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The Commandments of Bargain-Hunting

Posted by Kara Baskin  August 24, 2012 05:00 PM

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Clothing sale (noun): An excuse for otherwise sane women to get into fistfights over the last pair of perfect jeans.

Last Saturday, I left Brian at home with Andy and made haste to the Hynes Convention Center. Boden—the British clothing company famous for its jaunty catalogues, bold preppy patterns, and just-out-of-reach prices—held a clearance sale. It commenced at 10. I arrived at 8 a.m., armed with coffee and optimism. By the time I made the scene, a line snaked out the big double doors and down the corridor. Hundreds and hundreds of pastel-clad women (and the occasional guy) sat cross-legged on the floor, clutching iPhones and enormous reusable shopping bags, each waiting for the chance to pay $30 for cashmere sweater dresses. Every once in awhile, a Boden employee waded into the crowd to hock totes. The air was thick with anticipation and Clinique perfume. Basically, it was Woodstock for yuppies.

At 10 on the dot, a security guard swung open the doors and herded us into an enormous showroom. At last, the promised land: Tables piled high with rompers, pea coats, sassy shoes, and baby clothes. As a unit, everyone paused for just a millisecond. Finally! This was it: polka-dotted nirvana. Then we sprung into action. Clothes flew. People disrobed in the aisles. I haven’t seen so many semi-nude women since my years at Mount Holyoke. Within 20 minutes, the place looked like it had been ransacked. Boden employees stood on the sidelines, sipping Poland Spring and looking amused.

Through it all, everyone behaved with diplomatic urgency. “That looks so good on you!” one woman crowed (selflessly, if I do say so) as I tried on a coveted mustard-yellow jumper. “Nope, not your color,” I heard one stranger tell another woman who was entangled with a flouncy tunic. There was no pushing, no shoving, no tussling over cardigans. I was shocked. The whole thing was quite a learning experience, really. A few personal takeaways:

1. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale. It’s a bargain, not a tummy tuck. If a pencil skirt ordinarily makes you look like you’re harboring a litter of kittens, no discount will change that.

2. It’s not easy being short. Fashion does not favor vertically challenged humans. You’ll have better luck finding height-neutral items, like shoes, at these sorts of things.

3. Nudity is a great equalizer. When you’re Spanx-to-Spanx with a stranger, all bets are off. You can tell her things you wouldn’t tell your mother. This is comforting, somehow.

4. Everyone loves compliments. If someone’s trying on a piece of clothing that looks fantastic, say so! Mirrors are at a premium at these places, so objective opinions are welcome. Don’t be shy!

5. Carry a limited amount of cash. It will help you stick to a budget. Yes, I waltzed into that showroom with more twenties than a stripper, but I also didn’t overspend. When my cash was gone, so was I.

6. Do not shop hungry. Just don't. You are entering a battlefield, and you must have fortifications. Eat and drink heartily before your excursion. Don’t worry about being “bloated.” Better to be bloated than irritable. You can suck in your stomach; you can’t change your mood.

And, finally, speaking of food …

7. Towne has a very good brunch. If you’re ever at the Hynes, check it out! I dined there after my shopping spree, and the service was fantastic. So was the lox platter.

I snagged a few choice items, but this was almost secondary. Here’s what I loved the most: Everyone was in it together, swapping sizes, critiquing, complimenting, zipping, pulling, helping. Anyone who says that women are mean to one another hasn’t been to a massive clothing sale, I guess. I left feeling fantastic—and I hadn’t even looked in a mirror.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Kara Baskin (@kcbaskin) is a Boston-based writer, editor, and mom to Andy. She thinks Sriracha and garlic make everything tastier. She loves Steely Dan and "Murder, She Wrote." Her More »

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