The Pros and Cons of a Sample Sale

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You hear about a sample sale going on downtown, and suddenly you feel the need to drop everything, because–OMG–you might just get something for $300 that retails for over $1k.  Totally understandable.  Kind of.

Because here’s the deal with sample sales–they’re kinda maybe not always that great.  Call me blissfully ignorant, but when I think of designer clothing, I prefer to think of it in a pristine environment that’s been expertly merchandised and free of thousands of ruddy, greedy hands rifling through shit that’s been thrown on the floor.

The sample sale hits you with the stark reality that, though these clothes are made well, they’re not always all that different from lower price point items that come without a designer label.  That sweatshirt is not exactly worth the $700 price tag–and this is obvious, because it’s now sitting in a pile on the cement warehouse floor, being trampled by Acne booties.

But the worst thing the sample sale can do for you is cast the spell of sale and designer numbness over you–that hazy feeling (or lack of feeling) that makes you purchase things you only kinda like and don’t really love.  Things that you may or may not have purchased at the discounted price to begin with.

But, your brain screams, you’re at a sample sale!  This is urgent!  Where can you find a dress by this designer for only $400?  You need to buy this now before anyone else snatches it up!  Don’t put it down for even a second, or Miss Uggs over there is going to scoop it up and snag that deal for herself.

With this kind of mindset, it’s all too easy to end up with buyer’s remorse.  Here are some things to consider when embarking on a sample sale shopping expedition:

Is it rent week?  If the answer is yes, then GTFO.

Is this something you were eyeing before the sample sale?  If so, your best bet is to get it–if you can afford it–because the stars have aligned to make this financially and physically possible for you.  And you already know you actually love it, instead of just being smitten.

Is it your size (or close to it)?  I know you love it, but it’s a 4 and you’re a 10, and unless you plan on listing it on eBay–the saving grace of sample sale buyer’s remorse–put it the fuck down.  Conversely, if you’re a 2 and the piece is a 10, be wary; some things look good oversized, and if it’s a sweater or top, you might be able to make it work.  But don’t buy it so it can sit in your closet waiting for that one day you feel like looking like a bag lady/gain 20 pounds/have a bun in the oven.

Do you love it?  I know when it comes to sale items, the Love vs. Like Rule is a little flexible–maybe even more so with designer sample sales, given the demand behind the name.  But it becomes all too easy to rationalize a $200 purchase of something you only like, when in reality, you’ve seen plenty of $200 items at your local Bloomingdales that you absolutely loved but told yourself you couldn’t afford.  So take a second to think seriously about why this situation is any different.  (Because if you really can afford it, why not just get the thing you love?).

When/where will you wear this, and with what?  If you can’t answer this question, you do, in fact, have your answer.

Are most of these questions pretty basic things to consider when shopping?  Absolutely.  They just become all the more important when your senses are heightened to match the frenzied energy present at a sample sale, when it’s all too easy to fall into the flow of zealous consumption for the sake of consumption (and some dope designer names, yo!).

If all else fails, and you’re still a little whoozy from sample sale numbness–and more than a little panicky–there’s always eBay.  If you play your cards right, you’re likely to make money on the deal.

On the more optimistic side, if you happen to find something you love at a sample sale for a great price, pat yourself on the back and revel in the glory of your purchase.  And for God’s sake, wear it.

Photo c/o The Frugal Model.


  1. alicecaboni · ·

    great blog, you are doing a good job 🙂 go on like this!
    If you don’t mind, check out my fashion blog 🙂 or

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