Be still my heart: It's sale time at Nordstrom

The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is just around the corner and its pending arrival has me feeling nostalgic. In better times, this was an event I loved. It's like seasonal clearance before the season begins. After the sale, it all gets marked up to full price.

Back in the day, when I worked full time with benefits (not in my own home) and wore nice clothes, the Nordstrom Anniversary sale was more than just fun. It let me stock up on fall and winter items at a discount. In Chicago, boots and tights and scarves go fast at full price, even in a recession.

How to make the best of it? Shop the pre-sale.

That's right, from now until the sale starts next Friday, July 17 you can pre-shop. It's supposed to be a perk for Nordstrom card holders, but I've never been asked to present one.

Just get to a store, find a friendly sales person (this is Nordstrom, they exist), and ask for a preview. You may be handed a binder (shoe department) or taken to a separate dressing area, but you will see the promised land of marked down merchandise. Before everyone else. Try things on, pick what you want, and give a form of payment to the sales associate. Your card will be charged the next day when the sale commences.

Even better, pre-order sale items online. Only beauty, skincare and fragrances are available this way, but these can sell out fast. At least they did, once upon the time when people had money to spend. Or thought they had money to spend.

I had an office, on Michigan Ave., next to a Nordstrom store, and spent many a lunch hour wandering the departments. Mostly I'd dream of clothes from up and coming designers that saw fit to charge $200 for a t-shirt, or stalk a particularly fancy pair of shoes I could never hope to buy. Sure, I did an embarrassing amount of actual buying, but the Anniversary Sale was my big love.

Be careful, it's easy to get sucked into a fake bargain. Some of the stuff is last year's merchandise that never sold through. If you care about that, you'll probably be able to spot last season's Marc Jacob's Mary Jane's, no problem. If you don't care, they might be a real steal.

But if you need black boots, or new sweaters, this is the time to do it. You just have to wrap your head around trying on cashmere in July. For me, wearing a sweater on a hot day is worth the savings.
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