With sample sale season on the imminent-if-not-already-in-motion horizon, I’m just wondering if and when it’s better not to know about the discount havens that pop up on the most unassuming city streets. Why? Because in that episode of Friends, when Monica trains Rachel and Phoebe to function as star players on a half-off court (you know the one: Rachel ends up drowning in a puddle of white tulle while Monica fights for her life and wedding dress on a nearby rack), nothing is dramatized. Not even the whistles.
The experience really does go as follows: you wait for a sale to start outside a door you have just rendered a holy threshold where your dreams can meet their tangible counterparts. Said door opens and you’re left to run free. Often you’re tripped and left to fall on your face while in transit but sometimes, when you’re not, you enter, blindly grabbing at items in hopes of learning (once you’ve opened your eyes) that, yes!, you struck gold.
When you’re at a good one, it’s really good. Prices are typically dramatically reduced and the inventory available for your purchasing pleasure is chock full of items that don’t seem dated, or old, or incredibly indicative of a season that no one should want to relive. If you’re lucky, you might find an Italian cashmere coat at the lucrative price of (it’s damaged) zero dollars. It doesn’t happen often, no, but it’s not impossible.
When you’re at a bad one, though, all the blood, sweat and tears that went into practicing your best grab-arms and punt, then waiting on that line, and finally getting through the doorway, not only shave at least two years off your lifespan but they sting like hell. All that labor — and dammit, no fruit. Not even a ripening banana.
The problem with the good ones is that when you’re at a sample sale, the blinders always come on. You’re no longer just blinded by a label — you’re being blinded by a price tag and the adrenaline rush that commences in the wake of short time periods and lots of inventory.
Though I’d suspended my presence at sample sales a few years ago when I left a Valentino one with $150 fringe pants that did not fit me and never will, I re-entered the gauntlet last week for a luxury label. When I almost left with a fringe jacket all-too-akin to the pants I’ll never wear, I had to wonder what I was doing there and whether sample sale shopping ever actually cultivates that which makes up the stuff of a good wardrobe.
I did, however, leave with two additional cashmere sweaters — one striped and one featuring stiff cotton sleeves. Both initially retailed for upward of $1,000 but were reduced to downward of $100. I believe I’ll wear them, I really do. I just haven’t yet. The problem is, when it’s sweater weather and you’ve just purchased knits you think you’re really excited about, what’s the hold up?
Blinded by the sample sale.
-Leandra Medine, image from Vogue