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Barneys Warehouse Sale Round 1

September 6, 2011

Once upon a time there was a girl who loved to shop. Boutique, mall, discount store, outlet, if there was cute stuff to be had, she would find hunt it down. And even more than shopping this girl loved a bargain. She took great pride — not just in her ability to find cute stuff, but in her ability to find cute stuff at an amazing price.

Having honed her shopping technique at Boston’s legendary Filene’s Basement flagship, our heroine was ready for the big leagues. So one sunny August afternoon, lured by the promise that, “Everyone could be fabulous,” she headed to Chelsea for her first Barney’s warehouse sale.

Obviously the heroine in this fairytale is me, but unfortunately my first trip to the Barney’s Warehouse Sale was a bust. It was packed, hot, and loud, kind of like being in a night club, except there were no cocktails. Determined not to leave empty handed, I did my best to shift through the mounds on clothing on the racks. Eventually I emerged victorious, with two Barney’s label silk blend turtlenecks, marked down from $200+ to $40. Anxious to try them on (there are no fitting rooms and I hadn’t yet worked up to stripping in front of random strangers for the sake of fashion) I rushed home, only to have the first turtleneck rip as I was pulling it over my head.

I was not impressed, and almost wrote off the entire sale as a waste of time. The key word here being almost…

Five years later, I stopped by the sale to kill some time, and finally discovered why everyone makes such a big deal over it. There were bargains galore, and I even managed to score a couple of pieces I had been coveting for awhile, but couldn’t afford.

Since then the semi-annual sale has become one of the most anticipated events on my fashion calendar. And in anticipation of the August sale (insert link) I thought I’d share some tips for getting the most out of the sale. In general I take shopping very seriously, and Barney’s is like mecca to me, so forgive me if I come across as neurotic. I just really like bargains.

Be Prepared
It’s the little details that really matter. It will be hot, chaotic, and crowded. If that sounds like the 9th circle of hell, skip the sale and do something pleasant with your free time. If you’re still game, remember these basics:
1. Pack Light — That bag you have, that fits your life and then some, should stay at home. If it’s bigger than a piece of paper, you’ll have to check it, which means more obstacles stand between you and the shoes.
2. Dress Accordingly — This is sample sale 101, but wear clothing that’s easy to get in and out of. If you’re squeamish about stripping down in front of strangers, a fitted tank and leggings or bike shorts are great options. Personally I think skirts are the unsung heroes of summer sample sale attire — comfy, lightweight, and you can try on innumerable items without having to take off your clothes. I’ll be wearing something along these lines…

1. Go at the End.
There are people who line up at 6 AM on the first day of the sale in hopes of getting first crack at the merchandise. They’re obviously blessed with lots of free time and disposable income. On the first day the prices are the same as final markdowns in a Barney’s store. So unless you’re looking for a very specific item you couldn’t find anywhere skip the line and the crowds. Shop the end of season sale at a regular Barney’s store and get the full benefit of the Barney’s experience, and the option to return items.

Even more importantly, the discounts get steeper as the sale continues. Typically during the last weekend of the sale discounts drop to 60% off the markdown price (one year it was 75% off), which means you can get a lot of stuff for less than 10% of the original retail price. This makes me so very happy.

2.Do Your Research
At a basic level you should know your sizes in French and Italian. If you’re super dorky like me, you have specific items in mind like this Junya Watanabe

If possible make more than one trip. I go once right after they take the first round of markdowns (usually right after the first full week), and again sometime during the last weekend of the sale. I think of it as a reconnaissance mission, and try to get a sense of what’s there, and what I want. Towards the end, the whole thing turns into a jumbled mess so it’s much easier to find a good deal (and buy something you’ll actually wear) if you have specific items in mind, versus just randomly grabbing things as you go.

Skip the Co-Op Stuff
Yes, there’s tons of discounted merchandise from coveted Co-Op brands like Alexander Wang, Diane von Furstenberg and Rag & Bone. But between flash sale sites like Gilt, discount stores like TJ Maxx, and these brands own sample sales, you can easily find discounts (and a greater selection) from these labels elsewhere. If you really want to maximize your fashion dollar head straight for the designer goods. With all the markdowns and additional discounts, there’s usually an abundance of pieces from Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs, Lanvin, and Proenza Schouler in the $200 range. Not necessarily cheap, but definitely worth the money.

Hoard, but politely
Generally hoarding at a sample sale will result in the stank eye from your fellow shoppers. And for good reason, wholesale smashing and grabbing pushing and shoving other shoppers, and/or claiming an entire rack of clothes as “yours” is never good form. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Take a lap, put the things that catch your eye in a pile (i.e. “hoard”), when the pile gets too unwieldy try everything on, toss the rejects back, repeat as need. Staffers even hand out massive clear bags to facilitate the “hoarding” process.

“No” is not a dirty word
I realize that it’s counter-intuitive to write a long post about shopping and wrap it up by saying it’s okay not to buy anything, but you are not Cinderella and Barney’s is not your fairy godmother. At the end of the day they’re in it to make money by compiling all the stuff they couldn’t sell at full price, marking it down, and hoping you’ll take the bait. For every gem (and there are many gems) there are 10 pieces of utter crap that will take up valuable real estate in your closet. Just because it’s on sale, doesn’t mean you should buy it! Go with a budget and stick to it. Try everything on. If it doesn’t fit, put it back. And most importantly just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you should buy it.

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