NEW YORK — With the economy down, the prospect of war looming and colder weather just recently setting in, women across the country are being extra careful with their fall and holiday buying — selectively spending on sportswear that feels fresh and new, while skipping on the basics.

The thirst for newness is being driven by a combination of motives: Shoppers want to feel they are getting intrinsic value for their money, and feel the need to escape with novelty amid the stresses of financial and personal insecurity.

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