appeared in the December 12, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Even Vogue, which regularly features clothes and baubles that cost as much as a Hummer, looked for more reasonably priced wares to invest in for December. It chose to edit its Index section down to 59 gift ideas under $500. Wintour also called one of the least-expensive pieces in a spread on gilded fashion “a perfect buy-now-wear-forever piece” – a $535 Dries Van Noten skirt. “What that skirt has, and indeed what the right buys have now, is warmth and charm – qualities that make the business of getting dressed fun and inspiring,” she wrote.

Kristin van Ogtrop, managing editor, Real Simple

Van Ogtrop kept it cheap and simple this year, mindful of her readers’ budgets. “Many of us are feeling a pinch as we approach gift-giving this year. The pinch may be to your wallet or maybe just your mood.” In response, van Ogtrop expanded the offerings under $20 in Real Simple’s gift guide, and asked readers for suggestions on giving back during the holidays in its front-of-book section, “Your Words,” “as a way of inspiring and reminding all of us that, no matter what our circumstances right now, there are probably scores [of] people who would trade places with us in an instant.”

Linda Wells, editor in chief, Allure

Wells urged readers not to sacrifice their looks during the economic downturn – it may be the only investment paying high returns these days. “Even in difficult times, we still need to find beauty and hope – in a museum, in our closets, in our mirrors. That may mean buying only one or two key pieces and discovering the versatility of things we already own; you don’t have to spend like Marie Antoinette. Keeping up appearances, putting our best face forward, is important both literally and figuratively. In other words, we still need to dream.”

Glenda Bailey, editor in chief, Harper’s Bazaar

Bailey used Chanel as an example of the fashion industry’s response to the economy. “Karl [Lagerfeld] presaged our current worries with the most important outfit of fall 2008: a Chanel tweed suit with worn elbows.” Bailey agreed the best look of the moment is dressing up with a relaxed approach. “In fact, already on the streets, the chicest women are wearing banker power jackets with jeans – a poignant reference to our changing lifestyles… To amp up the allure at night, pair denim with jeweled jackets. After all, particularly in these troubled times, a girl can always use a bit of glamour.”

Kim France, editor in chief, Lucky

France focused on charitable causes, noting that when the economy takes a turn for the worse, charities and nonprofits suffer accordingly. She directed readers to a feature on how to shop and give at the same time. “It’s the holiday season again, and anyone looking for something for the most happening chick on the block might want to start with this great big rocker-girl flaming heart cuff, not only because it’s kind of awesome, but because 40 percent of the proceeds from its sale will go to benefit Red Cross International.”

Martha Stewart, founder, Martha Stewart Living

The ever-entrepreneurial Stewart just keeps baking on – and this season, it’s cookies. “In the past, I have made plum puddings and hard sauce, fruitcakes and bread puddings with sour lemon sauce, and I have given out baskets full of jars of homemade jams and jellies and homegrown honey. This year, inspired by our wonderful and inventive “Cookies” book, I decided to perfect a few more cookie recipes delicious enough to be included in a sequel, if we ever publish one.”

Joanna Coles, editor in chief, Marie Claire

Under the headline of “My Two Cents,” Coles writes about the panic she felt after buying her own place a few years after graduating from college. After getting an adjustable-rate mortgage, she saw interest rates rise, and her expenses doubled overnight. “I took on extra work and somehow muddled through… Never forget: You are your most valuable asset. Whatever money fears you may be facing, you will survive them, with hard work and a sense of humor. And don’t forget, you are allowed to indulge yourself this holiday season – a hot bath and an extra hour of sleep are still free!”

Pamela Fiori, editor in chief, Town & Country

Fiori recommended buying gifts with currency other than money: time. “No matter what your personal situation is, here’s an idea: Maybe this is the year to celebrate the season in a quieter, more meaningful way by giving those closest to you your full attention (turn off your BlackBerry, shut down your computer, switch off the TV); by attending holiday parties, concerts and religious services in an engaged way; by listening intensely to glorious, uplifting music; by keeping the faith (whatever yours happens to be); by reaching out to others and by seriously pondering the meaning of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or anything or anyone else that gets you through the night, the day, and into the New Year.”

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