The holidays are often full of fashionable forks in the road: What in the world does "holiday festive attire" mean? Does Santa's workshop have better inventory of Christian Louboutins or Jimmy Choos? How short is too short for the company Christmas party?
This year, however, presents and parties can seem excessive, as even Marc Jacobs and Vogue's parent company Condé Nast forgo holiday parties in light of the sputtering economy. The recessionista—the more fiscally responsible BFF of the fashionista—is feeling the pinch, and it isn't from five-inch heels.
Holiday shoppers aren't the only ones affected by the economy. Local nonprofits, strapped for funds throughout the year, are worried the holiday season's traditionally high volume of donations won't match up to increased need.
"Donations go through the roof during the holiday season," said Christy Simmons of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. "We're able to provide four meals for every dollar we receive, but that still doesn't keep up with the increase in need we've seen."
The Food Bank, which serves 34 North Carolina counties, counts cereal, canned fruits and vegetables, rice, pasta, soap and infant products as some of its most-needed items. Pop-top cans are preferred, in case families in need don't have can openers.
The Food Bank supports many food pantries in the Raleigh area, including the Salvation Army of Wake County and the Wake County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which face similar situations. The Salvation Army has seen a 35 percent increase in demand over the past year, and the SPCA hopes its goal to provide homes for locally abandoned animals won't be adversely affected.
"The animals don't know we're in a recession," said Mondy Lamb, marketing coordinator for the SPCA. "It's harder for people to adopt when money is tighter, so right now it's really a 'wait and see' situation."
The organization's 18,000-square-foot facility, a testament to modern sheltering, utilizes special "condos" for animals with special needs, puppy tubs that allow better interaction with children, and behaviorally matched playgroups, all designed to increase pets' adoptability.
But because it's funded entirely by donations and maintained largely by a volunteer staff, Lamb hopes the mission of the organization—and the irresistibly cute faces of rescued animals—will continue to open up hearts and wallets.
Local boutiques also realize that in times like these, shoppers are looking for higher returns on their dollars than in previous years. Wares from Durham's Vert & Vogue come with the added value of providing unique, environmentally responsible clothing and accessories.
"It's hard to find clothes made from recycled materials at the right price points," said Madira Hurley, who co-owns the Brightleaf Square boutique with her husband, Ryan. "I think men and women can find that here."
Hurley, a native Parisian, keeps plenty of chic, investment-worthy pieces in stock for both sexes. Coats, scarves, sweaters and jewelry are crafted from bamboo, recycled wool, cashmere and even plastic bottles, and are perfect for responsible gifting.
In the spirit of giving and receiving, we dressed staff, volunteers and animals of these three Triangle charities in the latest winter wear from Vert & Vogue and Raleigh's Galatea Boutique. And just for good measure, we threw in a few silly, cheesy Christmas sweaters from Goodwill perfect for those "Tacky Christmas" holiday parties.