It's so passé to be a vapid consumerist spendthrift. Even Barney's warns that conspicuous consumption will probably get you "branded an idiot," for God's sake. But most socialites can't help themselves; if they stop setting huge piles of money on fire, they'll get frostbite, in their sick little hearts. This fundamental tension between fashionable goods and fashionable austerity has, at last, been resolved, by traveling showrooms, blackmarket house parties and secret shops, all for the uber rich. Times Styles has the lowdown:

“Shopping is almost embarrassing, and a little vulgar right now,” said Ms. Buckley, an editor at Allure magazine. Loath to be seen loading freezer-size parcels into the back of a waiting cab, she finds herself shopping at under-the-radar soirees in the homes of her friends...

We’re like a little secret that people want to share, but not with just anybody,” said Eve Goldberg, an owner of William Goldberg, a diamond dealer in Manhattan. Ms. Goldberg’s company recently opened a salon [[read: secret store of shame!]] that caters to clients who prefer to shop discreetly.

...opportunities for altruism may have eased the consciences of the 250 guests at the International Fashion party, a by-invitation event held last week at the Clift Hotel in San Francisco to benefit Rebekah Children’s Service... Filigreed chokers and diamond-studded earrings with an ornate Asian cast were offered alongside hair and eyelash extensions and a rack of furs supplied by Saks Fifth Avenue, which saw an opportunity to reach affluent clients...

These cloistered shops for the rich are just like the stores for party elites in the old Soviet Union. Except that it's not actually illegal to be a plutocrat in the U.S. So the secrecy is just melodrama. Or idiocy.

These shoppers have actually convinced themselves that there's an appreciable difference, embarrassment wise, between being seen carrying a clutch of boutique bags and being seen quite clearly wearing the contents of such bags. They're actually paying a premium to not be seen buying products that cost extra precisely because of the obviousness of their cost.

There's a sucker born every minute, but these double suckers are truly an elite breed. We should thank them: they're not only pumping money into the economy during an economic implosion, but also soaking up extra hotel rooms, mansions and obscure retail storefronts (for their purchasing parties) in the wake of the real estate bubble. Keeping spending guys! The party will never end! And when the revolution comes we're coming for you either way!