It took me 5 minutes to figure out how to get into Priscilla of Boston, and I should have taken that as an omen that no good was going to come out of my first sample sale experience.
[Photo from http://www.valleymorningstar.com/articles/wedding_295___article.html/bridezilla_bride.html]
The sale started at 8 am. I got there around 9:30, and there were a good number of dresses still left on the racks. From my quick survey, it seemed like the gowns were sized 0-12 (more variety than your standard sample sale, which tends to carry only 8s and 10s). There were 3 racks of bridal gowns from Priscilla, Vineyard, and Melissa Sweet, as well as a small rack of bridesmaids dresses. The bridal gowns were priced from around $200 to $3000. The gowns were sold as is; most were in reasonable shape, with some dirty spots or fraying on the trains or holes in the netting, but there were ones marked "unused samples" as well. The consultants, who have a reputation of being snooty, were actually quite helpful. I told them what I was looking for, and they brought me gowns both from the racks and from the piles rejected by other brides. They put the gowns in the dressing room and left me to my own devices -- fine by me, since I am not a big fan of helicopter salespeople.
I picked 5 Melissa Sweet dresses. A simple jersey ruched front gown for $399 seemed like a steal, but I couldn't reason spending that amount on jersey. This pretty empire waist number with beading on the neckline and a tulle overlay was $950; tempting except for an itchy polyester lining.
Some of the dresses on the racks had Saks tags, so it's possible that sample sale dresses were "brought in" from other bridal salons. But I also wondered if some of dresses were cheaply made versions "brought in" specifically for the sample sale (the same way that J Crew and Banana Republic outlets sell some merchandise created specifically for the outlet stores)? Either way, I couldn't bring myself to put down over $1500 (factoring in alterations, repair, cleaning) for a few yards of polyester and tulle. All was not lost, however. Across the street from Priscilla is Anthropologie (my mother ship), where I found the luscious "winter flame" dress on sale for $39! All in all, a very productive (and instructive) shopping trip.