The Prada Chronicles

The news that Prada now requires shoppers to register for the privilege of attending one of its sample sales (pradasamplesale.com) constitutes a bit of a watershed for us: Now, in addition to carrying their logo'd bags, turning you effectively into a walking advertisement for the firm, you also have to make a specific appointment for the privilege of perusing the stuff at slightly more affordable prices.

This all reminds us of a very unfortunate visit we made in search of cut-rate Gaultier at the Aeffe sample sale about a year ago: Everyone was skinny and mean, and they made you check not just your coat but also your purse, forcing you to try on things (mostly too small) with your wallet clenched between your teeth.

Oh, well. If you are not the registering type (there are limits to humiliation, are there not?), but you still have to have a nylon knapsack, you can frequently scare up Prada at a discount at a number of other spots. Leftover bags have been known to grace the shelves at Century 21 (though when we were there last Sunday we didn't see any—lots of Marni and Alberta Feretti, though) and even Loehmann's, which is apparently not too bas classe to occasionally feature a satchel or two.

Then again, you can also visit the Prada shop at Woodbury Common (premiumoutlets.com), the upscale outlet mall about an hour upstate. (We take the bus from Port Authority—not as squalid as it sounds—which costs around $30; don't bother to get the discount coupon book for an additional fee, since none of the good stores want anything to do with the coupons.) At Woodbury, the Prada outlet is called Space for some arcane reason, and the prices, sadly, are frequently no lower than they were when they hit rock bottom at the Manhattan boutique—that is, around 60 percent off. Items that are several seasons old are cheaper, but a lot of them are unbelievably goony or else have pulled threads or other flaws. And of course, since they start out costing so much, even in their vastly reduced state they'll still set you back several hundred dollars.

Also, bear in mind that Woodbury has something in common with a guest-list-only sample sale: At neither place can you return the turkey you bought in a moment of despair and exhaustion.

Stick to Century 21, where you can experience the exquisite pleasure of getting your money back.

 
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