Cracking the Code

How to dress like a schoolboy—for less

Last week, I subjected myself to the APC overstock sale in Williamsburg. Though fully aware this would be an exhausting experience (grabbing, shoving, bitches) I decided it was worth it. The PR email had tapped into everyone's sample sale fantasy: "get those pieces you wished you had bought over the past few seasons and didn't!"

The things I was hoping to find dramatically reduced were simple, practical items like schoolboy-style cardigans and sweater vests. These, of course, were nowhere to be found once I got inside. The androgynous charm of quintessential APC had, for the most part, sold out to those who don't have to wait. There were big, chunky turtlenecks, space-aged raincoats, and some pleated plaid skirts and dresses clearly inspired by school uniforms. I helped a friend try—in vain—to fit into an adorable rust-colored jumper from the children's section. A cute shop boy stood by and gently offered some perspective: "that's an eight . . . so, it would fit an eight year old."

Dejected, I vowed to find another way to dress myself like a little boy going off to his strict elementary school. The answer was so obvious—I should go where their parents drag them every September. On Fulton Mall in downtown Brooklyn, amid the nail shops and sneaker stores, is Cookie's, a big children's department store that stocks traditional school uniforms. The boy's department is downstairs and houses endless rows of tiny suits and navy blazers with brass buttons (about $45)—even some very flashy three-piece suits. But the selection of cardigans and sweater vests was jaw dropping.

It's more fun when you don't have to go to class
photo: Nina Lalli
It's more fun when you don't have to go to class

The classic v-neck cardigan with little pockets on the hip is available in all the colors of an accountant's rainbow: navy blue, gray, maroon, hunter green, dark brown, and black. A grown-up must try on many sizes to approximate her own—and don't fret—and this is not just an opportunity for small folks. The sizes go to 18 or 20 in most sweaters (meaning they would fit 18 or 20-year old boys), and there are identical ones for grown men, in small, medium, large, and XL. It was the sample sale of my dreams, with no competition at all, and even dressing rooms (though I hardly fit inside). So, what if the sweaters are 100% acrylic. I can accept my place in society.

Having obtained a gray sweater vest for an un-APC-like price of $13.99 and a navy blue cardigan for just $10.99, I headed up to the girls' section, where I had less luck. There were dozens of styles for little ladies, and many of them were adorable, as much as their intended wearers resent them. There are modest pleated skirts, plaid jumper dresses, stiff, solid-colored frocks with bows at the waist, and so on. But fitting is harder in this area, and the larger sizes are rarer. Just like those size eights at APC, these may be ideal for those who went through puberty but forgot to grow curves.

 
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