In L.A., Staying Chic Without A Paycheck

Gigi Hooghkirk has been economizing since losing her job in February. i i

Gigi Hooghkirk has been economizing since losing her job in February. She's relying on giveaways to maintain her fashionable lifestyle. Mandalit del Barco/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Mandalit del Barco/NPR
Gigi Hooghkirk has been economizing since losing her job in February.

Gigi Hooghkirk has been economizing since losing her job in February. She's relying on giveaways to maintain her fashionable lifestyle.

Mandalit del Barco/NPR

Saving money these days is not just a necessity but a virtue, even for some Los Angeles trendsetters. Witness Gigi Hooghkirk: After losing her job at the newly defunct Teen magazine last month, she's been blogging about trendy shoes for LuckyToes.com.

"I'm what they call a fashion dictator," she says. "So I get to pick which ones should be featured, and then I talk about why they're cool."

A recent outfit includes a gorgeous pair of black patent leather ankle boots with gold buttons (samples from a photo shoot) and Prada eyeglasses (a gift from a publicist).

These days, it's all about the freebies. On a recent afternoon, Gigi is in L.A.'s garment district at the style house called Chic Little Devil admiring a full-length Manoush dress.

"It's layers of ruffled silk beauty," she says. "And I want to wear that."

But this is hardly the confession of a shopaholic. Gigi sighs as she holds up the designer dress that retails for $542.

"I can't rationalize spending that kind of money," she says. "Although in the past, it's like, if you see a pair of shoes you really, really want and they are over $200, you might invest in it. But it's a guilty feeling after you buy it. That's not happening for me these days."

Lifestyle On A Budget

The Devil may wear Prada, but Gigi dresses in off-the-rack clothes she bought a few years ago from places like Forever 21, or she borrows clothes, or she makes her own. That might seem unimaginable for someone whose parents almost named her Zha Zha. Still, she manages to have a fun, exciting lifestyle on a budget. She has friends who invite her to the symphony, or events like a networking luncheon on a rooftop terrace.

"I'm saving money by having a free lunch," she says while noshing at the luncheon. "I'm still on press lists, so I still get invited to things."

Like a lot of people in L.A., she can still look the part of a fashionista, even though she's broke.

Back at the Santa Monica apartment she shares with two roommates, Gigi opens her closet to reveal a pile of fashionable footwear, including fabulous gold Wonder Woman boots, which she says she was "gifted" while working at the magazine. Also in her bedroom are plastic bins filled with used sweaters she bought at the Goodwill thrift store for $2 a piece. She cuts them up and sews them into eclectic, bohemian scarves that sell for $80 a pop.

"I started to gift them to the celebrities we shot at Teen," she says, modeling one of her creations. "So I have pictures of Miley Cyrus wearing them, and Zac Efron and Emma Roberts and Vanessa Hudgens ..."

Doing Without Indulgences

But until her scarf business takes off and she gets more fashion writing gigs, Gigi is pinching pennies so she won't have to leave L.A. and move in with her parents in rural Washington state.

So, gone are the things this 37-year-old single woman once indulged in:

No more mani-pedis.

No more facials or massages.

No more getting her blond hair highlighted.

"I now have natural colored hair," she says. "Color by God!"

The bottled water delivery? Cancelled.

Movies? She goes to free screenings or checks out DVDs from the public library. That's where she uses the free Internet, too.

But no more Starbucks.

"I downgraded my coffee," she admits. "Yeah, I buy Yuban now."

Gigi also asked her gym to freeze her membership. Instead of taking her $17 ballet classes, she now exercises at the pay-what-you-can power yoga studio, and does tai chi in the park for free.

She told her friends she could no longer go to their birthday dinners at pricey restaurants. These days, she cooks at home and shops for value packs of food to freeze — just like her mother used to do. And she sticks to a budget, like her dad taught her to do.

"I'm just living smart, the way you should live," Gigi says. "And it wasn't the way that I was always living."

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