Don’t get me wrong, I like fashion magazines as much as the next wanna-be fashionista. But lately there’s been some trouble in these shallow waters.

Maybe it was the fact that Fall Vogue was heavier than the dumbbells I lift at the gym. Or maybe it was the fact that as I eagerly turned the pages of the latest ­Elle, I was struck by page after page of weirdly interesting but extremely high priced “bargain” fashion.

Oh, wait, I’m sorry, I missed the memo where $500 for a skimpy clubbing top is a deal.

It’s not like I’m not used to pricey fashion. I grew up in Orange County for goodness sakes, where nine year olds had more Louis Vuitton purses than Paris Hilton has had boyfriends. (No joke, ask anyone from the OC). But somehow, in the county where dads give kids brand new Mercedes on their 16th birthdays and mani-pedi spa days are the “it” thing for a four year olds’ birthday party, $300 for a pair of jeans that looked like the lawn mower ate them was simply a shrug of the shoulders.

But this? November Vogue’s tips for the wallet conscious that include renting a nice Yacatan estate for a $10,500 a week, conveniently leaving out small details such as air fare and eating.  Then there was the September issue of Vogue, re-titled by as “Penny Pinching for Those Who Have Never Seen Pennies” after viewing a slew of handbags at a low, low price of $3,000. Even Lucky magazine tried to get on the game, featuring $22 lip liner and embellished heels for $375.

Things look a lot different today than they did a few years ago, with the newspapers predicting gloom and doom, Time’s cover photo of a depression era-foodline, the general suckiness of the presidential candidates, the war, and don’t forget that pesky economy. Parents worry about paying for bills, grandparents are freaking out about retirement, and college students are watching the sinking job market with grim faces.

So with the recession in the forefront of our minds, it’s hard to idly page through Glamour without feeling a slightly bit shocked, wistful, and irritated. It seems almost irreverent to feature $60 eye-shadow as a bargain and run stories on celebrities struggling to cope with their boyfriend woes and which shoes they should design next.

Then again, their readers are not just 30 year old career women on a budget, but teenagers who have grown up on The Simple Life, Laguna Beach, and The OC.. A New York Times article discussed this phenomenon:

“They are modified versions of [Paris] Hilton, the first rich girl in recent memory to be have been embraced by a mainstream audience. Her exploits, and those of her fictional counterparts, ‘tap into the princess fantasies of 11- and 12-year-old girls,’ said David Grazian, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. That audience is the least psychologically affected by a wildly fluctuating stock market and grim headlines, Dr. Grazian said.”

One look at the top MTV shows – My Super Sweet Sixteen, The Hills, and Paris Hilton’s My New BFF—shows this attitude of consumerism. As entertaining as it is to watch spoiled brats throw tantrums in order to get that $10,000 dress or Beyonce to play at the party, six or seven figure sweet sixteen parties are on the rise.

So, the next time the cover of Vogue greets me in the check-out with a headline proclaiming “Fashion for the Budget Conscious,” I’m going to exercise a little fashion bargaining of my own. I’m waiting for my roommate to buy it.

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