recession chic
n. Style and elegance on a tight budget.
For recession chic to become a trend, however, the stigma of profligacy associated with shopping for clothing in an uncertain economy would have to be played down., the Web site of Vogue magazine, has declared passe the free-spending fashionista of the type lionized in ''Sex and the City.'' In her stead, the Web site fashioned a new icon for the new austerity, a plucky heroine able to fixate on designer logos even at a time when her house might face foreclosure.
—Natasha Singer, “A Label for A Pleather Economy,” The New York Times, October 26, 2008
That's why I urge women to approach this month's Carrie-tribute collection by Sex and the City stylist Patricia Field for Marks & Spencer with caution. Because you have to ask why M&S — bastion of sleek, chic, understated style — would belatedly embrace fussy, decadent, fast-fashion Carrie when everyone is moving towards recession chic; which means investing in shift dresses instead of smock dresses and stilettos instead of wedges.
—Gwen Halley, “For the true story, just ask your man,” Evening Herald, October 13, 2008
1990 (earliest)
Tom Metzger's latest diatribe, faxed to newspapers, is addressed to ANY HACK REPORTER. RECESSION CHIC? The big, expensive ads at the front of the New Yorker magazine used to be for high-fashion silks and satins.

But country chic is in.

The front four pages last week were from The Gap, Banana Republic, L.L. Bean and Land's End.
—Neil Morgan, “Neil Morgan,” The San Diego Union-Tribune, November 19, 1990
The economic downturn is inspiring a new frugality among consumers — a sort of frugal chic.
—Denise Kalette, “Thrift-store shoppers find chic for cheap,” USA Today, September 26, 1991