Yesterday afternoon, we got a preview of all that awaits the predictably long line of people outside today's J. Crew sample sale. And there is quite a lot: Racks are arranged by clothing type, with J.Crew womenswear in the front, men's off to the left, Madewell in the center, and shoes, Crewcuts, accessories, and more women's clothes in the back. What dominates both the men's and women's sections are the button-down shirts, which come in a good variety of different sizes and styles — including many items from this season that are still for sale online. If you have one item in mind that you've hoping to find, chances are you'll see it — but not necessarily in your size. The motto of the sale is "what's out is what's out," so if you can only find the neon-pink silk blouse you've been eyeing for months in a 12T and zero, don't try to ask if there are more sizes in the stockroom. (Yes, the sale will be restocked regularly, but no one will go find a specific size for you if you ask.) The mens section is similarly hectic — there are a ton of shirts in many different sizes, but it looks like only a few of each style are available.
The biggest challenge of the sale is that there are no changing rooms. This complicates the fact that many of the items in the womens section aren't labeled with sizes — they are true "samples" that appear to be anywhere on the size-four to -ten spectrum. There are a few floor-length mirrors next to the Crewcuts racks, where women (and maybe men!) will inevitably strip, because desperate times call for desperate measures in a sample-sale world.
A fair amount of pocket tees and tanks in neons, pastels, and neutrals are hangng in the Madewell section. There appeared to be more small sizes in the tanks, but there's a good range of tees and a few long-sleeved shirts, all for $15. There's one rack of jeans, again lots of different sizes and styles, but not very many of each individual item. A select number of various dresses, blouses, and sweaters come in a smattering of sizes. We did spot one style of dress we'd been hoping to see, but it was only available in a two or four, and the four had a big bronzer stain on the collar.
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There are two price points with the dresses: "Cotton/Jersey" and "Party/Wear to Work." The party dresses include everything from regular silk dresses to floral sleeveless styles and maxi dresses; all are priced at $60. There were a lot of cotton/jersey dresses like long-sleeved shifts, striped maxis, and simple tank dresses for $35. There were some collection dresses, which are priced as marked, scattered among the normal dresses as well as off on their own rack. We spotted one black and white crocheted collection dress covered in flower crystals priced at $169.
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Blouses are divided into two categories, with suiting/dress/denim at $40 and silk/woven at $30. These take up most of the womens section, but they aren't sorted by style, so some extra motivation is needed to dig. This was also the section where there were the most items with no sizes — true samples that probably should be tried on, although most looked like they're in the medium range.
One thing to note is that a few of these items might be just about the same price online. This Blythe silk blouse is $30 at the sale, but with the extra summer sale promo, it's currently $35.99 online.
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The women's shoe area is by far the most organized, peaceful area of the floor. The racks each hold a different size and are far enough away from each other that you actually have room to stand and examine what's in front of you. There's a good selection of heels and wedges, a lot of leopard print, and some suede flats and patent loafers. In most cases there's only one style of each size shoe, and if you're extra nice to a sales associate, you might be able to get another pair from the stockroom.
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Jewelry ranges from $15 to $60, with the Classic Wide Bangle bracelets at the lowest price point and bigger necklaces like the Double Crystal Brulée necklace (pictured) for $60. Jewelry is off to the side, near the cashiers, in glass cases. Each item is laid out once, which makes for easier viewing, and there are two sales associates standing there to assist you. The Double Strand Resin Link Frog Necklace and bracelet are both on sale and still full-price online.
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The bags might be the best deal in the sale. We spotted the Biennial satchel for $120 ($348 online), the Brompton mini-hobo for $120 ($258 online), and the Tillary purse for $80 ($148 online). Again, there's no telling how long these will last, but there are also a bunch of Invitation clutches in black and leopard for $80 (originally $138) and some two-tone Edie Attaché bags for $120 (originally $288).
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Surprisingly, there are very few women's blazers. You can find some plain suit jackets in navy and white and a couple of blazers in different fabrics and colors scattered throughout the racks.
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Swimwear is divided into plastic bins by size (thankfully) and includes some one-pieces, but it's mostly two-pieces. It actually looked like there were matching tops and bottoms, but who knows how long that will last, so the best bet might be to grab a top you like (and there are a bunch of styles to choose from: ruched bandeau, halter, and traditional straps) and then a bottom that doesn't clash completely, for $25 apiece.
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Women's sweaters are usually a big draw (who wouldn't want a piece of J.Crew's signature cashmere for cheap?) and perhaps for this reason they're in two sections: Cotton and wool are in one area, and cashmere is off to the side by the jewerly. This year the cashmere pieces are $90. There are some cardigans, pullovers, and slouchy-collared options. Wool/cotton pieces are $35 and come in a wider variety of colorful cardigans and striped pullovers.
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Belts, Hats, and Men's Ties
There are two big bins of women's belts, ranging from patent leather skinny options to wider, braided styles. This is another instance of needing to dig to find what you're looking for, but at $15 each, it might be worth it. There's a ton of women's scarves hanging on a back wall in a wide selection of patterns, colors, and fabrics. Hats are also a big item and fill a few bins on a back table. They're all beachy straw hats — some fedoras, wider-brimmed, and ribbon-trimmed styles, each for $15.
Men's ties, like the women's belts, can be found in one big bin and will require digging. It looks like an assortment of darker plaid and striped ties in blue, navy, and gray. There were a lot of knit and wool ties with some silk options mixed in.
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At the moment, there's one bin of assorted accessories including some iPad cases for $15, notebooks, and wallets, which are priced the same as small leather bags ($80).
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There's one lone rack of men's shoes off to the side, next to the women's size nines. They're mostly dress shoes, but they did have a pair of the Original suede MacAlister boots displayed. This section will definitely recquire asking an associate for alternate sizes because there is only one of each style on the floor.
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Men's Blazers and Dress Pants
If you can find the right size, the men's blazers are a great deal. Some of their nicer wool blazers are available, priced at $110, with dress pants (if you can find sizes that match!) at $70. Most of the pants and jackets have sizing information in them, which is a plus.
The men's outerwear, hanging just next to the dress pants, is also well priced: army green-colored jackets (that appear to be the Fatigue jacket, although it was hard to tell) and wax-coated rain jackets are $60.
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Just like the women's section, men's shirts take up a large part of the men's sale. One whole rack is devoted to white shirts: Long-sleeved, short-sleeved, and even Thomas Mason shirts are all clumped together and priced at $30. Behind the white shirts are racks of plaid, striped, checkered varieties of button-downs in a range of sizes. Again, what's overwhelming about the section is that the same styles aren't hanging together, so it might be a challenge to find the exact blue checked shirt you need in a size small, but there are a lot of other options to settle on if you're less picky.
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Men's shorts and bathing suits are mixed up together on one rack. There's a variety of different preppy styles, from salmon-colored chinos to khaki options. The bathing suits also come in range of styles and sizes, though there are fewer pairs than the shorts, both of which are $25.
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Again, it might be a struggle to find the right size, but there's an assortment of shoes in one bin, all $15, including these Striped Grosgain ballet flats.
The Crewcuts clothes take up a few racks in the back and are for the most part very small sizes. There appears to be one or two of each style of the girl's dresses and shirts (both $30), mostly in the size-four to -five range. For boys, there are a lot of shorts and some button-ups, also in smaller sizes.