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Excess was uncool last year. Now it's downright embarrassing

As I was walking out of the Frascati Centre in Blackrock last night, back to my 06 BMW Z4, I passed a row of other Beemers of a similar vintage.

I was in the heart of SoCoDu, as we South County Dubliners apparently call it, and so I shouldn't have been surprised at seeing so many 'prestige' motors all lined up. But it didn't look glam or smart, it looked decidedly naff -- a rather embarrassing tribute to a bygone era.

Suddenly it struck me, should I sell my car? Is what was once considered a 'status symbol' now an albatross around my neck, reminding me -- or worse still, broadcasting to others -- of a time when I obviously had lost the run of myself, spending money that didn't exist.

I must have been mad to sink so much cash into something that just ferries me from A to B, but I wasn't alone. We were all swimming along on this ridiculous tide of excess, buying the best of the best without even thinking what we were spending, or why.

I'm obviously not the only one thinking like this. For spring, Brown Thomas are tearing down the big Dolce e Gabbana boutique on their first floor and in its place, filling the rails with more accessible clothes (or 'emerging' designers, as we who don't want to sound cheap, say).

The Kings of Bling have obviously lost their crown, as the ladies who lunch (admittedly a bit less frequently than before) have migrated and choose to spend their two or three grand on lower key, elegantly tailored frocks by Victoria Beckham instead. They may like their luxury goods, and can still afford them, but they don't want to broadcast their largesse to a world that not only wouldn't appreciate it, but would think they're idiots for indulging. It's smarter instead to preach quietly to the converted.

There are some things, some 'essentials of modern living' that just seem wrong to brandish in the new age of 2010, and I don't mean things as extreme as helicopter rides to First Communions.

Walk into any living room around the country and you'll see a big plasma telly (and another three in the various upstairs bedrooms). Check the gym memberships and many are for places with fibre optic-lit pools. At one stage I used to 'do' breakfast meetings in The Dylan hotel at €22 per head. I'll ask it again, were we mad?

Speaking on behalf of the fairer sex, I don't think we women will ever be able to resist the finer things in life, but equally, I don't want to be dripping in interlocking Gucci G's and tossing my professionally blow-dried hair while reading about the upward creep of mortgage interest rates and the downward swoop of my net pay check.

It just seems out of step. As do manicure parties for 'tweenies', a speciality of a south Dublin nail salon that, with their 'Princess' treatments, did roaring business with the under-15s back in the day. It's like long-haul stag or hen nights -- what's the need to go to Las Vegas or Marbella for a few nights of bonding with one's best pals?

A discrete glimpse of a red Laboutin sole may be okay once in a while, but not when coupled with a Roberto Cavalli gown. An heirloom Cartier watch is stunning, but not when worn with diamonds before dark. And whomever is considering subscribing to a lifestyle concierge service like Quintessentially for some exclusive red carpet action seriously needs their head examined. All these things that were once considered status symbols now seem as sad as an uninhabited housing development.

So, what about my car conundrum? Long before the Celtic Tiger roared, I was the proud owner of a stunning, spluttering 1972 MGB. It was a soft top, two seater. Okay, those seats weren't heated, and frankly it was a bit draughty and noisy, but it was the love of my life and involved no car loan. The Z4 became its swanky replacement, and while it goes like the clappers, it's never had any of the MG's charm.

If sussing out Buy and Sell for a replacement roadster is what 'back to basics' is all about, I'm seriously considering it.

Melanie Morris is editor of IMAGE Magazine