TFM Fashion

Sample Sales Guide: The Strong Will Be Rewarded

If you are a woman living in NYC, you quickly learn that the best way to get designer swag at a fraction of the price is by getting passionate about sample sales. These amazing, but physically challenging events make it possible to treat yourself to some incredible high-end designers without going broke. The discounts can be anywhere from 20-90% off…but there is a strategy to doing it right so you don’t end up having a mental breakdown in a pile of clothes with a bunch of naked women changing around you.

Find the sales:

Many sites like, and offer daily emails to keep you informed on sample sales, but this can be dangerous. I suggest just checking into the sites when you have some extra cash to spend and are looking for something specific (like a killer dress to wear to that party you know your nasty ex will be at).

Racked is my favorite of them all. Not only do they provide ALL sample sales worth knowing about in multiple cities, but they also provide pictures, pricing, assortment offered, line details, sold through status and all other sample sale conditions an eager shopper would want to know. Kind of like a weather report does for beach goers….you can decide if the merchandise/pricing is worth it before you schlep all the way there.

In addition to online resources, you can call your favorite stores and simply ask them when the next sample sale will be. Also check in with friends of yours who work in the fashion industry or in retail – they are usually well informed on sales and can even get previews that describe what will be sold and the price range. My girlfriend who works for Club Monaco actually just sent me this today:sample sale info

At the sample sale:

Timing is everything: Arrive early. It’s not unheard of for people to wait hours for a big sample sale like Louboutin or Hermes, but generally trying to arrive 30 minutes before the sale starts will ensure that you get access to the best things first.If you can’t get there early, I would suggest avoiding going during lunch time when everyone is on break and the lines can get long. Also keep in mind that some sales like the Barney’s warehouse sale further discount the prices as the sale goes on, so although the merchandise is picked through, waiting means that you can nab items at even further reduced prices.

Wear your Sample Sale uniform: The change rooms at these things are public – so be prepared to be changing in front of other people. I suggest wearing leggings and a tight tank top that you can slip clothes over and shoes that easily come off. If that’s too much to ask, at least wear nice underwear (no one needs to see the shredded up panties you’ve had since tenth grade).

Before you pay: Make sure you really check over whatever it is you’re buying to make sure there are no damages, because that could mean a further discount. At the Barney’s sale this year, every single thing I purchased was from the damaged rack. Since I got there on the first day, there were plenty of gems that were heavily discounted for very minor snags and easy fixes. Also remember that these are final sale items, so ask yourself “would I buy this if it wasn’t on sale?” . It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, but remember that designers can make some pretty ugly stuff too.

When you pay: Keep in mind that alot of sample sales are cash only, and don’t be afraid to bargain if you have quite a few items. At the last DVF sale I went to, I had five dresses and asked if they could throw in the top for free… and c’mon, you know I left with a free top.

Crazy tip:

If you’re really hardcore and can afford the time to do it, many vendors like DVF higher temps for a week or so to WORK at the actual sale. You’ll get access to all of the merchandise first (either for free or at a significant discount), and you’ll make your money back working for $15-$20/hour.

If you don’t live in a metropolitan area that regularly hosts sample sales, you can always use the amazing online sample sales like Gilt Groupe, Rue La La, and Ideeli for amazing deals. offers a more comprehensive listing of sites here.

Goodluck with your Sample Sale adventure! These things are not for the faint of heart, but if you can handle it, you’ll be rewarded for your patience, courage, and ability to push the lady out of the way who reached for the same dress as you.


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