Are Actual Shabby People Still Interested In Shabby Chic?

Rachel Ashwell and co. tell us how to "really capture the Shabby Chic life." Sadly, most of us are doing it without enormous white couches. At least the "shabby" part!

You remember Shabby Chic: enormous sofas swimming in white linen; faded tea roses; lots of distressed whites; the occasional hint of vintage. You know, shabby chic: very California -by-way-of-English-countryside, very girly, very 90s.

Well, they - Rachel Ashwell's empire of stores and products - are reinventing, sort of. A new partnership has led to a new, (slightly) cheaper line, in addition to the original, high-end stuff. Says a business partner,

"We think Rachel has developed a signature style that is totally relevant in today's economy...It allows you to take what you already have and combine it with Shabby Chic products to really capture the Shabby Chic life. And that is a massively relevant thing in today's market, the idea that to get Shabby Chic in your home you don't have to buy a lot of things.

The Times agrees, saying, "2009 may be the prime moment for products that derive their energy from comfort, sensuality and the idea of hunkering down. For in many ways, 2009 is shaping up to look a lot like 1989."

Okay, but is that the same thing as the "Shabby Chic life?" The "shabby chic life," after all, wasn't just about the trappings of hominess. However practical its antecedents, however nice the photography or pleasing the notion of flea-marketing, it quickly became a status symbol. It might be called inconspicuous conspicuous consumption -"effortless", sure, but also decadent in its dimensions and obviously pricey. Let's face it, all that white, however washable, wasn't exactly calibrated for the average slob, nor the dimensions for average footage. It was of its time, as is obvious by its success. But these times? If anything, hasn't the aesthetic evolved somewhat? Shabby Chic was aspirational - but the aspiration was to be a woman who had it all, maybe a studio exec's wife or a high-powered agent or an actress with a professionally-decorated, sun-drenched pad - and now that the reality of balancing has entered our lives so aggressively, I wonder if the faux-trappings will have the same appeal (or whether people just prefer to get white couches at Ikea?) Maybe, like Melrose-era crop tops, it'll be big. But basically, is "shabby" still chic when it's not a choice?

Making Shabby Chic, Again
[NY Times]