What I Bought At Century 21

What it's like to actually shop at the store, and what I walked away with.


Meet the newest members of a very private club called my shoe closet.

After reporting on all the details of the brand-new Century 21 store in the Gallery (I was led around by a very friendly PR rep), I returned to the store as a shopper. A press tour or event doesn’t show you how long dressing room lines are, how efficient the check-out process is, and how helpful—and friendly—store clerks are. And this is need-to-know information.

So I popped back in last Friday afternoon around 4pm to do some, ahem, recon. And, okay, fine, to check on a pair of shoes that I’d put on hold during my original non-shopping press tour (I cannot help myself).

The store on Friday wasn’t horrifically crowded, as I feared it would be. Security guards were stationed just inside the doors, supposedly only letting in people who are members of the store’s loyalty program, C21 Status. (They waved me in without checking, so I don’t think they were too stringent about this policy. In any case, the store officially opens to the public tomorrow.)

Sales associates, dressed in all black, were very friendly and helpful. “That’s where you’ll find the good stuff, all the really high-end European designers,” one said to me as I checked over the shoe selection for the ninety-seventh time, just to be absolutely sure that a pair of lug-soled Prada heels hadn’t somehow materialized in a size larger than 6.5 (they hadn’t). Note: He was referring to the right-hand wall as you walk into the shoe room.

I wandered upstairs to the women’s section, where I piled my arms high with things to try on. A sales associate wheeled up a ‘cart’ for me—a cute little wheeled basket that is easy to roll around and much less unwieldy than regular shopping carts. Plus, they are chicer, too. There is nothing in this world less fabulous than carting around piles of clothing in a shopping cart that looks like it belongs in Pathmark.

The dressing room is where I see potential for unraveling. All UPC codes on garments are scanned by the attendants; you can bring eight items at a time. Anything you want to buy is patted down by an attendant before you leave the dressing room area. I overheard two attendants voicing concerns about how the process would work when the store is very crowded, and I have to agree with them. On a crowded Saturday afternoon, I can see these lines becoming unmanageable. And on Black Friday or during the prime holiday shopping season? Forget it.

Another ding: a lack of fitting rooms in the women’s department. The upstairs fitting rooms are located in the men’s department, which makes it inconvenient when you need to quickly pop back outside for another size. Men’s and women’s dressing rooms are together (men to the left; women to the right); separating them would perhaps help unclog long lines, too. I’m sure there is a very scientific retail planning reason for this, but it seems very odd to me.

But the dressing rooms themselves are pretty and well-lit (if in need of a few more mirrors). And they have enough hooks (six!) so that I can properly organize my finds into ‘Definites,’ ‘Maybes,’ ‘Nos,’ and ‘Husband Will Kill Me, Is It Worth It?’ piles. This hook surplus situation is much more of a rarity than you’d think.

The check-out lines were long, but moved relatively quickly. I ended up buying a pair of See by Chloé studded booties (see them above; originally $495; they were $190), and a pair of MSGM waxed Lycra leggings (originally $227; they were $70). For those looking to shop this week, I recommend checking out the MSGM selection (especially the floral midi-skirts and neoprene dresses), the Vince section (my friend bought a fantastic gray knit jacket with leather piping here) and the Missoni rack (I am still lusting over a $500 see-through tunic that landed in the ‘Husband Will Kill Me, Is It Worth It?’ pile; I decided it was—barely—not worth it).

Heading there this week? Show me your finds, and tell me how your experience was in the comments!