Ah, the sample sale. The be-all, end-all of shopping experiences. While sample sales are the sole reason some young professionals can afford a designer wardrobe, they can be very hit or miss. The Gilt Chicago sample sale hits the city every October, and this year, I was prepared. 

There’s a few different tricks to help ensure you get the best goods at any sample sale. If you’ve ever attended a sample sale, you know that not every single piece is worth your time. Longchamp at 25% off isn’t nearly as exciting as Prada at 80%. So what’s the deal to getting the best deals in – literally – a warehouse of goodies?

1. Shoe sizes are standardized, clothing is not. A medium at the Gap is not a medium at Topshop. Clothing sizes are not uniform across the industry, while shoe sizes are. If you fluctuate between sizes at stores like I do – curse you, chest! – then your time might be better spent looking at shoes and accessories. After all, when those gates open, it can be a race. If you’re a shoe size eight, then you will fit in a majority of size eight shoes.

2. Dress for a quick change. Of course, that’s not to discourage you from getting any clothing. Most sample sales have communal or large dressing rooms – if any – so be ready to try things on right on the floor. Wear leggings and a tank top to try pants and tops on without undressing in the racks! It’s all about saving time.

3. Leave your massive handbag at home. The racks at sample sales are often close together, and things can get crowded. Save yourself and just bring your cross body! Some sample sales also don’t allow large bags, and you’ll waste time having to leave it at a coat check.

The Gilt Chicago sale was a success this year – although most of the top luxury brands (Prada, Miu Miu, Alexander McQueen) were still priced at well over $1,000. The best deals came from middle of the road brands, such as Marc Jacobs and Kate Spade.

Because women travel in packs for survival, I attended the sale with fellow blogging lady Mischaela Advani of Big City Blonde. We were able to get into the sale about an hour before it opened, and were given the luxurious privilege of taking our time going through the sale.

As to be expected, the Prada bags and McQueen clutches were still pretty lofty in price. The majority of the accessories were lower-hand; some of the Yves Saint Laurent sunglasses looked like windshields. “You could build an excellent Kanye costume in here,” Mischaela remarked – apparently, the dramatic doesn’t sell.

I was able to sneak out with a Kate Spade Park Avenue Beau Bag, which retails for $500, for only $100; I also was able to sort through a rack of scarves for a Missoni scarf that I grabbed for only $54. If you don’t know Missoni, it’s an Italian brand that sells its scarves for over $700.

Overall, I ended up with over $1,200 of merchandise for a simple $150. Not bad for a raid.

Mischaela Advani, of Big City Blonde, with a stunning Monique Lhullier.
Mischaela Advani, of Big City Blonde, with a stunning Monique Lhullier.
My new Kate Spade Beau bag, and Missoni scarf.
My new Kate Spade Beau bag, and Missoni scarf.
You can't shop without a cocktail.
You can’t shop without a cocktail.