STYLE

Debt To Impress: The Unmentionable Fashion Crime

21/01/2011 11:40 | Updated 22 May 2015

Do you ever get a pang of 'I want what she's got' when you hear about a friend's exotic holiday plans or see the likes of Alexa Chung looking fabulous in Chanel?

No one is above the odd attack of the jealous bug, but it seems more women than ever are acting on the impulse to the point of excess. The recession has taken its toll on our earnings, but thousands of women are refusing to cut back. In order to compete with friends or fund a lavish celebrity lifestyle, research shows a spendthrift breed of women are taking on huge amounts of unmanageable debt.

And when the mountain of debt comes crashing down around them? Many are simply declaring themselves bankrupt like it's little more than a decision over shoes. Figures from the Insolvency Service last year revealed that the number of British women going bankrupt has risen tenfold in the past decade, with those aged 25 to 44 the biggest culprits. Experts attribute the rise to the irresponsible spending of women trying to copy glamorous celebrity and WAG lifestyles and seeing bankruptcy as a quick fix. It's reckless and foolish - both on the part of these women and the banks dishing out this kind of credit in the first place.

When questioned about their financial decisions, many women said they didn't realise the severity of the debt they were taking on because lenders were so willing to offer credit. In other words, if financial institutions - such upstanding markers of morality, after all - said they can afford the credit, it must be ok. The fact that banks are profitable organisations seems to have completely passed them by and I find this incredibly frightening. While lenders are now much more stringent and the days of receiving credit card offers through the post are long gone, millions of people will be paying the price of lax lending for years to come.

I also struggle to get my head around the motivation behind this frivolous overspending. Retail therapy (when used in moderation) can give a much-needed boost, but getting into debt to buy a flash new car to impress friends or a wardrobe Cheryl Cole would be envious of reeks of either insecurity or greed.

Of course sometimes debt stems from desperation. Borrowing on credit to keep up an addiction to designer shoes is very different to just trying to keep a roof over your head - but the consequences are just as scary. Recent research found that more than two million people have used credit cards to pay their mortgage or rent - an increase of more than 50% in a year. Yet this means of simply robbing Peter to pay Paul can quickly trigger a spiral of unmanageable debt and ultimately result in people losing their homes anyway. Making a last-ditch attempt to keep your property is understandable, but the decision is often linked to a 'keep up with the Jones' mentatlity.

Admitting to family, friends and neighbours that you can't afford to maintain your home and lifestyle is difficult - no one enjoys suffering a blow to their ego - but trying to cover up financial difficulties by borrowing more often only makes matters worse. In this time of austerity I think it's crucial to remember that those important to us won't judge us on what we can and cannot afford and it's never worth getting into debt to impress.

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