Chicago Manual of Style—2/09/2010

Deals on designer duds at the click of a mouse

By Jessica Hester

Last weekend, a group of my style-savvy friends trekked downtown to go to a sample sale. Those who have been to sample sales before know that the events are better described as “battles to the death over beautiful clothes.” Shopping at a sample sale is a full-contact sport, filled with sprinting to the racks and elbowing opponents out of the way. The strategy is simple: Grab as much as you can, as fast as you can, and try not to fumble. If you put that T-shirt down, you can kiss it goodbye. By the time you turn around, a nimble-fingered victor will be gleefully clutching it on the Red Line home.

I have enough trouble waking up on Saturday mornings without having to put on my game face and body-check my way through crowds. However, skipping out on the hand-to-hand combat doesn’t mean missing out on the sales. Here are some web sites to bookmark to ensure that you always stay one click ahead of the fashion-frenzied pack.

Barney’s Co-Op

I checked out the Co-Op’s Lincoln Park location at the suggestion of my super swanky neighbor who always sauntered in looking sharp in impeccable designer shoes. After deliriously flipping through the well-stocked racks of discounted designer duds, I learned that you can subscribe to an e-mail service alerting you about upcoming sales. The clothes are still jaw-droppingly expensive, but if you’re going to splurge, here’s a way to do it without completely draining your savings. There are also sweet online sales, which include Stella McCartney blouses marked down from $445 to $135 and elegant Theory pants for $179 instead of $295. Shop online and rest assured that your $50 Marc Jacobs blouse is safely in the mail.

As if hearing the always-endearing Tim Gunn wax poetic about on Project Runway wasn’t incentive enough, the web site features designer goods for up to 70 percent off the original price. If you’re looking for a dress for a special occasion, browse the stellar selection of stuff by Nicole Miller, Vera Wang, and Diane von Furstenberg, all for at least 40 percent off. Unlike some sample sales, which only stock runway sizes (0 and 2), this site stocks great finds in sizes from 0–16. You can enter your e-mail address to get promos for upcoming sales on clothes with sizes and styles that fit every body.

The most accessible, unpretentious fashion and beauty magazine has an online deals-of-the-day service where you can register to get e-mail alerts about day- and week-long sales on swank items like Tarte cosmetics, Minnetonka suede boots, super-luxurious Sabon hand cream, and glam Michael Kors tote bags. Because everything is 50 percent off, you can pick up some gotta-have-it-now indulgences without feeling guilty.

You don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and brave the caffeine-addled sample salers to get in on the mark-down action! Sign up for e-mail alerts from these web sites offering designer goods at massive discounts and do some finger calisthenics: You’re going to be clicking like crazy.