Fashion Review: Fashion in a Chokehold

By Ellie Bryant ’12

J. Crew’s samples sales tend to bring out the worst in shoppers. Image courtesy of

This weekend, I did something I thought I would never do. I went to a sample sale. Not just any sample sale mind you; I went to the J. Crew sample sale. The morning began with my roommate Hilary Bowie ’12 rousing me from my death-like slumber. After she informed me where we were going, I rolled out of bed, hit the door frame on my way to the bathroom, while simultaneously doing what any dentist would call an abysmal job of brushing my teeth. I clothed myself (loose definition) and climbed into my car, Jefe. We were off right after I wiped the dried toothpaste off my skin. After waiting in line for an hour and a half (we were sixth in line) I was given a trash bag and shoved unceremoniously into the mass chaos that is sample sale shopping.

Once inside, women become lions, fighting for hours over cardboard gazelles filled with clothes that were organized in no recognizable way. It gets violent; this is the savannah people. Think National Geographic. By far, the most violent scene was the wedding section. Wedding dresses that were normally priced from three hundred to one thousand dollars could be yours for twenty five dollars. You have never seen rage until you’ve seen a mother daughter team fight for a dress at the J. Crew Sample sale… all I’m saying is bo’s were thrown and claws came out. It was like the unsophisticated version of Bridezillas, but real, and in front of me. The best pair of all was a father daughter team who literally herded competitors out of their way with defense strategies my lacrosse coach would be proud of.

Cashmere sweaters sell quickly at sample sales. Image courtesy of

I ducked for cover and headed towards the first cashmere garment I saw. I have an addiction. My addiction is cashmere. I would give someone rabies for a nice cashmere sweater. Right as I was reaching for my find, a vulture woman swooped in as if to take my prize. I fell victim to the American hunt and kill mentality. I stuffed it in my bag. As I was traveling around I noticed that in the world of sample sale shopping there are various strategies. One seemed to be… stuff everything in a bag and then drag it to a corner to try it on. Another, tilling the clothes in an attempt to unearth something worthwhile underneath the irrelevant pieces. I bought lots of sweaters people. Let’s be real here.

Originally, I was looking for pants, seven inch inseam chinos to be exact. This was a pipe dream. Finding pants or shorts in any organized or slightly understandable way was so complicated that I admitted defeat much like King Leonidas in 300. (Abs never looked so good going down in flames.) Anyways, back to the clothes. Cashmere for forty dollars, win. I made out like Cruella de Vil if she had gotten to keep those one hundred dalmatians. It was close to godlike.

What were my other spoils of war you ask? Button down dress shirt (never out of style), sweaters in various styles, t-shirts, and enough cashmere to hold down the fort for the next zombie apocalypse.

Was the sample sale trip worth it? I still haven’t decided. I will probably never go again. I’m willing to pay the extra for organization, but that’s my obsessive compulsive alter ego talking. The primal human in me wants to grab a club and go to the next sample sale on Black Friday and lay waste to my adversaries in the metaphorical jungle that is bargain shopping. Tips for sample sale shopping: check for holes, permanent marker in odd places, and defects in the clothing.

Other than that, go for it and let the primal hunter-gatherer roar. I literally growled at a woman going for a sweater I’ve worn three days in a row now. Overkill? I think not.

Contact Ellie Bryant at with any questions or comments.

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