At 20 minutes til, I was one of the first people there, but we could not go in until the exact hour. In front of the dingy iron door, more and more women, and the occasional brave man, began to line up as the clock neared 11.
And then, 11:03. A stout, unibrowed man held open the door with a fleshy palm. He wore an army green v-neck t-shirt that danced atop his swollen stomach. The shirt swayed in gust of wind created by the first 10 or so women in line rushing past him to fill the industrial elevator that would bring them to the fourth floor, the location of their long-awaited treasure: the Lutz and Patmos sample sale.
Lutz and Patmos is the child of Tina Lutz and Marcia Patmos, who joined design forces to produce timeless, casual knitwear for all seasons. Together since 2000, Lutz and Patmos created a niche market for both themselves and their customers. However, the two split up after this past Fall collection, each desiring a different path in the fashion world. Now the line no longer exists, so the sample sale was highly sought-after.
Retailers, like Lutz and Patmos, use sample sales to get rid of excess merchandise. Shoppers can purchase near-mint condition garments for a fraction of the original price and when it comes to designer labels this fraction is a significant one.
All of the women in the elevator knew this, and knew that this would for the most part be their last chance to get anything Lutz and Patmos at such a slashed price. The unibrowed man heaved open the elevator door, and a barrage of women walked quickly to the metal doors where the sample sale lay in wait. A cacophony of clacking heels and boots and the shuffling of ballet flats resounded along the hallway.
The sample sale was not in a large room, a room perhaps no bigger than a family living room. The beige walls were lined with silver wheeled clothing racks. In the center of the room were tan cardboard boxes filled with scarves, fur accessories, belts, skirts, tank tops, and silk dresses. On the racks were the famous Lutz and Patmos knits—cardigans, shrugs, sweaters, capelets, dusters, and even knitted fur jackets and vests, all soon to be torn through and flung about by the same women who were making their way down the hallway at that very moment.
Hearts racing, the women practically threw their coats and handbags at the coat check girls and flew into the racks of clothing. It was every woman for herself—if they even had an inkling that they might like an item of clothing, into their arms it went. I was no exception. As I made my way through the first rack, I was particularly charmed by a long red knit cardigan and a silver and grey argyle shrug. I wrapped them in my arms and held onto them for safe keeping—I had visions of Monica on Friends pinning down a woman at a sample sale who wanted her same wedding dress, and I did not want to be that other woman.
When I began looking at the second rack, I found something quite wonderful, however. A jacket of woven navy blue rabbit fur for more than 70% off the original price not only in my size but the last one on the rack. I grabbed it and wrapped it around my arm for security. Nobody was getting near this jacket until I tried it on. Suddenly, I seemed to be infected with the same sample sale fever as the women slinging clothes around me left and right.
Stray, unwanted clothes began piling up on tables, fallen soldiers littering the pathways between and underneath the racks. Clothes covered the chairs where women tried on their finds, keeping them close and in sight. I expected some of them to burst out with an unearthly “My precioussssss,” like Golem in the Lord of the Rings movies, but thankfully nobody did. Instead, they quickly stripped out of their clothes, bras exposed, underwear on display, to jump into the Lutz and Patmos creations and see if the garments were worth the trip to the register, suspiciously eyeing any woman who came near their stash mid-try on.
Yet again, I found I was no better, as I piled my own belongings on top of my stash to mark my territory while I tried my pieces on (thankfully they were mostly jackets so no stripping was required). The two sweaters were okay, but the rabbit fur jacket was exquisite. But did I have the funds to bankroll this garment? I put the two sweaters back from whence they came, holding tightly to the fur jacket, and found a people-free zone near the entrance to telephone my financier (aka my mother).
The jacket was a go. I found a place in the line for the register, which extended the length of the room. Clothes and their women still flew around behind me, but being in the line was a welcome lapse in the chaos. I paid and exited, donning my new rabbit fur coat proudly (and warmly, I might add). I was not a sample sale victim who had their garment of choice ripped from them by a cruel woman in a passionate fashion frenzy. I had bravely protected myself against the masses and emerged victorious with a fabulous coat.
Entering the elevator, the chaos finally stopped. Strangely, I felt my pulse slow down. Sample sales, I realized, were not for the faint of heart.