Move over, fashionistas. This fall, the recessionistas are taking over.

With the economy unraveling like a Forever 21 sweater, terms like “recessionista” and “slow fashion” are popping up all over. Last month, a piece in Alabama’s Press-Register proclaimed, “Fall fashion 2008: The year of the recessionista,” and The New York Times devoted a recent style piece to the “recessionista” moniker, pronouncing it “A Label for a Pleather Economy.” Trendsetters are advised to hold clothing swaps and shop at thrift stores to score clothes that are new to them, if not brand-new.

Meanwhile, the admittedly small and elitist slow-fashion movement (inspired by Slow Food) is supposedly a burgeoning sea change from consumers scoring cheap, poorly constructed, and questionably sourced runway rip-offs. Slow fashion, says The Guardian, is all about investing in quality pieces of clothing that’ll hopefully last a long time; attention is paid to whether items are fair-trade, made locally, and made of organic material.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Hmm. When I was in college, it wasn’t unusual to hit up the local Salvation Army for thrifty finds and supplement with some well-chosen, quality sweaters or jeans. Rather than having a trendy title, this was born out of a ramen-eating necessity. As for slow fashion, it sounds like something conscientious, sustainability-minded people have been doing for years: not buying crap you don’t need, and avoiding stuff probably made in a sweatshop.

More power to the fashion industry if these “trends” catch on, but a couple of questions arise: Isn’t slow fashion a bit of a contradiction? Isn’t fashion deplored by enviros for churning out season after season of must-haves that — by design — become out of date three months later? And during a recession, wouldn’t people be more likely to buy cheap clothing than feel motivated to save up for a $300 jacket? Furthermore, if slow fashion and being a “recessionista” are trends, won’t they be replaced by other trends in a few months’ time, or fade when the economy recovers?

Don’t get me wrong; I hope slow fashion moves past a teeny following and goes the way of slow food. Being a careful, globally minded shopper is something that should never go out of style.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.