What to Wear to a Sample Sale, According to InStyle Editors
Ah, sample sale season—it's both the best thing in the world and the worst. The best, because there's the hope—the dream—that you can take home prized designer items for, like, nothing. The worst, because it's just that, a dream. Or more accurately, it's a nightmare masqueraded as a dream. It's where poised adult women behave like children as they leave behind their social decorum, right along with their checked bags at the door.
There's simply no room for timidness or second thoughts. So in order to survive and to come out with what you want, you need to hone three important skills: speed (the rate at which you grab clothing), fearlessness (being unafraid to undress in front of strangers), and decisiveness (knowing what to buy—no regrets!). We can't help you with your swiftness or decision-making, but with our years of experience from scouting sample sales, we perfected three outfits that will help you with the undressing situation when there are no fitting rooms in sight.
"Confession: I have never worn this outfit to a sample sale in all my life. But that’s only because the last one I stopped by—I think some three-ish years ago—was such a cramped, unpleasant 30 minutes of frenzied grabbing and half-naked strangers I have not yet mustered the gumption to try again! That said, if bodysuits then were what bodysuits are now (flimsy Flash Dance costume fodder versus luxe, honed-to-perfection and available everywhere) then perhaps I wouldn’t have been so turned off. My logic: So long as the style is sleeveless and simple, you can layer it under pants and shirts alike while maintaining some dignity and, even better, it’s going to create a smooth canvas for everything you throw on top. Considering the awful, unflattering lighting in the warehouse-like spaces where these things happen, every self esteem boost counts, right?!
"So long as you don’t complicate the outfit with shoes that take forever to unlace (and, ugh, re-lace) or a large bag the guards will just make you check (rookie mistake), I don’t see how the experience could be anything but smooth, pain-free sailing. Well, you know, until some ... witch throws you an elbow to get at that last Proenza bucket bag." —Alison Syrett, fashion writer
Shop the look: Wolford bodysuit, $195; net-a-porter.com. Re/Done jeans, $324; shopredone.com. Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini bomber, $1,025; net-a-porter.com. Auxiliary cross-body, $150; aritzia.com. Mari Giudicelli mules, $555; modaoperandi.com.
The Slip Dress
"I maintain that a slip dress is the best thing you can wear—you can try on pants and skirts by slipping them on underneath, and the material is diaphanous enough that you can layer tops and dresses over. At the last sample sale I went to, I saw a woman wearing a pair of shapewear shorts (I promise I wasn't being creepy!), which I have to say is genius because it gives you the same coverage as a pair of bike shorts, but without the heavy material. And finally, a pair of slip-on sneakers—perfect for running around, and easy to step in and step out." —Andrea Cheng, digital fashion news editor
Shop the look: Wilfred Free dress, $75; aritzia.com. Zara jacket, $129; zara.com. Commando shorts, $60; net-a-porter.com. Calvin Klein bralette, $43; houseoffraser.co.uk. Karen Walker bag, $355; shopbop.com. Vans slip-ons, $50; vans.com.
The Tank + Favorite Jeans
"Layering and ease are most important to me when dressing for a sample sale. I always wear my favorite—and most flattering—jeans because it’s likely they’ll be worn with whatever top I purchase. Wearing a fitted tank under a sweater is key to trying out sweaters and loose tops and avoiding the dressing room. Loafers are easy to slip on and off quickly, and wearing peds means I don’t have to stand barefoot on the floor. Most of the time, they don’t let you bring your bag into a sample sale, so I put my credit card and ID in a card case and slip it into my jean pocket." —Callie Turner, fashion assistant
Shop the look: Zara tank, $10; zara.com. Hanro T-shirt bra, $63; matchesfashion.com. Commando briefs, $28; net-a-porter.com. Re/Done jeans, $275; matchesfashion.com. H&M sweater, $99; hm.com. Bottega Veneta card case, $250; net-a-porter.com. Church's loafers, $570; net-a-porter.com.