Friday, August 31, 2012

Sample Sales & Thrift Store Shopping: A How-To Guide

Okay, I freely admit that this might be a post that bores the hell out of you straight men & lesbians. However, since it's my blog & I do write it for my enjoyment and amusement first and foremost here we go. Plus there will definitely be some ranting along w/this little "how to."

Today, I was going to do this chocolate tour that took me ages to book but I ended up being late & missing it. Since the meeting place for the tour was at the same area as a sample sale store I knew of, I decided I'd stop in to browse there. My husband also ordered me to take some money out & "have fun."

*No worries, I'm getting a make-up day for the tour.*

One fact about me: I'm not very good at having spontaneous "fun" all by myself. I don't like spending my own money (and I especially hate wasting my own money), I'm not going to cheat on my husband (eliminating one sort of "fun" you might think of) & if I don't know where things are, I don't like to just wander aimlessly since I'll eventually get bored, exhausted, have sore feet or who knows what else (sunburn? bug bites? busted eardrums or a headache from noisy children?).

I also tend to prefer shopping online since I can find my size (a rarity in NYC unless I go to specific stores where I know they carry it), some sites have free shipping as well as returns & oftentimes, I find things online that I can't find in any store remotely near me. Seriously.

A perfect example is a long skirt slip for this long white skirt I have that's ridiculously sheer. Searched online, found a website that had the length I needed & I was good to go. No lines to fitting rooms, no spending a ton of money on transit travel to get to other areas of the city & no waiting in sweaty subway stations.

But I happened to have time on my hands so I thought "Okay, you know about these sample sales. Why not go check them out?"

For those who aren't familiar with them, here's a vocabulary lesson: a sample sale is a store or building you can go to in order to get discounted clothing. It's typically designer stuff that retails for a shit ton of money (we're talking hundreds & thousands of dollars). These are typically items from the last fashion season or so.

Here are more definitions in case you need them:

A thrift store is a place that sells clothing someone else didn't want anymore. If you're smart, you only go to the ones where they wash all donations before they hit the sales floor. Some places don't do this & especially in NYC, you do NOT want to buy something that could have bedbugs, roach eggs, etc. It will cost you dearly if you end up with some infestation b/c of clothing you bought.

Oh, and a vintage store sometimes claims to be a thrift store but it's really an overpriced place where you can buy things from the past. Unless you have a trillion dollars, are lazy or a particular store is the only place ever that has some unique, one of a kind item you'd just die if you didn't get, don't waste your time here. I typically don't.

Now that we've got that out of the way, here's some more general info on shopping outside the major chain stores or outlets for the chains.

1. If you're tiny, you probably won't find anything in your size. Why can't there be a sample sale just for women who wear my size?!?!? It feels like every sample sale I go to is overflowing with clothes that are way too big on me. Every time I see something I like at one, it's usually way too big on me. It's worse when I see something I like & there's no tag telling me what size the garment is. If I can't see a size, I'm not going to waste my time. Got that? You shouldn't either, whether it's for your or someone else.

2. Why was everything I saw at the first sale I went to (which happens regularly) so sheer? Seriously, they had $30-50 tops there & you could see my hand when I put them inside the garment to test the sheerness. In some cases, you could see the color of my hand!!

I know I can find prostitute clothing for much cheaper than at a sample sale. If you're a woman that gives a damn about not showing her bra or the color of it for the entire world, that hand trick is a good way to determine if something is too sheer. Think of it this way: if you can see your hand contours & certainly if you see your hand's color, that's what your bra will look like under that shirt.

I'm not even speaking of things that looked like club wear. This was stuff that if it had less sheerness, you could wear to work. But God forbid we women get options that don't make us look like whores.

Is this training for the new Romney led world order? Are some fashion designers taking payoffs we aren't aware of? Maybe clothing makers should hire some super frumpy women to make sure things aren't too damn sheer; then they could have something constructive to do instead of annoying the rest of us by calling for censorship of movies, television shows & shoving their mores down our throats.

3. If you are not fashionable, do not waste your time at a sample sale. You probably should also avoid thrift stores that carry lots of different types of merchandise. For those with no fashion sense, this is where that gay friend who knows how to dress comes in handy. Things usually aren't in order, there's lots of bright colors & it's easy to get overwhelmed. I realized today that I leaf through clothes on the racks like my husband leafs through comics in a cheap box. I can go through quickly & assess what would or wouldn't work for me. If you're not that good, you really shouldn't attempt it without help from someone with a fashion sense. These places do not have an abundance of sales people & chances are, there isn't going to be a sales person who can give you personal attention in your clothing selection like you'll find in a more expensive, fancy store.

Granted places like Target don't have those people either but it's much harder to mess up there. You don't need great fashion sense for any retailers that mostly sell the basics. There are tons of stuff at sample sales that are (at least in my view) so not my style & way too flashy or just doesn't look like something you should be wearing in public.

Remember, things that look good on fashion runways are not necessarily things you should wear to visit family or flirt with the UPS guy (sounds cliche, I know but I have heard of women actually doing this; I'm not one of them, though). Listen to that fashionable friend, family member, whoever you bring if you haven't got a sense of style; ideally, that person is honest & won't let you buy a fashion disaster (and I have seen a few, trust me).

4. Try things on before you buy them. If the place doesn't have a fitting room or even a curtain that fully covers a platform, you shouldn't waste your time. I realize Joyce Leslie (at least one location I know of in NYC) has a wide open dressing area for women & if you had a gym teacher you didn't like changing in front of for fear she was checking everyone out, you may be the expert on changing clothes without having to show private parts but I personally have a real problem with a place that can't be bothered to have a changing area. No self-respecting woman would buy ANYTHING she couldn't try on first, especially if she had to then take a train ride back to the store to return that item if it didn't fit her.

When I ask for a fitting room & you say you don't have one, you've officially lost my business unless I'm getting a vest, sweater, coat or something I can try on that doesn't require me to perform a strip show for you & everyone else in the store.

5. Finding things at sample sales & thrift stores is an art. It takes a lot of time, patience, knowing what looks good on you & what doesn't, knowing what you need (since I have so many clothes, I try to buy things that are different from what I already own or that will look great with at least one thing I have already), etc. You don't do it when you're in a hurry & I wouldn't recommend buying gifts for people in this manner unless the person you're buying for pointed out a specific item & said "I want that" or you know the person well enough to assess his/her taste in clothing. This is not something just anyone can do.

The second & third sample sales were better but some of this stuff did come up (things I wanted not being in my size, sheerness or something new in a piece I liked spoiled my interest). I had great luck at one sample sale but I don't think it's around anymore. Sadly, I saw yet another piece there I would have gotten but felt like it was bringing the total too high. I also once saw a white skirt at a sample sale that I still kick myself for not getting since I have yet to see another one in the same style.

The last piece of guidance I can give on thrift store & sample sale shopping is that if you see something that you absolutely MUST have, get it since you might not see it again. I seriously still kick myself for not buying one of these really cute 80s style prom dresses I saw at my local Urban Outfitters in Atlanta before I moved. I didn't want to spend $50 on one (I was trying to save money since I had to quit my job to go to law school) but then I never saw them at any other one & didn't find an 80s style prom dress until years later at a thrift store in NYC. If you think there's any chance you'll be kicking yourself if you don't get something, that means you need to get it.

No comments:

Post a Comment