Bargain Hunting at the ‘B’s


There are two seven-day stretches each year—one in the depths of January, the other in high summer—when prices at the illustrious Bs (Bloomingdale’s, Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, and Barneys) descend to a level congenial to mere mortals. This week is one of those special times.

Don’t let those furry hooded parkas next to the escalator at Bloomingdale’s fool you—though the store is already brimming with overcoats and woolly sweaters, there are plenty of leftover summer clothes, most of which are now at least 30 percent off the tag price. Try not to be discouraged by the level of disorganization on the straining-to-be-hip second floor: It’s undergoing renovation, making things even more of a mess than usual, but a Miss Sixty shirt with a fluted neck and the air of a camisole is still readily apparent, its price reduced to $34 from $49. A Sharagano khaki cotton mini sporting lots of those infernal drawstrings (this year’s peasant blouse?) can be snapped up for $77 instead of $110, but wear it a lot if you buy it—we have a sneaking suspicion this style will be curtains by next year. Unfortunately, a seersucker sundress from the wildly popular Marc by Marc Jacobs is still $215, even after a reduction; this seems pretty bad until we check upstairs at the even fancier Marc Jacobs department, where a lavender summer dress is—not kidding!—$1,404 (but hey, it used to be $3,600).

At Bendel’s, desperate attempts to make the place young and groovy are apparent throughout the store, from the Agent Provocateur lingerie department to the Pat Field boutique to an area called Lair, which specializes in marked-up thrift shop finds. Looking itself a bit like a vintage garment, a chiffon bias-cut Anna Sui dress—a 2003 version of a 1960s takeoff of a 1930s dress—is now $159, from $337. Various items from Juicy Couture have also made their way to the discount table, among them a pale pink cropped sweatshirt top with a frayed neck and the legend “Juicy smells like couture.” (Oh, it does, does it?) In any case, it is now $35, from an original $68. Actually, the best buys here are the D&G shirts, including a miniature man-tailored white button-down at $63 instead of $145, and a funny sleeveless orange polo that features purple accent stripes and a denim D&G patch pocket (this is all a lot better than it sounds) for $56, down from $135.

We are pleased to report that at our next stop, the venerable Bergdorf Goodman, store execs have slashed prices with unparalleled enthusiasm. Almost everything is now 75 percent off, which makes a pair of $675 flowered trousers from the much coveted Italian house Marni only $159; less pretentious Earl Jeans denim minis (another summer ’03 classic) are a mere $29, down from $118. Long-sleeved cotton-knit Custo Barcelona shirts enlivened with orange tapestry cuffs—a typical Custo touch—are $29, instead of $106; if you wish, you can pair these with a vaguely disturbing 1950s-ish full cotton skirt by Mint that features a print of farmworkers toiling under a hot sun. (The skirt’s politics, it seems, are straight out of the ’50s too.) Anyway, this item is now $39 instead of $150, which is still, alas, far beyond the budget of most field hands.

No amount of whining on our part can extract from the salesman at Barneys any information about when, or even if, the store will announce the marathon, heart-stopping 80-percent-off event usually held during the last few days of the season. Until such time, we must content ourselves with the 50 to 60 percent now being offered. A truly sick cowl-necked, flowered panne velvet top with a gold lace back by Bernhard Willhelm (he designs for Björk, but he’s not responsible for the Oscar swan dress, which, by the way, we loved) is $109, down from $205, or barely 50 percent off (80, please!). Likewise, a DVF camisole that combines two different ivy leaf prints is $59, instead of $115; softly washed pastel cargo pants by Joie (another no doubt soon-to-vanish style of summer) are $69, from $135. And there is even a Juicy undershirt in an appealing pale pink or lime green, formerly $40, that is ready to help you finish out the summer for $19. Just one last thing: If you buy this item, or even if you don’t, please don’t ever, ever let us hear you refer to it as a wifebeater, OK? Words have power! Think about what you’re saying!

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