Nirvana is finding a Fendi bag reduced from $800 to $200 in a bin at the Barneys sale. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a gold baguette layered with stray beaver fur and orange glitter stitching. Or the fact that it would only match an alien Halloween costume. It’s the joy of the “get”; finding that designer-label piece of merchandise that’s been reduced three times. It’s the happy illusion that someone somewhere in the shopping universe once paid full price for this and you managed to pull it out for less than a third.The twice-annual Barneys sale answers the perennial question “Who are all those 28-year-olds in size 4 skimpy dresses that are out at Pastis and Balthazar at midnight, and how can they afford it?” At eight in the morning, they are on line in jeans and trench coats. No longer glamorous, but New Yorkers looking to maintain a lifestyle. The great thing about the Barneys sale is, glamorous or not, we’re all in it together.
If the average American is gaining weight, you’d never know it at the Barneys sale. There’s an abundance of size 3 to 6 and plenty of Dolce & Gabbana leopard vests suited for the nightlife of six-foot amazons. I once came across a $12,000 blue silk schoolgirl frock for grown-ups, which was slashed to $8,000 and finally a supposedly affordable $4,000. It looked like the Christmas-party dress of a well-turned-out 6-year-old. I took heart that those Barneys bins probably had Prada patent-leather Mary Janes reduced from $800 to $600 to match. Like the theater, the Barneys sale is a self-contained world with its own rules that suddenly all make sense.I was at the uptown Barneys last week, where I like to ride the escalators and glide past Jil Sander and Comme des Garçons items and wonder who is the size 6 person who buys them. On the very chic Christmas windows was a sign that said sale. I was slightly disoriented. I like the thought of Barneys Uptown before Christmas as a New York fashion fantasy. Like Petula Clark, I like to go downtown to tough it out and get my mitts on sale.