The Sisterhood of the Sample Sale

As a girl growing up in Fargo, it’s hard not to feel like you’re missing out on something bigger. Every magazine, TV show, novel was based somewhere more glamorous. The parties worth seeing, the stores worth shopping, well they were always somewhere else. And more often than not, that somewhere else was New York City.

To the delight of 17 year old Lauren, I live in that city now, and finally stepping into those shops and cafes is another experience. Oftentimes a disappointment. I’ve realized that the whole appeal of the store was the simple fact that it was something out of reach. Most are just stores. Just cafes. With a New York address and a write-up in Vogue.

Which brings us to the New York thing I yearned for. Something that could be amazing but also terrifying, and something you find nowhere else.

The sample sale.

I hope you just gasped. (I did) The sample sale has surpassed my long-held expectations.

For the uninitiated, a quick lesson. The sample sale is more than the “end of the season” sale you see in store windows at the mall. It is an experience. Sales generally happen once a year, two times tops, and last for a day or two to a week at most. Most merchandise is 70-90% off, although there are other less-worthy sales that call themselves “sample sales” that aren’t sufficiently marked down. Similar to the supermodel that won’t get out of bed for less than $10,000; I won’t step into a sale with less than a 70% mark down. You shouldn’t either.

Sample sales are the way high-end labels shed the merchandise they don’t want to further mark down in their own stores, potentially damaging their brand. In fact, sample sales are very rarely run by the actual brand. There are specific companies that exist for the sole purpose to organize and run the sales. They purchase the leftover merchandise from the brand and then shoulder the burden of selling it off. For this reason, the people running the sale, to the location of the sale, to the name that will show up on your credit card statement after you’ve made a purchase, are not the brand.

But aren’t you terrorized by other women ripping clothing right out of your hands, you ask? No. Simply, no. And I really hate this portrayal of women ripping each other apart for a pair of pants. These stories remind me of the people that get trampled on Thanksgiving at 2 AM at Walmart. It’s rare, its played up by the media, and generally a rouge insane person is to blame for the ensuing chaos.

Despite this, I have encountered born and bred New Yorkers that are shocked by my enthusiasm for sample sales. Their brows furrow and their nose crunch up as they ask “Aren’t they crowded and awful?” So I’m here to say “No!” They are fantastic and lovely and you guys, I even happily anticipate to the sisterhood of a sample sale.

Let me explain. As I said, these sales are often not held in actual stores. They are usually a rented loft or storefront of some sort. This means there are rarely individual dressing rooms. In fact, I have never been to a sale that had individual dressing rooms. On Friday I went to a sale that was equal genders and I tried to discretely shimmy into tight skinny jeans in a corner by some coats. At first I tied a sweatshirt around my waist but quickly gave up, because, meh, nobody really cares. I have even been to a lingerie sample sale that had no changing area whatsoever. It was also very small room with few hidden corners. Thankfully, this sale only sold women’s lingerie, and only women were in attendance so what did we do? We gathered around two mirrors propped in the corner, peeled our shirts off and tried the damn bras on.

Does this freak you out? Because you guys, it warms my heart. I love the communal, non-judgmental feel of trying on the damn clothes and going home with something gorgeous. Usually, the “changing area” is a curtained corral with racks along the side and a wall of mirrors along the other. You hang up your stuff, set your purse on the ground, and get to work. This is also, and most importantly, your time to make fast friends with your fellow women of New York. I have swapped so much advice, gotten tips on what a tailor can and can’t fix, complimented scores of women, and been offered help zipping up difficult dresses. Yes, strangers have just asked “want me to get that for you?” as a I struggle with zip-dressing a tight, strapless dress.

Does this sound terrifying? Hardly.

This lack of modesty also means that you see New York women slink out of their work dresses revealing the spanx, the imperfections, the basic humanness about them. It’s not creepy, I promise. It’s reassuring. It’s a rare opportunity to see real women and you’re right there too, joining in on the sisterhood of the sample sale. Bonding over a deal. Is there anything more wonderful than that?

So yes, friends, I love these opportunities to build a better wardrobe than is normally within my reach. I also love the opportunity to ask other women “do you think this is too baggy, or its supposed to be like that?” Because there just aren’t enough opportunities to do that in our daily lives.

Are you intrigued? Want to get in on the fun? My Sample Sale Tips:

First you must visit  This website lists all the major sales for the month. Mark down which ones you’re interested and then check back the night before. The website’s editors are usually invited to the sale the day before, allowing them to post the layout of the sale as well as pictures with the item’s price. This is really helpful if you’re trying to ascertain if the sale is within your budget. There are sales where merchandise is around $500…which I can’t swing no matter what the markup was before. Don’t emotionally torture yourself or your credit card by still going to the sale. There are a many more sales that will fit your price range. Hold out.

If the brand is new to me, but I like what I see, I familiarize myself with the brand. I check out their website and click their “sale” tab. This will give you an idea of pricing (the sample sale should be further reduced though) as well as the type of merchandise they’ll be off-loading. Don’t like the style or direction of the brand? Then don’t waste your time at the sale.

If however, I do like what I see, I do an image search of the brand and even bookmark specific shoes, boots, coats, etc. to look out for at the sale. The Racked website and the photos from the actual sale is helpful for this too. Sales can be really overwhelming so having a clear direction of what you’re looking for is really helpful. Generally I look for more expensive items where craftsmanship and high end materials pay off. In my experience that means footwear, coats, and sweaters. Avoid t-shirts and other items that don’t require a high level of craftsmanship, as well as cheaper materials such as rayon or polyester. A sample sale is the time to focus on high-end materials you can’t normally afford. The deep markdowns mean I can score leather boots that were handcrafted in Italy, blouses made from silk rather than synthetic materials, or cashmere or wool sweaters. For instance, I recently purchased a winter coat, allowing me to get real wool with a thick, warm lining and leather details. That’s the kind of stuff that pays off at a higher price point, and the whole reason you’re at a sample sale in the first place. (The brand was Billy Reid, a designer I had never heard of, and it was without a doubt the best sample sale I had ever been to).

If its a brand you’re really excited about, go the first day for the best selection. However, if you’re vaguely interested but not frothing at the mouth about any particular pieces, go toward the end of the sale. Remember, this is a third party selling the clothes and they really don’t want to be stuck with the leftovers, so there are almost always further markdowns. This is the time to go and browse and try your luck with what’s left.

Sometimes if you’re walking down the street you’ll see a store with “sample sale!” in the window. This is rarely a sample sale. Please don’t go in there unless you’ve googled it. Usually sample sales are discreet, unadvertised, and almost always one brand. If you see a store filled with different brands, it probably isn’t legit. There are even stores that will pop up with 90% off closeout signs that are never going out of business. They are ripping you off. Just do a quick google search and check first.

Most sample sales will have you check your bag when you walk in the door. Feel free to hold onto your wallet and phone while you browse, most people do. Checking your heavy bags at the coat check is actually really helpful while shopping.

Never go in a rush. When I’m rushing I don’t have the time to fully consider a purchase, and this is when things can go awry. Sample sales are always final sale and while marked down, are usually still at the higher end of what I can pay for something. That means you should be 100% sure you love this item, its in great shape, and you can picture exact outfits and events in which you will wear the item. If you can’t, don’t buy it!

Don’t get caught up on what it “used to cost” or what its telling you its “worth”. All those numbers on the tag are totally arbitrary. Completely made up. So if the sweater doesn’t seem like its worth $80, but its telling you its worth $300….still doesn’t matter! Set it down. A deal isn’t a deal if you don’t love it.

I hope this was helpful and maybe encourages you to check out a sale. We could always use more women helping each other zip into dresses.


Riding out the Fear

*Edit: I apologize for the messed up spacing, it all looks good on the back end so I’m guessing its some glitch

New York City just pulled that classic Midwestern move of shifting from winter directly into summer. Today was 82* and humid. Tomorrow we have a high of 89*. I’m sweating just thinking about it.

So why yap on about the forecast? This stuff is crucially important because as soon as things warm up the city transforms in a few ways. People suddenly pour out of their little brick hermit caves and sun themselves on picnic blankets in parks. Merengue music begins blaring out of open car windows. The ice cream trucks emerge out of hibernation and are suddenly on every damn corner.

The warm weather is great. Until it’s not.

Because it gets HOT. And it gets HUMID. and the sidewalks just bake all day in the sun until they cook every random piece and drop of anything that has landed there. Things smell really funky. The worse part? the subterranean subway stops turn into swampy, damp tunnels of nasty.


To limit my exposure to the above mentioned urine swamps, I do my best to avoid the subways during the summer months. Last summer this meant walking everywhere, which also kept with my status as an unemployed person because subway rides are $2.75 each way. Yes, you read that right, $2.75 each way. So if I take the subway up to the grocery store and back again, I’ve just added $5.50 to my grocery bill. Do you see why people pay the extra couple bucks to just get things delivered?
One great alternative to the subway that’s faster (and more fun) than walking? A bike of course!
I’ve been tempted by the CitiBikes around town, which are the same concept as NiceRide in Minnesota and Hubway in Boston. Citibikes are everywhere, more prevalent than in both of the aforementioned cities. That said, they are also the most beat-up and abused bikes I have ever seen, and don’t bother calling their help line, you’ll just get a busy tone. How New York of them.
I’ve wanted to sign up for a CitiBike since the day I moved to this city but Selemon has been really against it. I can appreciate that he appreciates my life so I’ve respected that desire (he saw someone get run over by a bus on a bike, which I’ve also seen in Minnesota, and is most definitely traumatic). Buuuuuuuuut my work is about a 35 minute walk and an equally inefficient subway ride, yet only 13 minutes via bike. There are also designated bike paths (bike lanes separated from the actual road) along 1st and 2nd Avenues, the one-way roads I take to and from work.
I consulted some more seasoned New Yorkers and no one was terribly encouraging (my boss told me to just assume every single person was going to hit me and every car door was going to open) but I pushed ahead.
I paid the $150 for a yearly membership of unlimited rides, and you guys, its great. I’m 11 rides in and really happy with my decision.
I mean, I haven’t gotten hit yet, which is fantastic. I’ve also learned that while I should assume everyone is going to hit me, I can’t hesitate, because there is no room for hesitation in New York City streets, and it makes your bike wobbly. And before you ask, Mom, yes I wear my helmet.
I took some pictures on my very first CitiBike Ride, which was as nerve-wrecking as it was gorgeous. The second half of my ride (and the pictures) are from an actual bike path along the Hudson River because obviously I’m not going to take pictures while attempting to stay alive biking down 6th Avenue.
I consider this a big step forward in getting comfortable in this city. It may be risky, but it makes me happy and it makes me feel more at home, more capable of exploring, and just more “a part of things”. I don’t like letting fear make decisions for me, and as long as I’m reasonably safeguarded (again I have my helmet, don’t ride with music, etc) there’s no reason to hold back from an efficient way to get around that makes you smile. Plus, pedestrians are hit with enough frequency to prove that walking isn’t a slam-dunk in safety either.
My favorite part? This all means I have an even better way to avoid those forthy subway swamps! Wins all around :)

image1Nothing beats the view of the Hudson River along the West Side Highway. I drink in these moments. Isn’t biking the best? The subway doesn’t have views like this.

image2 (2)

The bike path! This is actually the only time I’ve been on an actual “path”, which means it was a great place to start. Plus, I just love that Freedom Tower, don’t you? It’s so shiny! So pretty! So regal!

image3 (1)I had to take a picture of my very first CitiBike. Thanks for keeping me safe, CitiBike!


Opening Up

Hey there,

I took a yoga class the other day at the kind of studio with plates of prepared fruit and instructors that are supernaturally friendly. Obviously I loved it. And the instructor talked a lot about winter and how we spend so much time rushing around, hunched over. All my Midwestern friends know the look…when your shoulders hurt hurt hurt and you do the mental recall of when you last lifted weights and you realize…nope, no weights. Just a lot of bitter cold.

It makes you hunch. It closes you in. Emotionally, socially, physically.

And that hippie-dippy stuff the instructor was saying suddenly made a lot of sense. Because there I was, missing writing here. But simultaneously wanting to close off and protect the little world I was building each day. Happily figuring things out and getting into my own rhythms as a woman in this city. Finally working, finally settling, suddenly felt like a task best done alone. And letting that 5 PM darkness signify an end to the day. A time to rest…to just be.

…and now the weather has been warming, blossoms have been blooming, trees will be green soon and I’ve been itching to write a post.

While I have so many things I could record…my job, a honeymoon in Thailand, trips to Philadelphia and DC, my mother’s visit, fostering two puppies…the list goes on.

For now I’ll start by doing a good chest stretch (the antidote to all that hunching) and simply say “hello, friends. I missed ya.”

Aren’t you so glad it’s spring?


Just Don’t Block the Sidewalk

My mom is coming to visit in March! I am very excited and it will be here before I know it. With that in mind, we had a discussion about what to pack and my mom expressed a desire to “not look like a tourist”. I know the feeling well. Selemon and I are planning a trip right now and I too want to be prepared and fit in. That said, when my mom hesitated about looking like a tourist I didn’t think about shoes or coats. My only thought was to mutter “just don’t block the damn sidewalk”.

Because really no one cares what you’re wearing or doing. We only start to care when you suddenly stop in the middle of the sidewalk. Ugh, that’s the worse. Or blocking the stairs to the subway. Or walking in big groups and therefore taking up the whole sidewalk. Basically, just don’t get in the way.

And that reminded me of this fantastic GIF guide to NYC. I can’t paste it all here, but click this link to be taken to a very thorough (and adorable) rundown of all the things you should know before an arrival in the big city.


It’s Official!

After two months of waiting on grant money, subcontracts, and signatures to travel between the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, Columbia University, and NYU, the signature I was most waiting for, mine, on an offer letter finally happened. After a very thorough medical exam, I was declared immune to all the right things (thanks for the chicken pox, big sister), absent of the bad things (TB), and finally cleared to officially join the NYU College of Pediatric Dentistry.

Big sigh of relief and a very hearty gulp of champagne.

After sitting in on some meetings this week and meeting all my lovely coworkers, I will *officially* begin Monday…as in tomorrow.

It feels really good to know I’ll have a paycheck with my name on it. And more importantly, because I am a human and humans need community, it just feels good to have an ID where my name and face share space with the logo of a well-respected institution.

It’s easy to forget how necessary it is just to feel like you’re accepted and a part of something. These past 6 months have been a really big lesson in that. A lesson on what it takes to feel happy and content and whole.

And I gotta say, by the end of my unemployed time, I had gotten pretty good at it. I now consider myself excellent company, more so than I ever have before. Maybe its age, maybe its a result of necessity, but I’m glad that comfort with me is here.

I had promised you all I’d share it from the rooftops, so here I am on my proverbial rooftop, announcing my gainful employment. Now I must absolutely thank you all for your support and encouragement while I was in the dumps, I super appreciate the love that was sent my way. I know work isn’t all rainbows and butterflies, far from it, but I am looking forward to being on the other side for a bit.

Happy almost Monday…


I’m not dead


Hi Friends,

It’s been a while right? Sorry to drop off the face of the Earth.

The truth is, I’ve been here all along. Plugging away. Walking down streets (dodging the puddles of dog urine that fill our New York sidewalks), trying to convince myself I’m not craving a bagel with scallion cream cheese and lox (I am craving a bagel with scallion cream cheese and lox), and sort of hating January.

I think January sucks no matter where you are.

Freezing Minnesota or mild New York, its just a weird in-between month. Between the holiday hangover of too much everything, and something, anything, better. Let’s just hit fast forward.

So, while writing makes me significantly happier, I’ve been avoiding it. Like taking my probiotic tablets and showering everyday, I avoid it, because while it makes me feel better….ugh, the effort. And I don’t have anything interesting to say anyway.

Mostly I’ve been working out. What?!? That just came out of left field, but its true. I got a Classpass (which I’m embarrassed to say Selemon got me because it sounds so…well, eye-rolly…”my husband cares about my fitness”…ugh, right?) but I really have wanted this since I moved here. truly.

It’s a membership that lets you work out at a bunch of gyms. So I have spent my days of January trying hot yoga, and bootcamps, and aerial yoga, and spin, and pilates, and all that jazz. Dudes, I love it. My arms are shaping up and I have something to do every day. I think they should subsidize it for all unemployed people. Public health, ya’ll.

In other news, I finally got things finalized with NYU and thanks to some awesome negotiation coaching from a friend I managed to eek out a significant amount more than I was initially offered, which actually makes me happier than…well, the offer itself. Not really, but it makes me happy, you know?

So I’ve been spending my days working out, waiting to start actual working, and wishing January away.

Ugh, I hate wishing time away. It’s so wasteful. But January just sucks so I hardly feel bad about it.

Today the city was shut down. We got 8 inches of snow. I’m not blaming the mayor here, I think he did what was best. It’s hard managing the biggest city evah with millions taking public transit and crazy weather patterns. Better safe than sorry.

But all this snow meant I really wanted some ramen. Oh man I could taste the salty, smokey broth warming my mouth. The slurp of the noodles. the perfect creaminess of the eggs. Oh god lord, its heaven. So I walked to our ramen spot but it was closed for the storm, so I walked to another. Closed. A third. Closed. What is the world coming to?!?! But as a result of this epic Ramen Odyssey (that its official name now) I witnessed a city that was in the glorious throws of a ridiculous age-indiscriminate snow day. Kids were out of school, adults were out of work, and NYU students were standing around smoking (that’s what they usually do, but they seemed to smile more). It was lovely to see and added a festive air to the whole thing. A city out playing in the snow. Adorable, but better with some ramen in my belly.

I eventually found some on St. Marks and it kinda sucked.

I guess that’s a bit like my January. You have high hopes, you try really hard, and its still always a bit of a let down.

But at least I finally wrote about it.

At least I finally wrote about it.



In the past week, I have been stopped by lost people needing directions four times and each time I was able to help.

If that doesn’t make you feel like an absolute rockstar in a new city, well then, I don’t know what would.


Also, Happy Birthday, Mom!!!