Growing up in Ohio, I didn’t encounter many, er, any sample sales. In fact, I had no clue what one was until I went to college in the big city of Chicago, and all the girls who grew up in L.A., Connecticut, and New York would be all, “I’m going to Wicker Park for so-and-so-designer’s sample sale.” By then I had started subscribing to Daily Candy and had a little bit of a clue, but I didn’t go to one myself until I moved to New York after school. It was terrifying. All these normally expensive clothes and accessories for less! And you had to try everything on in front of other shoppers or on top of your clothes! And you couldn’t return or exchange anything! I didn’t buy anything at the first few I went to, but I kept tagging along with friends because I didn’t want to “miss out” on some amazing, one-of-a-kind steal. And then I broke my sample sale seal.
I know designers and showrooms hold sample sales because they need to get rid of inventory, and causing a frenzy can make people purchase things they wouldn’t under normal circumstances. I know that sometimes my adrenaline gets the best of me and I make a truly questionable spur-of-the-moment purchase. But, I’m OK with being tricked into pulling out my credit card, because if it weren’t for sample sales, I might never buy anything, ever.Normally, I’m the kind of shopper who quietly peruses racks of clothes. I don’t try on anything unless I’m pretty sure I want to buy it, and I generally only buy something if I’m in love with it. When I purchase a dress I’m iffy about, I return it a week later. If I see something I like online, I’ll waffle about it for days and days, and when I finally do decide to get it, my size will be out of stock
Sample sales, however, keep me on my toes. Whether they’re online, like Gilt Groupe, or in real life, the hysteria forces me to make snap decisions. In a normal shopping situation, I can come back another day or convince myself I won’t mind the slightly puffy shoulders even though I will once I get home. I can change my mind. At a sample sale, I have to be honest about my feelings toward a 50-percent off trench coat because I won’t get another chance with it. I like vintage shopping and thrifting for the same reasons.
So, while some prefer stopping by department stores or malls, where the clothing options seem to be endless and returns can be made within 30 days, I’ll take the rush of a sample sale instead. Buying at them is like placing a bet. I won’t know how I’ve fared until I bring my finds home, and, at that point, I’m stuck with them and must find a way to make them work. And, somehow, my sample sale purchases end up becoming my favorite clothes. Maybe the risk involved makes me appreciate them more.