My first thought upon reading that? Gold lame gowns and the Marx Brothers. While I've tried in vain to find if a Marx Brothers film actually features the delectable costume I'm thinking of (if it does exist, it has to be in Animal Crackers or The Cocoanuts), the point is a historical one. The Great Depression was the era of the screwball comedy, and the majority of them took place among the creme de la creme of society. There's jewels and fabulous gowns galore, piles of money, and champagne being chugged by the gallons. The Carole Lombard and Claudette Colbert heiresses are arguably ill-timed anthropological artifacts, but people couldn't get enough of them -- and this was during years when people were starving to death, when theaters handed out bread along with tickets. But people lost themselves in tales of the rich falling in and out of love, and undoubtedly loved the sheer glamour portrayed onscreen.
There's no doubt we are in some tough economic times, and Anderson Cooper's panel of experts tell us that it will probably get worse. But the majority of the country can not only still afford to go to movies, they go with full stomachs -- and yet we're too sensitive to handle designer wardrobes and shopping sprees. So, while I'm not a fan of Sex or Shopaholic, I find the media and celebrity sensitivity surrounding their character's conspicuous consumption more than a little absurd. (Next up -- demanding billionaires Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark wear last season's tux and fire their drivers, lest they too offend our slender bank accounts.) Movies are about larger-than-life escapism, whether it's someone outfitted in Chanel or fighting a supervillain. Our grandparents lived vicariously through gold lame gowns. Surely we can do the same?
(Now how to make films as good as they were during the Depression is another matter altogether.)