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Design By Humans
Published On: Thu, Aug 28th, 2014

How to Score at a Sample Sale

SAMPLE-SALE-JPGWhen planning your trip to New York, there are plenty of “musts” to check off your list: Lady Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Magnolia Bakery and the blowfish at Grand Central Station. However, don’t miss out on one of the most incredibly “only in New York” items of all: The Sample Sale. They happen year-round, and some fashionistas even plan their trips around their favorite sales. However, there are some things you need to know before you show up blindly with credit card in hand.

There are some great sites regularly updated to keep you in the loop, such as Racked NY. However, do some research and find your own favorite sites based on user friendliness, reviews and general layout. The top sites are updated daily and include every possible designer so you never miss out. From Chanel to indie designers you’ve never heard of, there truly is a sample sale for everyone.

An Exclusive Club

For many of the top designers (think Manolo Blahnik), you’re not going to be able to get in unless you “know someone.” This “someone” is either going to be an employee of the brand or a celebrity, so if your networks are ruining things, you’re out of luck. In some cases, there’s a slight chance you might be able to buy a pass on a site like Craigslist, but just like anything else there are plenty of scammers. A better bet is to know when to fold and focus your efforts on sales that are invitation-free.

The reason for invitations is that, yes, the deals really are that good but don’t get fooled by the name. You don’t need to be a sample size (usually a 0 or 2) in order to score big. There are usually clothes and shoes of all sizes, many of which were used for catalogue shoots or simply never made it from the warehouse to the stores. Most of the time, there are tags attached and it’s just like shopping at a “real” store. When it comes to savings, you can often find brand new designer duds for up to 90 percent off (and rarely less than 50 percent off).

What to Expect

It very much feels like an illegal operation at your first sample sale. First, know that most sales happen at random times during the week, like 10am on a Tuesday. Fashion-forward folks take the morning off, and the queue starts up to an hour beforehand. The sales are often held at non-descript rental warehouses down vacant alleys, usually with no signage and at times with no clear address. However, you’ll know you’re in the right place when you spot a random line forming in a non-descript location.

The good news is that almost every sample sale takes credit cards because, after all, they want to clear out their lot. However, it’s wise to wear clothes with zippered pockets since you’ll be required to check your bags (including small purses) at the door. You should also wear clothes and shoes that are easy to slip on and off, as well as underwear you’re comfortable walking around in before a bunch of strangers.

All’s Fair in Love and Fashion

Just like in the movies, the dressing rooms (while usually same-sex only) are really just big, open rooms. You need to simultaneously guard your finds (they will get grabbed) while angling for mirror space and standing around in your unmentionables. Nobody will be checking out your love handles or cellulite (they’re focused on their own mission) but it can be off-putting for newbies.

To make the most of your sample sale, set a budget and stick to it. In this case, it might be wiser to carry cash. It’s easy to get carried away, and do you really need that couture gown?

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How to Score at a Sample Sale