Newest Review: ... they also had the coat in her size, so she was over the moon. Back to Century 21; this really is a very good store; even though yo... more
Can You Keep A Secret?
Member Name: Teena2003
Date: 29/03/04, updated on 29/03/04 (1030 review reads)
Advantages: plenty to chose from
Disadvantages: not many designers you have heard about, not really THAT cheap, very busy
1. I hate shopping!
Huh, I hear you cry, a woman who hates shopping? Is there such a person? Yes, and that person is me. I hardly ever buy new clothes and if I do, only out of necessity ? everything I own is old, tatty and falling to pieces. I NEVER find what I am looking for and hate the whole experience. For my brother?s wedding I threatened to turn up in old faded jeans as I couldn?t for the life of me find an outfit. I did find one in the end but the experience only made me hate shopping even more.
2. I went to New York City to max out my credit card on new clothes.
Isn?t this a contradiction to my previous statement? Yes, it is. But New York is the only city in the world where I don?t mind storming in and out of shops and spend a filthy amount of money on a completely new wardrobe. I go to New York and do all my shopping in one hit and be over with it.
I am a very picky and prickly customer when it comes to clothes. I can spend hours in department stores and not even pick up an item to have a closer look. I usually go home tired, frustrated but will all the money still in the bank.
So, off I went to New York with the sole purpose of restocking my wardrobe ? sightseeing came in second place.
Before I set off I had composed a shopping list as long as my arm and I was ready to throw myself at everything in my reach.
Where is a girl with an empty suitcase and completely empty credit card to go in order to stock up on designer gear?
First stop was Century 21 and everywhere you read about it, it?s called ?New York?s Best Kept Secret?. A store full of cut price designer clothes.
I admit I was taken in by the advert
ising. I watch ?Sex And The City? and saw Carrie leave the store with armfuls of new clothes. I saw online that they were offering discounts between 40% and 70%. I wanted my fair share of those bargains. And I was ready and gagging for it.
Getting up in the morning was exciting for me. It was the day I was going to shop till I dropped ? or I was running out of money.
I headed downtown towards Century 21. I stepped off the subway a stop too early and had to walk a fair bit until I found the store. It wasn?t too hard to find, I did it without actually using my map, my instinct lead me in the right direction. And everywhere I looked, people were walking around with large bags from Century 21, even in the Times Square area, very reassuring.
What a lot of people don?t realise is that the store now faces the World Trade Center site, the main entrance directly opposite to the fenced in building site. The store was badly damaged during the events on September 11, 2001 but only 5 month later, in February 2002 the store reopened after an extensive renovation.
The store itself has three entrances, the main, as I said, is facing the WTC site. I was surprised how hard you had to pull the doors to get in. It looked like the doors were shut and only a hard pull actually opened them. Not a good start, I prefer doors that open easily and look welcome and inviting, not trying to keep me out. But I did manage to get inside?
? And instantly felt like turning round on my heel and flee the place and never return.
It wasn?t so much the fact that the main entrance takes you straight into the men?s department. It was the amount of people pushing and shuffling around, trying to go from one side of the store to the other.
I managed to
find a gap in the crowds and fought my way up onto a new level, not really a second floor but a raised level. The store is built on a downhill slope, so that might have been the best way to overcome the difference in floor level.
The first and next half floor are mainly devoted to men?s clothes. You find suits, trousers and jackets in the lower, shirts, ties and the rest on the upper level. I didn?t go into the men?s department to check it out but it looked a lot more organised and tidy then the next floors I was about to encounter.
I picked up a shopping basket and was ready to fill it with all the goodies I was going to buy.
Within the store there are 15 separate departments, some for men, most for woman but also children, electrical, and skin care. Price labels all show the original and discounted price but remember to add 8.25% sales tax on top.
Take the escalator to the second floor to enter the first of two floors for the lady shopper. I was reassured to see that everyone I met in the aisles or on the escalators had heaps of clothes either over their arm or in the basket. There was hope for the reluctant shopper yet.
I noticed straight away that they seem to cater for a lot of tourists, too. You will find conversion charts from US to UK and European sizes all over the store. It is very helpful if you need to try things on. For clothes in the US you need to go a couple of sizes down, while with shoes you go up a couple of sizes. I am a UK 10-12 and all the clothes, bar one pair of jeans, are a size 6 (with Hilfiger I could have fitted into a 5, had there been one) but shoes make my feet sound really huge as my size goes from a 6 to 6 or 8 ½.
I started in the back on one floor and worked myself to the other side. I tried on jackets and coats but none seemed to fit. Most of them
were by designer I had never heard of, the only name I actually recognized were Liz Claibourne, Anne Klein and Nine West.
Those three names came up in other departments, too and were more or less the only ones I actually recognized.
In the middle of all the chaos I managed to pick up a nice Donna Karan suit, or at least I thought it looked good on the hanger. It was not cheap, from $600 down to $300 but the cut and material just didn?t look alright. The material was shiny and looked rather cheap. There is just something about shimmer on suits that makes them instantly look like ugly polyester and dirt cheap. Not what I wanted.
The European Designer department was not much better. I had hoped to stumble across people like Versace, Jil Sander, Dior, Chanel but I can?t even remember any of the names in there, none I had ever heard off.
I tried the shoe department. Again, some really strange styles and not to my liking. Although some looked fine and I would have given them a try, my size never seemed to be there, either too big or too small. Either my size was very popular or they stock surplus in only the tiny and big sizes.
The lingerie department is well stocked but there was just nothing that caught my eye, everything more or less run of the mill and I didn?t really want to stock up in that department. I also had a quick look in their nightwear department. But again, nothing really interesting there. Some large t-shirt size nighties I can buy everywhere and I had the feeling that polyester reigned supreme in this department. Nothing of any nice style or colour.
At least a pair of jeans I thought I would be able to find. I had never heard of most of the makes or designers and when I finally got to the CK an
d Polo jeans, I couldn?t find anything in my size. I must have ended up in the teenager or young adult section as most of the jeans were ?junior?. I picked up one I thought was my size there but it was just too small, definitely not adult cut. There just weren?t enough jeans by designers I would have known for the ordinary woman. And prices there were still around the $50 plus tax.
I picked up the odd item to inspect it closer. But I felt that every time I tried to hang it back onto the rail, I had to push really hard to get it back on. It was the New Look/Mark One feeling where, when you push one item back onto the rail you push half a dozen hangers off at the other end. It was that tightly hung.
Still not put off, and good auntie that I am, I thought I could at least buy something for my little nephew. The children?s department is towards the back of the floor. And again, I was completely lost. I couldn?t find a single piece I wanted to buy. It?s more difficult to buy for a boy anyway and there never seems to be the same amount of stock for boys than girls but even here all the rails were too full and the sizing for children?s clothes was just beyond me. I couldn?t make anything out.
To the right from the main entrance there is the handbag, purse and sunglasses department. It is very busy in there. The shelves are very close together and it is often difficult for two shoppers to walk past each other between shelves without knocking into each other. It made me feel very claustrophobic at one point. I had to find alternative ways to get to the other end of shelves as every path seems to be blocked by crowds.
I was surprised to see that they had a fairly large cosmetics department with products from Clinique, Dior, etc but before you think that you can stock up on cheap skincare
, these products are not discounted and you will pay the normal price you would pay in other US stores.
Downstairs, in the basement you will find a whole department filled with linens, towels,electrical goods and travel items. It is certainly good to have a quick look around in case you need new bed linen or towels but I doubt very much that you will be interested in any of the electrical items as the electrical current in the USA is only 110 volts and the plugs won?t fit in the UK.
To be honest, the whole experience left me with a very sour taste in my mouth. I wasted a good few hours in that store and walked out with ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
At times I felt like I was in an oversized TK Maxx, overcrowded and tacky clothes, half of or completely fallen of hanger and nobody there to pick them up and put them back.
I was so glad when I finally left the store. Back in the fresh air I had a moment to reflect on what had just happened in that store. I was so up to shopping, I was ready, I had plans, I wanted to spend money but it wasn?t meant to be.
From there I went straight to 34th Street and walked into Macy?s. And I found what I was looking for straight away. Despite being busy, the store was large, open plan and not overcrowded with shelves and rails. Within an hour, that included trying on tons of clothes, I had done most of my shopping, saved a lot of money in the process and was out again. If you know where to look in Macy?s you can pick up a pretty bargain there, too. A lot of their clothes are also discounted up to 50%. You just have to know where to look. I bought the most expensive piece from the Polo range and it was $49, although I am still pining for that lovely Calvin
75;lein (not CK, proper Calvin Klein) silk dress I didn?t buy. It wasn?t my colour and I would have wasted the money had I bought it just because it was beautiful.
Century 21 may be ?New York?s best kept secret? but as far am I am concerned, it?s a secret I don?t want to know about. They can keep to themselves.
22 Cortlandt St. (between Church St. & Broadway)
Tel: 212 227 9092
Mon-Wed, Fri 7.45am to 8pm
Thurs 7.45am to 8.30pm
Sat 10am to 8pm
Sun 11am to 7pm
E to World Trade Center
1, 2 to Park Place
3, 4, 5, J, M, Z to Fulton St
I had a pretty good chuckle the other night when I was in the middle of writing this. I couldn?t complete the review at that point and only managed to come back to it and finish it off the next day.
I had the TV on in the background and a new episode of ?Queer Eye For The Straight Guy? was shown on Living TV. And where would they take the victim of their make over? To Century 21 and they walked out with bags of clothes.
Maybe the men?s department is better organised and the clothes of a nicer quality. I couldn?t find anything for myself and on the whole thought that most of the tops, dresses and trousers looked tatty and of poor quality, designer or not. Maybe I need one of the gay guys help me find something there. On your own you are more or less, well, on your own.
Thank you for reading.