I love clothes. Fancy ones. Lots of them. But folks don’t do non-profit work for the influx dollar bills. So, to sate my sartorial hunger (and keep the lights on), I frequent sample sales. I remember the first time I went to one, I figured,
‘This will be just like shopping at a regular sale.’ I was mistaken.
Since then, I’ve amassed a few sample sale shopping tips and this summer in particular, I must say, I’ve been winning. Check out what I’ve learned:
1. Plan your Attack…but be flexible
There’s something about the energy at a sample sale. You are literally on the hunt. In some cases, you might have been waiting in line for some time. When those doors finally open, you can sort of…go wild. So, it helps to have a plan in mind. For example, at a recent sample sale I attended, I knew that I wanted this dress: And this dress: So when I walked into the space with a throng of other women, I began assessing where to start grabbing not by size, but by color; I was looking for a jade green striped fabric and the color teal and that’s what I got! Now, once, I’d secured my dress, I was free to expand my horizons. And, boy did I. Here are just a few of my treats: 2. Go Early
Sample sales can work two ways:
1. It’s a one-day affair and the designer et al place everything they have out in one shot.
2. It’s one-day or multi-day affair and the design team keeps replenishing the racks throughout the experience.
In both cases, going early insures you get the best selection and get in and out quickly. Not to mention that as a plus size shopper, if there is anything in available in your size at all, the pickings are quite slim.
3. Go Alone…Or with folks that are different sizes.
I know–this is one is controversial. Shopping is a generally considered a social experience; who wants to go alone? ( Well, me. But I’m apparently a creep and an introvert, so shopping alone is bliss). But (particularly in the context of a situation where there’s ‘only one’ of whatever thing you covet), things can get awkward quickly when it’s you vs. same sized friend and only one thing in your shared size to go around. Instead, go with folks of different sizes and expand your horizons. She’s looking at things in her size but also peaking around for things in yours and vice versa.
4. Get Ready to Get Publicly Naked…or very close to it
Most sample sales are located in rented space; one room and a few mirrors. If you’re lucky, the designer has erected some sort of makeshift fitting room, but even then, there’s a ton of communal nakedness. Either get ready to take it all off, or come prepared to be as close to naked as you can, without actually showing any skin. My sample sale uniform of choice? Loose top, leggings, easy-off shoes and a tank top.
5. Don’t Take on Other People’s Body Snarks It is unfortunate, but my experience has been that sometimes, a room full of naked ladies can often create a room full of insecure ones. As they say, hurt people, hurt people. For example, in one communal dressing room, an older plus size woman was next to me admired a simple black dress I tried on. She said, sotto voce;
It is unfortunate, but my experience has been that sometimes, a room full of naked ladies can often create a room full of insecure ones. As they say, hurt people, hurt people. For example, in one communal dressing room, an older plus size woman was next to me admired a simple black dress I tried on. She said, sotto voce;
‘I simply love dress like that. It really hides everything, which girls like us need.’
And still another watched me try on a strapless dress and kept telling me how I looked great and I was ‘so brave.’
Lady. I’m not fighting fires, I’m just bearing arms.
My favorite story by FAR, is that I picked up a beautiful sort of golden olive jersey slinky dress and began to size it up in the mirror. A woman of my exact skin tone approached me with a completely unsolicited opinion and said, ‘That color really isn’t for you; it washes you out.’ Now, I was on the fence about the dress and WAY over my budget, so put it down and continued to browse. Minutes later, I saw that same woman (the one with my exact skin tone) checking out with MY dress (You know, the one that washed me out). The point is, another person’s insecurities about their body are not yours. Moreover, you never really know WHY a person has shared an insecurity with you. Trust your OWN eye and your gut and you’ll do fine.
6. Be Creative
As I said earlier, a plus size sample sale shopper has to contend with the fact that many times, there’s not much available in your ‘size.’ Remember though, that sizes are just numbers and depending on the fabrication, they may have no bearing whether or not something will actually fit. So if it stretches, is generously cut or cut on the bias, try it on; you never know! And yes, people might look at you askance for putting your plus size body in their straight size pieces but…see tip #5. Now, sometimes, you might pick up something that legit just doesn’t fit. That’s when you get really creative. Take, for instance, this dress:
Nevermind that I took the pic with my work Blackberry and I have on my workout kicks–focus! I found this beautiful dress at the DemestiksNYC sample sale in Brooklyn. I picked up the dress because I loved the pattern. It’s like a size 12 and I’m a good size 16/18, but the waist is elastic and the skirt is full. The fabric and design are stunning but as you can see, it’s entirely too long for my plus petite frame and bust is just…untenable. Still, I bought it because I had a vision. I knew that hemming the dress would be cinch and the bust could be adjusted with some small additional strips of fabric.
7. Be Nice
We learned this when we were kids and it never goes out of style. Let’s talk more about this awesome DemestiksNYC dress, shall we? Reuben Reuel, the awesome designer behind DemestiksNYc ran just a few minutes late to the sale and when he arrived there were a handful of women there. Instead of sitting around and waiting for him to tell us we could start shopping, we approached him and offered a hand. He accepted and we got to work setting things up. That benefited everyone in a ton ways:
1. It’s generally always good to do good things. It’s its own reward, you know?
2. We got the space set-up super quickly because many hands tended to the work.
3. We got FIRST DIBS at looking at and shopping the goods! So when I came across the dress, I fell in love. Things were already discounted but, because I because I helped (and also because Reuben is a just a good egg), he gave me
So when I came across the dress, I fell in love. Things were already discounted but, because I because I helped (and also because Reuben is a just a good egg), he gave me an even deeper discount. To be a clear, I bought a dress that retails for about $170, for $25. I took that dress to my tailor, adjusted things as I planned and this is what I was able to cook up:
Notice the extra strips of fabric I had inserted so that the dress worked for my shape. Instead of choosing to get the strips made in exactly the same fabric and risk issues like the pattern not lining up, I went for a matching fabric that echoes the dress color scheme. To make that additional fabric feel cohesive, I also had a bit of it placed at the neckline as piping. The tailor charged me $20 for the alterations. The total cost of the dress for me was $45. That’s still not even a 1/3 of the actual cost of the dress! These are just a few rules that have worked for me. I’d love to hear yours too. Sound off in the comments and let’s make sure our closets flourish at the next sample sale!
Thanks for reading; talk soon!
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