Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sample Sale Ninjas

We recently conferred over cocktails about blog topics and thought we'd share with you our favorite strategies for shopping sample sales. Yes, strategies. Sample sales are different from regular sales because they're over in a flash; there are a gazillion people in a room meant to hold 100; there's no rhyme or reason to how any of the merchandise is displayed; there may be no dressing room; there may be no mirror (or one if you're lucky); and if you find three things to try on, chances are if you turn your back for 0.0001 second, someone is reaching for the two you haven't tried on yet.
Bargain Sale

What's a crone to do?

Below is Valerie in her tried and true sample sale ninja costume. Once the try-ons begin, the jacket comes off right away and goes into the rucksack.

Under the jacket is a cotton and lycra camisole, doing double duty as bra and shirt.  (Under that is a brassiere.)  It's a thin layer, and interferes with almost nothing that goes over it.  The skirt is really important.  It opens all the way up past the crotch, so you can try on a pair of pants under it.  It closes with just two buttons, so there's no constant mussing and fussing with buckles or zippers.  If you're trying on another skirt, that one goes on under this one, then this one comes off so you can avoid guessing if something looks right.  Under that a pair of leggings or opaque tights. Black is best. These are much too brightly patterned, and could interfere with your judgment. But if you're going to be in a room with a million people (and yes, sometimes with men too), black leggings guarantee your modesty while giving you a better idea what the clothing will ultimately look like. If you're wearing jeans and a thong, you might not feel comfortable undressing in a unisex room.

The less you have to carry, the better. Carry a small bag that will sling over your shoulder and leave your hands free. Bring necessities only. The bag above contained one credit card, a $20 bill, and a Metro card.  No wallet, no lipstick, no phone! It's very light, with a minimum of things you'd hate to lose.  Valerie leaves the jewelry at home for sample sales. No earrings that come flying off when you try on shirts. No bracelets that prevent you from putting on dresses. No rings that could damage the merchandise. (You are, after all, going at lightning speed.) Shoes are important.  Don't wear your Manolos - someone will step on them. Wear comfortable flats, and, more importantly, don't wear shoes you'll need to zip or buckle or button or tie. You can see Valerie's shoes are unzipped so she can slip in and out of them in a flash. Tacky? You bet! But ladies, this is war!

One last tip from Valerie. Did you notice the little gadget at her waist in the first photo - the thing that looks like a pager? Oh no, it isn't. It's mace. "Lady, step away from the $25 coat I found marked down from $2500. It's on MY rack. OKAY?"

Jean prefers a one-piece jumpsuit for sample sales. Her simple approach: "If it doesn't fit over knit jersey, it ain't gonna fit later at home."

Accessories are kept to a minimum, optimally all in one shoulder bag with multiple compartments.  Like Valerie, Jean only packs essentials (wallet, keys, lipstick). But unlike Valerie, Jean also always brings a cell phone and a camera. Otherwise, Jean subscribes to the gypsies' philosophy of wearing their wealth on their person! (That's why you always saw those gypsy babes in the old B movies wearing coin bracelets, necklaces and belts.  All of their money was with them at all times.)  In this particular instance, Jean has even latched her leopard Totes umbrella to the strap of her shoulder bag. Since Jean even sleeps in her rings, she wears her jewelry 24/7.

Socks and slip-on shoes facilitate running around on showroom floors and slip off easily for quick changes.

Lest you think we exaggerate about the flash mob nature of some sample sales, feast your eyes on this shot of the bedlam at a Bes-Ben hat sale circa 1962.  Factoid: "Bethlem" Royal Hospital in London which treated the mentally ill, is the origin of the word "bedlam", often used to describe chaos or madness.

Below is a Bes-Ben hat. Yeah, we'd totally fight you over this. If you have similar tips or war stories, please feel free to comment and share with the rest of us.


  1. As a crone, I follow similar strategies when shopping estate sales. Looks like I need to add mace to my game plan!

  2. Yes, Pattyskypants, ye of the gimlet eye! No boot for about five minutes. After one bootless week, it's back to the boot for me, due to pain and swelling following bootlessness. Dr. says wear it for the weekend. We shall see if that really means weekend, or week, or... Never a dull moment here. Happily, boot weather is upon us, so some camouflage is possible. Sheesh.

  3. Fantastic post - the hints were terrific - extremely useful and practical. It helps to have this sort of advice from the best!!