$ale Bragging

“I got it so on sale it was practically free.”


It used to be that labels ruled. No one would ask, “Who are you wearing?” because the answer was stamped across every outfit. And for items that were not dotted in an outer-logo, the specific shape of a dress or color of a shoe was so conspicuous that without mentioning the brand, everyone knew what it was.

At my uniform-mandatory high school this was especially important. In a sea of khakis and polos, That Plaid Scarf and Silver Bracelet told everyone, “I am fashionable, I am trendy.” They acted as giant airport signs that read “MY PARENTS SPENT X AMOUNT OF DOLLARS ON THIS AND I REALLY NEED YOU TO KNOW THAT.” Prior to Instagram followers, this was our social currency.

Then the trend shifted. A woman’s overall look became more important than the individual things she wore thanks to stores like Zara, who took trends and made them available for mass consumption. And because consumers now craved the entire outfit as opposed to the lone badge of expensive self-illustration, boho, Bowery, the 90s, and so forth became more important (and much cheaper) than the scattering of designer initials.

Off-the-table in this conversation are Nike’s Swoosh, Calvin Klein’s elastic band, Adidas stripes and the Carhartt “C.” These blatant labels are about nostalgia and ironytheme — than they are about persona building and defining.

And when it comes to designer goods? What we showcase now is cost. But this isn’t My Super Sweet 16 — and we’re not announcing how much we spend. We’re loudly celebrating how much we save.

I recently bought a pair of shoes that my mouse wouldn’t even dare to hover over at full price. They were the kind of boots that asked, “Rent or footwear?” and let’s be real: I chose restaurants. But on one fateful day, they not only went on clearance, they were available in my size. And I had a gift card.

Divine intervention.

Since opening the box, I haven’t been able to shut up about how cheap they were. “Practically free,” I’ve told everyone, unprompted. “Less money than a movie and dinner,” following a compliment. “You’ll never guess how much I didn’t spend,” and so on. But I’ve talked to others about why I do this, and when it comes to excessive Sale Bragging, I’m not the only one.

Part of me wonders if sale-bragging is about making sure that while we can now afford the odd luxury (or make an autonomous decision to screw ourselves over when technically, we can’t), we’re still adamant about proving that we’re not proving anything. Or perhaps that we don’t want to perceived as gluttonous — so maybe it’s about being self-conscious.

The other part of me wonders if the savings are simply a result of the shopping high; we’re so stoked, we can’t shut up. That there’s the hunt, and then there’s the score. That Céline and Dries are great and all, but 80% off is the real artist. Maybe “I got it on sale” is the new It-Brag.

Get more Fashion ?
  • They are the result of the shopping high! We can’t believe we scored such a deal =)


  • I am so guilty of this. Every time I snag a major deal, I can’t just take a compliment on the item scored – I just HAVE to tell them how much I saved! I don’t even notice I am doing it until mid-dealbrag most of the time. I just love a good sale and feel compelled to share.

    My story of scoring a vintage Dior camel wool boyfriend blazer for $3 is still a favorite though.

  • Mary

    Retailers have so many discounts, promotions and sales these days, that I’ve gotten to a point where I won’t pay the full price on an item unless I’m totally in love with it, or it’s completely unique. I refuse to pay $300 for a jacket when I know that in a few days time I will probably get an email in my inbox (from that same store), with the subject line: ‘Get 30% off with X promo code’. Especially for mundane things, like yoga pants. Why would I spend $80 on YOGA PANTS?! Especially when I know there’s probably a promotion on it’s way. Like, I can wait for yoga pants.
    But when you do bag that sale/promotion/discount, especially on something unique, there’s something very rewarding about it. Hence the reason I brag about it.

    • soniadelvalle

      THIS! Exactly. I’ve also come to a point where I do not pay full price unless I absolutely need it or I absolutely love it. And, as you say, there’s always a sale around the corner!

      • Kristen

        I’m like that too, except I get really irrational sometimes and start sweating because I need that item RIGHT AWAY because what if my size sells out or maybe there won’t ever be a sale or something, yknow?? I’m still working on that.

  • I think many of us are afraid of conspicuous / invidious consumption and the associated bad vibes. Money is a stressful and oppressive subject and it feels bad (to me) to flaunt it in the form of non-essential goods. I also associate shopping with anxiety and have never, as an adult, experienced said “high,” so I may be having a different conversation!

    I find the whole thing reminiscent of the pressure to seem easy going w/r/t fitness & nutrition while somehow having a body that one might only achieve through rather fastidious fitness-&-nutrition-ing. Like, oh this? This was nothing.

    • Well-put, I agree completely. And I think that difference between luxury and necessity is often rarely discussed and almost always blurred. It’s healthy to create conversation surrounding the differentiation in order to create some perspective. I’ve no issue with people who use the fruits of their labor to buy expensive things — it’s the volume and production of these items that I find particularly scary.

  • I just say that I got everything on sale because when I complain about having no money, and then buy something new, I feel like I have to justify it with a HUGE sale or an even bigger lie. I got a pair of shoes for TEN DOLLARS a few days ago. I bought them after I said I wasn’t going to buy myself anything else until March. BUT WHO CAN SAY NO TO TEN BUCKS?! can we see your bootz or nah

    • andrea raymer

      This is how I tell my mom that I bought anything. I pay in cash so it doesn’t show up on my credit card bill and tell her it was ten dollars cheaper than it actually was.

    • My justification is usually just, “Oh, THIS? This was a gift.”

      • Lulu

        Haha! Mine is, “This old thing, I’ve had this for years, just haven’t worn it in a while.”

    • Michelle

      omg haha I do exactly the same thing!! I use cash and say it cost maybe $5 to $15 less than it actually did. I don’t know why exactly, I never buy things that are that expensive, there is just this crazy guilt that I get when I buy anything.

  • Allie Fasanella

    There is nobody that loves a bargain more than my mother. She’s a nut about garage sales and thrift shops. She’s been known to trash pick. When I was younger I didn’t want to be associated with this “hobby” of hers. In high school she got me a juicy zip up for super cheap at a thrift shop, but when my friends asked where I got it I didn’t tell them. I wanted them to think it was expensive because that essentially equaled cool. It’s weird how now I would never do that. I hate buying things full price and I definitely get a high from getting a good deal. I now get my mother a bit more.

    • My mom “scored” a Juicy jacket for me from a second hand store when I was in high school too! Although I thought it was a huge bummer when I was younger, I’m so glad that her sale savvy rubbed off on me. I love the hunt.

      • Allie Fasanella

        hahah me too. Definitely have a newfound appreciation for her ways as a college student.

  • Teresa

    HAHAHA! Amelia, I totally did this last week. I hopped into a TJMaxx, where my designer max for the minimum dreams came true, and I bragged it up at my work the next day by bringing the dress in to show my coworkers because I knew they would not believe me…and I will continue my Brag here…Alice and Olivia silk sequined white shift dress, that is begging for a turtleneck and jeans to be worn with it…original price tag $598.00…clearance rack price $25.00! I mean COME ON!!!!! I don’t even buy sequins, but this was too perfect, and even if I wear it just once it will be worth it. Great read!

    • That’s crazy! I love TJMaxx and similar stores. I’ll frequently find a crazy deal because I’m drawn to weird prints no one else wants

    • starryhye

      I recently scored big at TJ’s too! But it was on a Le Creuset French oven, not clothes…still. $69 instead of $240!? I’m still high from that find

  • I’ve been searching for the perfect motorcycle leather jacket ever since I equated it with being “cool” about 13 years ago. Now we’re sick of seeing pleather knock offs everywhere, but it was actually really hard to find one just a few years ago.

    Enter Black Friday. Not only did I find the perfect motorcycle jacket (actual leather! the last one! in my size!) at Michael Kors – it was 75% off!!


  • I remember those days of high school uniforms when it was “oh so important” that everyone accessorize with high-end scarves and cardigans. Admins felt that it was being discriminatory, so they just banned all non-uniform scarves and cardigans. It’s a good thing that those times have passed.

    In an effort to avoid being gauche with friends, there is always going to be some justification for the purchase. I know people who will hide the fact that it was on sale, and just let it seem like they made the commitment to buy it. That’s just another story.

  • I think that’s one of those odd quirks our generation will always have from the Recession. Like how my Depression-survivor grandma saved and reused wrapping paper.

    • BK

      I’ve lived through no Depression and still save and reuse wrapping paper…

  • It’s impossible not to share/brag if it’s that good a deal! #guilty


  • Shelby Soke

    What i find strange, that now a lot of people (myself included) lie about sales. If I have something that is visibly more expensive, I always want to say, “Oh, I got it on sale, I’d NEVER pay that much” (even if I did). I think that modesty is good,so is not living outside your means, but if you love something and save up for it, I find it silly that there’s this urge to down play it/lie about it.

    • Bob

      I do the same. Always play down the price, sale or not. What man wants to admit he’s wearing $900 Ambrosi trousers or $1700 St. Crispins shoes. But I do love a good sale… I can’t seem to justify to myself spending $85 on a pocket square or $200 on a tie. Lol.

  • I think it has to do with wanting to fit in to both worlds, being both high-end fashionable, and part of the proletariat… I totally do it too, like the style version of the humble-brag.

  • Accidental Icon

    I think the recession made everyone afraid to be conspicuous consumers, so it is probably a combination of the many reasons you list above, both cultural and personal as so many things are. Somehow you believe you are “outfoxing” capitalism when you get something that is already so overinflated in price that you end up paying on sale probably still more than it costs to make. It certainly makes luxury more democratic.
    Accidental Icon


    • dustUP

      Reality is that 1000 euro cashmere sweater still cost 30 euro to produce. Markups are merciless these days and everybody wants a slice of designer cake. It’s true that designer and team needs to be paid, some profit to be made, but markups today count in couple of hundreds of %, easily 600% on top of wholesale price when the item reaches brick&mortar retail, which is ridiculous in any case.

      • My mom lives near an outlet mall, and I have very mixed feelings about shopping there. For whatever reason my mom really values the big preppy labels, thinking that they’re the best quality. Now that I live in NYC I’ve seen how drastically different the quality is for some of those stores. (Banana Republic, Gap). She kept buying me Lacoste sweaters from the outlet mall, and the tags would say “designed in France, made in Bulgaria” etc. The sweaters were still a waste of money because there would be giant holes just after two wears

        The kind of odd thing about the situation is that my family is working class – my mom’s a cleaning lady, and my grandmother destroyed her health by working in one of these types of clothing factories for 20 years. I’ve seen what kind of poverty you live in when you work in a garment factory. My mom just didn’t think that the outlet mall clothes are manufactured cheaply, meaning that people are probably exploited

  • elizabeth

    My very favorite thing that my best friend says re: clothing items: “Thanks, I got it deeply discounted.”

  • I’m guilty of doing this too. Perhaps it’s my way to justify spending money on myself, while, in reality I deserve it no matter the price! Nothing brings me joy like spending money I worked hard for on things I love.

  • starryhye

    I used to work in high end retail, before I had kids and a mortgage, etc. I scored A LOT of amazing high end goods, with the help of past season returns and a generous employee discount. It seemed frivolous at the time, especially considering I made a meager salary. Back then I let people think I paid more than I did. I was all about conspicuous consumption, sort of keeping up with the Jones’ if you will. It was also the early 2000’s and we were coming off the unrealistic closet of Carrie Bradshaw and co. Over 10 years later, I still have some incredible designer pieces that I could never justify spending money on today. Now though, I’m happy to tell you just how little I paid for it because I’m afraid I’ll be judged about how expensive said item is/was!

  • Okay, it has always been a huge turn off to me to see a guy buy a bunch of shiny new things at full price. Maybe it’s my primal side all like… We would never survive in the wild, he would be the worst hunter ever! Also he could have gotten me twice as many charms for my charm bracelet had he made better use of his allowance! So… People of resource are sexy.

  • But what we all really wanna know is: are the prices on that picture real?

  • Glow On

    I love finding great deals. Nordstrom rack and last chance are some of my favorites. Not to mention Off 5th. I can totally relate to label fatigue. http://Www.getchaglowon.com

  • I think it’s just a sign of the times. When our economy is doing well, we as a whole tend to project that (and, thus, brag about what we spent). When our economy is in the toilet, we project that too (and, thus, brag about what we didn’t spend).

    It’s not cool to buy anything at full price anymore, and thanks to the internet, we don’t have to. 🙂

  • Madeline

    I used to be so damn embarrassed about ONLY shopping the sale!! It’s now my badge of honour. Why is my closet overflowing? Sale. Why do I have too many pairs of booties? Sale.
    Double-edged sword… but I’m still loving it. AND MR OBVI <3 <3 <3

  • mariana

    Hi! you should watch this… Its about three bloggers who travel to Cambodia and visit the factories of Intitex group (zara), Nike, H&M and some others.
    85% of my closet is from Zara, but this is really tragic.
    I think we should be aware of the conditions in which these people live, for us to have affordable fashion.


  • I find it’s sort of a justification as to why I just HAVE to buy a certain item. It’s in my size, it’s on sale, further reductions, free shipping/returns! Is it bad that I only shop during sales now? Unless I really like it and know it’s in danger of selling out. I can’t express how depressed I feel when I buy something on full price and see the exact thing at 70% during sale period. I could’ve used that money to buy something else, know what I mean?!


  • Lia Celeste

    Thrift shopping is cool now, I think it has something to do with that.

  • Ale

    I found a pair of Dries Van Noten pumps for 19 euro in an outlet!

  • It’s that hunter-gatherer instinct kicking in!

  • Abigail

    “They were practically giving them away”

  • Anna Lila

    Brag, brag, brag. It’s the hunt, the kill, and the trophy.

  • DJ

    So guilty. I can’t even pay retail for anything. I’m addicted to the high and then I end up with a crap pile of clothes I tried to make work but just don’t.

  • Jessica

    As a thrifter, I am hugely guilty of this. Every now and then, I find some fabulous designer item at the thrift store that’s marked ridiculously low, b/c the staff don’t recognize its value (I shop a lot at these big-box types local thrift stores that overvalue mall brands – the gems are the designer goods from the 80’s and 90’s that most don’t recognize as value).

    My best thrift was over this past Christmas, I picked up a classic, quintessential beige men’s Burberry trenchcoat (in PERFECT condition) for a measly $45. Its insanely beautifully constructed. I still haven’t shut about it, and its not even for me! For me, its the thrill of the hunt, and when you score something like this, the high is fantastic, long-lived, and I want to share it with everyone.

  • lemongreenteaph.blogspot.com

    I have always been told that they love what I have been wearing lately, I told them the truth that I got the romper, shorts, tops on sale. This is just the truth. All my life, I am on the lookout for anything “on sale” label.

  • Meredith

    “I got it at Goodwill” is my personal favorite sale brag. Sure, you might have to try on the clothes over your clothes cause someone took a dookie in the dressing room, but you found something you never realized you always needed and no one else will have it.

  • gromlette

    Kind of an interesting sociological question: Is Sale Bragging (a) an annoying manifestation of people gaining social consciousness (ie. there’s so much deprivation in the world, how can you POSSIBLY justify spending $500 on that Chloe bag?)… unlikely. (b) a form of meaningless but somewhat satisfying social competition (like the 25-minute rendition of “my day was so much worse than yours!”) or (c) satisfying because you feel you’ve outsmarted/hustled the system in some way or (d) your mother’s generation has instilled so much guilt regarding paying full price for ANYTHING that you absolutely cannot buy it unless you’ve gotten a deal….. My mother still lies to my grandmother about what she’s spent on everything from groceries to pashminas. It’s adorably batshit.

  • xtyb

    Did I tell you about the Celine coat I got for 70% off???

  • If it’s on sale I always tell myself look it’s practically free, you can get it!:P


  • Jackie

    Such a great deal! Thanks for the saving tips! Check out http://www.cgcdaily.com/

  • littleblacksweats.com

    I’ve been sale bragging my whole life. I’m far more proud of my ability to find amazing stuff at a fraction of its retail value than I am of just having amazing stuff. And now people pay me to do it for them!

  • Neuter

    The only problem is when you buy fancy stuff that you wouldn’t normally wear but it’s hot and it’s an amazing deal but now you never ever wear it so it sits there all lonely giving you that I’m so cool why won’t you wear me look but you’re like naah I don’t think so, not today.

  • Laura Knight

    A good article, and very true that the world of selling is very important and, unfortunately under developed. The key points I’d highlight here are the value of research, but on an ongoing basis, knowing more about your lcients and prospects help you understand them and expose opportunities for further business. Of course we don’t want to buy from someone we don’t like, this doesn’t mean we will buy from someone we do. For me, sales is more complicated (and important) than just looking for a character that people may like and these credit products help to overcome financial crisis and do some shopping anytime.

  • Maliha Mohiuddin

    I just got back from a trip to NYC and that is exactly how I’ve been justifying my shoe purchases. As the Creative Director of The Hare & Style my team and I rely heavily on Zara for finishing the look of a lot of our shoots. But, there is nothing that can take away the exquisite joy you feel when you find designer shoes, like the Jimmy Choo espadrilles I just scored at Neimans for an upcoming shoot. It’s most definitely the greatest brag when you say, “It was just such a steal, I couldn’t walk away without them!” Xo

  • Karel Jenny Missier

    Again i am reading about sales, discounts and promotions. And all i have to do is sitting down in a stuffy old building office. Check the building out below. And when it will be my chance to go shopping? See you hopefully soon, Karel Jenny Missier