With Recessions Like This, Who Needs a Recovery?

The January issue of Vogue, in its back-of-the-book Index section, lists 10 “inspired ideas” for the new year, “all in tune with environment- and recession-minded resolutions.”

No. 9 on the list is a sewing kit. That seems pretty practical. “Missing button?” reads the text. “Torn pocket? Take matters into your own hands (and keep tailoring bills in line) with Smythson’s ostrich-print calf-leather sewing kit.”

The price? Just $975.

It would take a lot of missing buttons for this baby to pay for itself. There are a few other not-very-cheap items on the list: a Derringer Cycles’ 1915 Limited Edition hybrid bicycle-motorbike ($4,800) and an Hermes alligator pocket watch ($1,950).

The cover girl on this issue is Anne Hathaway, who starred in The Devil Wears Prada as the assistant to a fashion magazine editor almost universally acknowledged to be based on Anna Wintour, of Vogue. The movie did not portray the editor in a remotely flattering light — which led me to wonder what sort of conversations were held over at Conde Nast to award Hathaway the cover. Perhaps Wintour has a greater sense of humor than is generally thought; in that case, perhaps the $975 sewing kit is just another joke?

scientist at large

A woman (would be scientist) discovered the importance of home economics. I say $975 for a sewing kit is cheap.

We need to get back to basics.

Lindsay T

I wrote a post about this $975 sewing kit yesterday on my web site, LindsayTSews.com. It's generating a lot of heated talk in the home sewing community because we all know you can buy a really fantastic sewing machine for that kind of money. One reader said she'd plunk down $975 for the kit if it contained a tiny seamstress who'd do all your mending for you.


If you have diamond studded or genuine pearl buttons, you may not want your maid to touch them with anything less expensive.

George S

That made me laugh so hard Lindsay 2 (comment#2)


Does anything practical really belong in a "fashion" magazine?


Everyone should have to learn the skill of sewing on buttons BY HAND. It's a great skill to have (we lose buttons all the time) and takes literally minutes to learn. Using a machine to sew buttons is foolish and actually takes longer than doing it by hand.

Diana c

The editor at vogue makes too much money.

Philip G

This is similar to how half the "lifestyle" articles in the NYtimes are about how hard it is to keep your second home tastefully decorated, or how the recession makes you give less than 6 figures to charity every year.

Kate Reay

@scientist at large: $975 for a sewing kit is cheap? No, it isn't. The cost of the thread + needles + fabric necessary to replace three-quarters of the interior lining of a full-length dress coat by hand is less than $5. I know - I've done it.

Judging by the Smythson site (which does not provide any information on this item for a proper sanity check), you're paying as much for the name as for the product.


I didn't think the editor was cast in a particularly bad light in "The Devil Wears Prada" (the title notwithstanding).

She was about par for the course of high-level, high-powered executives who do not have time to take warm and fuzzy coffee breaks, hear about your child's latest achievement, etc.

I don't LIKE that sort of person, but when you consider what she was having to balance, I think she was portrayed as someone strong, capable, no-nonsense, and passionate about fashion.

Besides even bad press is better than none!


So much for trickle-down economics. There isn't much left to trickle down. Hard to believe that the promoters of the theory didn't know that when they decreed it to be the method of choice for making the rich richer and the poor poorer.



Why shouldn't rich people pay $975 for a fancy sewing kit?

Is there some rule that says all functional items must be basic in design and low-priced? Is there some other rule that says rich people should only be allowed to buy what poor people can afford? Is there some other rule that says it's OK to sneer at wealthy people for their choices?

By your logic, President-Elect Obama should live in a shack, instead of the White House. A shack is basic in design and low-priced; it is not more than poor people could afford; and because the man would have no choice in the matter, there could never be anything to sneer at.

Honestly, I sometimes think the writers on this web site don't know anything about economics!

Paul B


I think Dubner was pointing out the irony of Vogue running a list that is "recession minded" and then featuring a $975 sewing kit. Most likely the magazine is full of relatively expensive items that Dubner did not choose to point out as they were not given as "recession minded". Of course the article was "environment and recession minded" and I suppose the environmental aspect still holds despite the price.

I do though agree with you that the wealthy can spend their money on whatever they like without judgment.


@ Chesapean: He's not saying people should not be allowed to purchase a $975 sewing kit. He's just saying it's stupid. Which it is. And idiotic to put in a "recession-minded resolutions" column. Your White House argument is a red herring--classic technique for the insecure.


#12 - A rich person is certainly within their rights to drop almost $1000 on a sewing kit, but it's hardly "in tune with environment- and recession-minded resolutions" as stated by the magazine.

Cold Hands

...and Madoff's lawyer said he was sending his family "relatively inexpensive" items, like $200 mittens. The awful pun aside, what is lining those mittens?



Given the low cost of having clothes mended professionally relative to the price of this kit, and the marginal value high earners would put on their time, (not to mention the value that those with such a high disposable income are likely to place on having clothes look perfect), I'd be very surprised if you could provide a set of plausible graphs to explain why someone with that money would spend it on a tailoring kit when the alternatives are much more suitable.

As far as I can see, the only real way this product is likely to satisfy an economic demand is if the user really enjoys sewing their own clothes. If the enjoyment received from the activity isn't extremely high then this product doesn't serve a purpose given the alternatives.

Obviously economics says people can and should buy what they want, but this product seems to be neither recession minded nor economically rational.


scientist at large

Dear Kate;

You missed the whole point. I am talking about the cost we are now paying for not taking care of our homes, our families, our country; (inside and out) --for not valuing "MADE IN AMERICA" and, hence, the American worker. I still say $975. is cheap. It will cost more than trillions to get us back in shape- My grandfather was a charitable man. He gave away the kitchen sink. He forgot (did not understand) that charity begins at home. He paid a heavy duty price.

j. babcock

Great comments.

Are none of you worried that Dubner is spending his off moments reading Vogue? I believe in being well-rounded and well-read, but come on.

Which doctor's waiting room were you stuck in, Stephen? :)

scientist at large

Dear Ben;

You raise an interesting question- what belongs in a fashion magazine? I guess if you are in to conspicuous consumption, nothing but costume design. But if you are not, some truth goes very far......real style.