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Sample Sale Survival Guide

Fashion hounds flocked to Manolo Blahnik's sale. Here's how to manage the chaos.

By Kristin Larson Apr 30, 2010 4:23AM
Manolo Blahnik Kiry Gold Heels; Photo courtesy of Barneys.comHow far would you go to score a pair of brand new Manolo Blahniks for $100?

Let me translate: that's about $500 less than retail. Even in a recession, that's a good deal for handmade Italian leather shoes from the master shoe designer.

If you're like the hordes of women who attended the designer's bi-annual sale today at the Warwick Hotel in NYC, you'd wait as long three hours to gain entrance to the anticipated sale. That's just to get inside. Once inside, that's when the real fun starts.

Make no mistake: I've never witnessed women fighting over shoes (or clothes) at a sample sale, like the scene in Confessions of a Shopaholic. I'm not saying it hasn't happened, I just have never personally witnessed it and I've been going to Manolo's sample sale for more than five years. In fact, I find the women there were rather polite—as much as they can be, while hunting for the famous heels in their size.

Yet, this is not like shopping at Saks either—if you want to pay Saks prices, head to Saks. This is a sample sale. What to expect? It's crammed, hot and women there mean business. It's not uncommon to see gals working in groups—one manning the pile of shoes they've created in the center of the room while the others hunt down shoes on tables marked by size. (Watch a clip from the sale courtesy of NBCNewYork here.)

So, you need a gameplan. If you find yourself at a sample sale anytime soon, here are my five survival tips:

1) Dress lightly and carry a small bag. Why? It gets hot and if you're dressed too warmly, there's no place to put your coat. And don't carry a large bag, it will just get in the way.

2) Know your size. Make sure to try everything on (which can be hard). So, knowing in advance whether a designer runs small or big will save you time and money.

3) Be flexible and act fast. You may not find the basic black pumps you've always wanted, but you may spot some super fabulous purple high-heel sandals. And when you do, grab them. They won't be there if you turn your head.

4) Channel your inner yogi. Don't let the chaos of the sample sale disturb your focus. Remain calm, breath deeply and resist buying something if you don't absolutely love it.

5) Bring cash and set a limit. This may seem hard to do, but if you only buy what you love and stick to your budget, you'll be happier in the end.

Tell me, do you shop sample sales? How long would you wait for $100 Manolo Blahniks?

The gold Manolo Blahnik heels pictured retail at Barneys New York for more than $700.

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