January 2, 2016
Like surfers travelling the world for the perfect wave or mountaineers finding their own rugged route to the summit, bargain hunters have a code of honour. We want to be first at the hottest sale in town, but once we’ve scored our prize and savoured the bragging rights, we like to share the good news. That’s how we stay on savvy shoppers’ tip lists. Friendly competition is the essence of our game.
You think Caren got a deal on a jacket? Let me tell you about my Italian tweed number. Ninety bucks, and it doubles as a dress. I found it in a tacky little place where the peeling walls are festooned to the ceiling with last year’s designer wares and the owner, bracelets jangling, spears your size with a hook. As she stuffed my purchase into a white plastic grocery bag, I asked the question that obsesses bargain shoppers: how much money had I saved? She threw up her hands. “How much do you think? It’s Armani.” Could be, although there’s no label. If you want labels, you’d better stick to regular stores with carpets and dressing rooms.
I can picture an easier way to shop. Head for the haunts of the pampered few. Sip tea in a porcelain cup while pondering your options. Order your favourites in every colour. But I ask you, where’s the challenge? Money can whisk you down the fast lane to style, but it takes the right stuff to go the bargain route. Can you spot a sale sign from across a busy street? Sift through piles of irredeemable dreck for the gem at the bottom? Trail a fellow shopper who has slung something special over her arm, without inflaming her interest in your prize? We must be sisters in arms.
I’ve spent a lifetime honing the moves. I am the daughter of a woman so entranced by bargains that she once came home with a billowing organza shirtwaist dress a few sizes too small for her. “You’ll grow into it,” she predicted. I was 10 and by the time that happened, the skinny mini had taken over. But Mother kept the dress for another decade, just in case….
I’ve made my own blunders, of course. Take the beaded evening skirt that seemed like such a great deal, until shortening it jacked up the price by 30 per cent. Or the blue suede shoes with twinkling silver heels that I bought for a song even though they pinched. For years I saved those shoes, just in case. Last week I tried them on one last time and, guess what? I still couldn’t walk. So, I left them on the office freebie table. Now, someone has the ultimate bargain. I hope she dances up a storm in them.
Storied bargains tend to be singular discoveries – the only one in your size and colour. Going, going, gone. But this time of year, the deals are ripe for the picking even if you’re paying retail. Check page 90 for Chatelaine’s guide to the best.