The words conjure sadomasochistic urges in the hearts of die-hard shoppers: “Sample Sale.” Cropping up in bursts at the ends of each season, sample sales unleash a mad rampage of women rushing from offices and studios to score designer duds at nigh wholesale prices. Women wear sample sale finds like badges on their arms, scars from a war-torn country where everyone looks fabulous.
The start of June is generally known in my calendar as ‘prime sample season.’ Not only are the hottest designers releasing their spring wares at slashed prices, the big department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys pull their prize pieces off the gold racks and cram them onto the brass. My biggest piece of advice for the potential sample sale enthusiast: walk past the tantalizing seasonal pieces for $50 and find the quality, fitted pieces for $200. The best advice a friend ever game me was to use my fingers and let my sense of touch do the shopping, finding rich fabrics and smooth seams.
That’s what I had in mind as I fought 88-degree heat to hit Catherine Malandrino first, where I had to surrender all my possessions save my wallet. In the beyond, I was pushed and shoved by everyone from prim women in gray business suits to tall models pushing babies in strollers (true). The selection was fantastic — peachy chiffon dresses that were selling weeks ago at Intermix for $595 had been dropped to $249, and flirty tops, including one fantastic electric blue tube, were $99. That said, I headed straight for the “Limited Edition” room where I hit the jackpot: fantastic tailored silk jackets had been knocked from nearly a grand to $300. I found one glamorous 1930s-style cropped tuxedo jacket with embroidery and a colored satin lining that will last ten seasons.
Where Catherine Malandrino had sponsored several rooms, one of which was for changing, the sample sale at Miguelina consisted of one giant room stuffed with silk and lace frocks, über-girly camisoles and women undressing. Watching dozens of desperate women who no doubt have completely respectable professions strip down to their skivvies in public is a singular experience. One topless woman turned to me and sighed, “This is just pure, unadulterated torture to save some money.” The bloodbath continued as half-naked women scrambled to snatch jewel-toned silk tops from $95-$125 and flowing dresses from $135-$235. Several women waiting in line broke down when I tried taking a picture of the chaos, exclaiming that they couldn’t be photographed or their bosses would kill them for skipping work. One woman wailed she was supposed to be at a doctor’s appointment.
But who am I to criticize these couture-clad warriors? I stripped down to my undies in the middle of a Barneys warehouse sale to try on a $300 Narcisco Rodriguez cocktail dress and faked a position at Morgan Stanley to get into a corporate event at Carolina Herrera. But I still have those dresses, and no ethicist in the world can take them away.