how to shop sample sales

February 25, 2015

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[My favorite Fall sample piece score was this printed Tibi skirt with metal clasp detailing]

When I moved to New York one of the things I was looking forward to was a holy grail of shopping: Sample Sales. If I’m being honest, it actually took me some time to “get the hang of it” as it happens to be the more unglamorous side of fashion. Often the hours are awful (smack in the middle of the work day for those of us that work jobs with more typical 9-6 hours), the lines can be for real and the clientele? Somewhat unbearable.

That all being said…if you exercise patience, it can be so worthwhile. So for this week’s The Edit, I’m breaking down my top tips for shopping sample sales whether you live in NYC or have a trip planned and want to try and take advantage of the sales going on while you’re in town.

First and foremost…you have to get in the know of when the sales are going down. My two favorite resources are Racked + Mizhattan. I subscribe to their newsletters + RSS feeds respectively so I know in advance which sales I want to hit up. I pencil them into my calendar and, if they are of particular interest, I hold the time on my Outlook calendar. (This is only the case when the shopping Gods align and a sale happens to be near my office.)

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[Rag & Bone jeans originally nearly $300, marked down to $100 – they make my favorite jeans]

So here goes on my take with samples…The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

The Good:

The best sample sales are organized, well stocked and replenished each day. Most will even offer extra markdowns on the last day so it is worth it to go if you really love that brand. Read reviews ahead of time on Racked or Mizhattan so you know what you’re heading into. The best sample sale experiences I’ve had have been at Rebecca Taylor, Tibi, Rag & Bone and Hanky Panky. Mostly because they are relatively organized but also because they are some of my favorite designers and I know they fit me well so they are worth waiting in line for and worth the chaos to me.

And my best advice for shopping at sample sales? Know your size in that particular designer before you go in. It will save you so much stress and time because you won’t be using up your limit of items in the dressing room trying to wear a 4 when you’re really a 6 in a particular brand. Or OMG there’s only one pair of size 37 shoes left but let me try them on – nope, too late – they’re gone.

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[A jacquard skirt I went back to get on the last day of the most recent Tibi sample sale, getting an extra 25% off the sale price]

The Bad:

Some sample sales you go to will be sold out in your size within the first few hours if you are anywhere between a 0-4. Brands offer “previews” to editors, bloggers and friends of the brand so they get the pick of the litter before the public. These folks are generally those sizes and therefore those sizes go quickly. Know this before you go to uber popular brands. Other brands put in bad merchandise meaning merchandise that was for sample purposes (like that Club Monaco blazer I found that was lovely in front and then I turned it over to find it covered in safety pins!), only have sample sizes period (I’m looking at you Current/Elliot and all of your 26 size jeans) or offer damaged merchandise. Look carefully before you go to purchase and try things on whenever possible. You should be warned that sometimes brands don’t even offer a place to try on and at others the lines are horribly long. Space will be crowded and you’ll have to check your coat and bag. Keep your wallet and phone with you because I’ve actually been given someone else’s bag when departing a sample sale.

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[Club Monaco heels originally over $250 and scored for $89]

The Ugly:

I went to the Manholo Blanhik sale and nearly got run over. Seriously, some girl dove over a table, nearly taking me down with her. Then I looked to my left to see a woman filling two large Rubbermaid bins with shoes. Like the bins people store all their Christmas decorations in. She had filled BOTH to the brim with shoes all in her size. And let me tell you, designer shoes at sample sales are still expensive (IMO). It was then that I realized the error in my ways and walked out, refusing to be a part of that circus any longer. Note to self: designer shoes sales = not worth it.

scalloped1.jpg[The Helmut Lang blazer I bought at my first ever successful sample sales over 2 years ago- still one of my favorite pieces]

So there you have it…a play by play on my sample sale POV. It truly is a game of you win some you lose some but if you have patience, you may end up getting something you had your eye on for a major markdown. And let’s be real, who doesn’t love scoring a good deal?!

Happy Wednesday! xx

p.s on a somewhat related note, my favorite Club Monaco leather leggings are on sale right now in all sizes & are practically a sample sale price! I styled them here, here.

[Bekka Palmer Photography]

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