Challenge' adds up to a pile of style

A '$100

September 08, 2011|Alicia Notarianni | Making Ends Meet

We wear about the same size, and we tend to like the same styles.

But these factors were not enough to inspire a friend from church to hand me a $100 bill and send me off in search of clothes for her.

What roused her was my enthusiasm for buying good threads on sale for a mere fraction of their original cost. Over the years, we've had a number of exchanges that went something like this.

Kelly: "I like your dress."

Me: "Thanks. I got it on clearance for $3.99."

Kelly would give me a look I wasn't sure how to interpret — disbelief, disfavor, bemusement? I wasn't sure.

After a while, she started telling me to pick up items identical to mine in another color for her. I never did because I didn't know if she was serious.  So I was a bit surprised a couple of months ago when she handed me the cash and told me her size.

"Get me as much as you can," Kelly said.

I think the "$100 challenge," as she called it, was a bit of a leap on her part. Kelly and I don't know one another inside out. We travel in the same circle, but haven't really spent much time together out of it. Why she trusted me, I wasn't sure.

Still, the thrill of the challenge set in. I could hear the "Mission Impossible" theme music in my head, and visions of fabulous frocks with red slashes over the original prices began to dance in my head. A good bargain gives me a buzz. I was eager to see what I could find and how much I could get.

Over the course of several weeks, mostly while I did school shopping for my kids, I combed the clearance racks for Kelly. In ways, shopping for her was easier than shopping for myself. Because she is taller than I am and lean, issues of fit and flattery that I consider when shopping for myself weren't much of a concern. She wears most anything well.

Here is a partial list of the items I snagged for 100 bucks — two dresses, a midi skirt, a pencil skirt, a hooded vest, a cardigan, a shirt/vest combo, a crinkle blouse, a ruched tee, a scarf and a pair of trouser socks. If I'd purchased the merchandise at original prices, it would have cost roughly $300.

I paid a bit more for a few pieces than I'd hoped. For example, the dresses cost $15 on clearance. Eventually, I might have been able to find something comparable for even less, but for Kelly's sake, I was trying to balance bargains with timeliness. Ultimately, she was pleased with the outcome.

"It was great. Awesome," she said. "I liked that you went and got it for me and just showed up one day and there was a bunch of clothes for me. I tell people, 'Hey, look. My personal shopper got me this.'"

I did the challenge because I like the thrill of the hunt, and because I knew I could get a column out of the deal. Kelly wanted the clothes and the bargains without the hassle.

Whether it's my money or someone else's, shopping clearance is all the same to me. Sweet, sweet savings.

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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