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Daily Archives: 12/12/2012

Fashion Fiends and Freeloaders

The Women Fighting for the Breeches, by John S...

Sample sale tradition

I happened to receive a last minute invitation to a charity fashion show and sample sale this Monday. My first thought was that I didn’t really want to spend my evening surrounded by pretentious fashionista types and whippet-thin models, but then I read further down the invite and saw “champagne and canapés” and weighed that up against the alternative dinner plans I had, of scraping the roof of my microwave for a dish of Spatter en Croute. They had me at “free”.

On accepting such a sartorial invitation, my thoughts immediately turned to my attire. Of course I usually dress like I just blew in from the catwalks of New York and Milan, but chance would have it that I had picked this particular day to dress like a Kyrgyzstani charity shop mannequin, and on Sunday, I had opted to practice the ancient art of ‘Soap Dodging’, instead of rectifying the fact my nail polish looked like it had been chewed upon by a ravenous snaggle-toothed tramp. Dressed for the occasion, I was not. Oh well, my digits would be buried in fists full of free canapés or the throat of the woman between me and a heavily discounted pair of shoes anyway, so off I went.

I entered the soiree with as much aplomb as one can muster when dressed like something a 1970’s children’s TV presenter threw up (not one employed by the BBC, that looks like something else entirely) and headed straight for the cocktail-lined bar, like a cockroach scuttling under the fridge. It’s hard to look un-fashiony while clutching a glass of pretentious pink booze topped with a Chelsea Flower Show style floral arrangement, after all, as every barman worth his Bolly knows, nothing screams “I belong here” like slurping round a pansy.

I needn’t have worried about my wardrobe credentials being called into question, for there, like a denim clad elephant in the room was a portly chap in ill-fitting jeans and Ugg boots – a crime against jeans, feet and eyeballs. My chipped nail polish was no longer the pariah of the room and anyway, chipped nails look rather distinguished when clutching a glass of free Champagne.

Having perused the potential competition for the sample sale and ascertained their weak spots (dodgy ankle, can’t walk in her heels, walking stick, drunk, too fat to fit through the door ungreased), it dawned upon me that these were not the fine fillies of the front row I had anticipated. Could it be that the word “charity” is in fact polite social parlance for “rubbish”? The answer, evidently, is yes.

My companions and I took our seats along the walk-of-cats and proceeded to scrutinise the wares that were paraded up and down for our greed and delectation, upon the backs of “real” models. If you’re curious as to the difference between a “real” model and a “model” model, it’s about 2 feet in height and a distinct lack of eating disorders. They are also generally coaxed into service by the mere cajoling of friends and colleagues, not cocaine and huge stacks of cash.

It wasn’t just the models who were affordable, it was the clothes. No sooner had they finished smiling and bouncing up and down the runway (as “real” people do), the doors to the sale were flung open and a sea of harpies stormed the aisles, using elbows and oversized handbags with deadly accuracy to secure an extra 0.36 seconds at the sale rails. Dutifully, I elbowed with the best of ‘em.

This was going to be glamorous, this was going to be my chance to root out some classic designer gems, this was going to be retail cardio, this was going to be expensive!


Plans for melting my credit card on a single handbag and dropping a month’s rent and lunch money on one half a pair of shoes, were dashed upon seeing last season’s high street sale rejects, hanging pitifully on cramped rails like commuting scarecrows. I was almost saddened at the thought of leaving with most of my wages intact, until I remembered something vital – I actually hate shopping.

Like someone had thrown a Tiffany engagement ring into the middle of a laundry pile, clothes soared into the air, coat hanger thwacked against bone and perfectly respectable business women turned into snarling beasts of fang and talon. You may have seen war zones, you may have seen wild animal stampedes – you have seen nothing until you have witnessed 200 frantic women strip a sample sale rail.

Gangs in underground LA should use sample sales as an initiation rite – they’d soon be begging for a nice calm game of Russian roulette or to sleep with an AIDS riddled hooker. Locusts would look at the proceedings and say “whoa ladies, show a little restraint!” and riot police would run crying for a clean pair of undercrackers. Glamorous and elegant? I think not.

So, while the battle of Little Big Frock raged around me, whipped further into a frenzy by Lady Somebody-Orother (OBE) and her clipped trills of “it’s for charity ladies, help yourselves to another 17 fake leather purses! Shop! Shop! SHOP!”, what became of one so allergic to anything that isn’t bought via the click of a mouse and who is known throughout the land as being a keen advocate of all things “giving” *coughnotcough*? As it was all in the name of charity and even though I made no actual purchases, nor donations, I gallantly stepped up and did my part by relieving them of several glasses of free Champagne and setting a trend for tramp-gnawed nails. Well, we all have to do our bit.

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