Sample Sale Survival: Notes from the Field

The Report Card| Sample Sales

Pretty: A 

Low Maintenance: C+ 

Last week, I achieved a very important New Yorker milestone: I attended my first sample sale.

Sample sales are basically the ultimate sale for the frugal fashionista.  When designers have too much merchandise, they’ll hold a sample sale to get rid of everything. I’ve been a loyal 6pm.com and Nordstrom Rack shopper for years, but I’ve never quite gotten my schedule to line up with a good sample sale until last week (Theory, in case you were wondering!) and oh man, guys. I had no idea what I was getting into. I pretty much made every mistake in the book and walked out of there item-less, shell-shocked, and a little more sweaty than I normally am.

On the plus side of things, sample sales are a great way to get clothing from designers you love at a fraction of the price. (For example– dresses that retail for around $400 at this one were going for about $100). However, going to a sample sale isn’t exactly low-maintenance… it’s a lot of work to get those discounts!

After decompressing from my stressful sample sale experience, I have decided there were about five things I did wrong. Learn from me, and I think you’d love a good sample sale:

1. Do not go at 6 PM. Get there early. Mistake number one was going to this sale right as everyone got off work. A 6 PM start means lines out the door, no room to browse, people screaming at each other in the dressing room (yes, this happened, yes I listened, yes it was as entertaining as Bravo) and a generally higher level of freneticism. Plan ahead and go early.

2. Do some homework. You don’t have a ton of time in those dressing rooms, particularly if it’s crowded. (We had 10 minutes, seriously). If you can, have an idea of what size you might be in the designer’s clothing beforehand so you’re not wasting time trying on different sizes. My handful of skirts in three different sizes did not help my dressing room time.

3. Bring a wing woman: The smartest girls at sample sales are the ones who bring a friend along. More than likely, you’ll all be shoved into a small dressing room with one tiny mirror for 20 women, and you’ll be on a strict clock to make some decisions.  (10 minutes, remember?) Since you can’t really hem and haw in front of a mirror, your best shot is a friend who will tell you whether or not something looks good in two seconds.

4. Don’t bring a big bag: You’ll have to check it, and it’s annoying because you’ll just be carrying your phone and wallet around in your hand while trying to hang on to clothes at the same time. Also, if you haven’t figured it out yet there aren’t any shelves in those communal dressing rooms so all of your crap has to go on the floor.

5. Don’t make plans for right after. You want to go into a sample sale patient and with all the time in the world. Having a dinner reservation 30 minutes after, like I did, only makes things feel more pressed and less enjoyable.

Ultimately, I think I’m game for another go-around once I get my sample sale fitness up to speed with the rest of these seasoned shoppers.

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