Couture fashion is my World of Warcraft, a fantasyland in which I remain fixated with a life totally out of touch with my sad reality. In this world, Rodarte tights and Lanvin dresses are relevant topics of interest and completely tangible necessities. I battle to keep up with the latest trends and own the most demure outfits. My fellow devotees and I meet on blogs, sharing secrets and opinions on how to beat high price tags with website sale codes. Now, the event that is the epitome of my existence has finally arrived. Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Of course I physically do not participate in the event, but the hundreds of high quality photos, blog commentaries and Twittering includes me in a virtual way. So when my favorite satirical fashion blogs were slashed with headlines of designers opting out of fashion week, my heart sank. No longer could I use fashion as an escape into luxury and excess not present in these finically troubled times.

To my knowledge, 59 designers are scheduled under the tent and eight off site. Vera Wang and Betsey Johnson are two of the many designers who opted out of showing under the tent for more private in-store showings. Layoffs at Neiman Marcus, Macy’s and Bergdoff Goodman have left retail workers in a panic. Saks released a statement that they are going to layoff 1,100 workers, a 9 percent cut in their employment. Even established fashion houses, such as Prada, have hung “sale” signs in their windows.

During my stay in New York City over winter break, I discovered that high-end department stores, desperate for sales, have turned into thrift shops where women scramble to horde 15 pairs of Christian Louboutin pumps at 70 percent cuts. The shoe department at Barney’s resembled a Marshall’s. Women on Blackberries with Balenciaga purses were sitting next to me, picking through the same sale shoes.

Karl Lagerfeld, the king of extravagance, was quoted saying, “Bling is over. Red-carpetry-covered-with-rhinestones is out. I call it ‘the new modesty.'” What?! This was the man who also said that Chanel has no budget and does what they want, “throwing money out the window.” Needless to say this “new modesty” made me nervous.

Now, five days into New York Fashion Week, it has become apparent that the fashion industry has succeeded in combining necessity and glamour in perfect proportion. My fears of overly minimalist, gray palette collections featuring scrub-like harem pants have been lifted. With strong showings from Alexander Wang, H?rve L?ger, Miss Sixty and Preen, it seems as though the fall fashions will be providing much needed optimism.

Major trends for fall 2009 have emerged already: lace-up boots and cut-outs. The “it” shoe has evolved from the bootie to the Doc Martin-inspired lace boots. Cut-outs come in the form of jackets and dresses. If cut-outs are American designers’ interpretation of “minimalism,” I’m in. Although many of the “power dresses” presented in the Preen collection may not be wearable, they satisfy my fix for the unattainable.

While H?rve L?ger and Preen featured the extravagant mini, Diane Von Furstenberg and Miss Sixty provided wearable delights that challenged the current climate of desolation. DVF’s fall line includes fun, flirty designs and wild prints. Von Furstenberg knows that it is times like these that girls like me need more than miserably dull black outfits, and I love her for that. Miss Sixty was another personal favorite that chose to channel the ’80s. The line reminded me of French fashion house Balmain with the acid-wash jeans and glitz.

As exciting as Fashion Week may be, fall is far away. Right now everyone in Wisconsin is dreaming of spring, where snow-free roads give way to sandals and skirts. This spring will host the return of the gladiator and bootie, both redesigned and revamped, but the real “it” shoe is the jelly. Yes, jellies, the bright plastic shoes you wore in your youth. Now Suri Cruise will have to battle for the title of trendiest toddler. Jumpsuits, plunging necklines and chic hats will be essential for this spring season, whenever that may be. As the winter, and financial crisis, toils on, I will look to the fashion industry to lift my spirits. After all, everyone needs an escape sometimes.

Jessica Gressa is a sophomore. If you share her passion for fashion, e-mail her at [email protected]