Friday, February 26, 2010

Sample Rack Ruckus

This little gem of a topic can swing both ways – NO and DO. But because I have already exhausted my weekly optimism allotment, the door has swung into NO territory.

After all, I cannot allow too much sunshine and ponies and rainbows and funfetti into one week. Need to keep my negative energy levels up! Boy is it exhausting.

Northwestern Connecticut is a considerably large bubble. Or maybe my high school years simply missed the big fashionista boom up there. Regardless, I didn’t even know what 7 For All Mankind jeans were until I pledged a sorority my sophomore year in college.

Me and my pledge sistas were sneaking drinks before a Closed (party with a frat) and one girl was saying how her favorite jeans were Sevens – to which silly blonde little me replied, “You’re A SIZE SEVEN??” (She was super skinny). Everyone laughed.

Yikes did I feel

Alas, as I’ve aged in years, so too has the breadth of my fashion knowledge. It’s become a fine kinda wine. (Working at Bloomingdale’s had a huge hand in brand recognition and favoritism for suuure. It’s been tough to go back to H&M and Forever 26 after discounted Vince and DVF and Rock & Republic – but somehow, I’ve managed.)

A big part of my survival in fashion-obsessed New York City is thanks to sample sales.

After Bloom’s, I worked at a young men’s clothing company. Our designers would send color swatches, specs, pattern designs – the whole kit and caboodle – over to India. Then wham bam thank you ma’am, our Indian factories would send back shirts. Magic! Said shirts were called “samples” and the salespeople used them to sell to stores (say that five times fast).

Bigger, better companies than my previous employer (which shall remain unnamed) have so so so many samples that they sell them at a completely more reasonable price. And I buy them.

Enter: Clothing Line. This gem of a warehouse in the madness that is Midtown has some of the best sample sales I’ve ever been to. Theory, J. Crew, Tori Burch, Kooba, Theory, Milly, Alice + Olivia, Theory, Theory, Theory!

How I wish my wardrobe consisted entirely of Theory. Their designs just fit me so well. So flattering. So classic. Love, love, love.

But this is a no dankes and so I shall no dankes.

Sample sales can be pretty gruesome. And pretty goddamn overwhelming.

There’s the line around the block – undoubtedly full of bitchy people bitching about bitches cutting them. Bitch slaps all around.
There’s the messy, disheveled racks. No organization what-so-ever. Not by size, or color, or sample vs. damage, or shirt vs. sweater vs. dress. (Well that last one is a slight exaggeration – some racks had but a few dresses mixed in with the tops and slacks.)

Your arm goes dead with the weight of 25 items (dresses in my case) as you feverishly flip through hanger after hanger, rack after rack, hurriedly browsing through the madness, hoping something will catch your eye.

Oh but then a big burly man walks by shouting “10 ITEM LIMIT, TENNNN ITEMS!!”, say it ain’t so!!! I always ignore him.

Finally, when your arms can no longer bear their colorful, deadweight burden, you head to the “fitting room”. There you encounter yet another line. GAH, your arms are going to FALL OFF. But shit you have more than TEN ITEMS. But I DON’T WANT TO PUT THEM BACK!!!!!!!! But you must.

Sometimes you can get away with armfuls if it’s not super busy. More often than not, though, the fitting room man cracks his superpower whip. Ever so reluctantly, you pick through each piece, deeming whether or not it’s worthy of a try-on. Believe me, it’s rough.

You grudgingly place more than half your booty on the put-back rack, hoping and wishing and praying it will be there when you’re done with the chosen group. And then, oh yeah, you wait in line. And you wait. And you wait.

I think I had several heart attacks the first time I visited a sample sale’s fitting room. It’s like my encounters with a naked gym-goer nightmare x 5,000. Row after row of naked ladies stripping and standing and strutting around in front of flimsy mirrors (above is a super classy photo I found...I didn’t want to subject you readers to the real madness).

My modest mouse self needed a few sample sale trips under my belt before I could feel comfortable. And now I’m addicted.

Lines and crowds and messy racks and naked ladies aside, sample sales are definitely well worth it. Especially the Theory ones.

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