Squirreling away a few hundred dollars here and there appears to be a key way fashion lovers get their fix in straitened times. Kirna Zabête co-owner Sarah Easley has a client who nabbed a ruffled Lanvin frock in precisely this manner. After hoarding a good chunk of its cost in cash, the woman, who describes herself as being on “double-secret shopping probation as a result of the economy,” charged the balance. That way, “the credit-card bill is tiny, and I get to say, ‘I got a $3,000 dress for $800. I saved money, baby!’” Deploying that technique and others, this same client calculates that she has “managed to slip $20,000 worth of Balmain, Rick Owens and Givenchy in my closet without leaving a paper trail.”
Seasoned stealth shoppers know to make sure all involved parties are acting in cahoots. For instance, though it took a bit of training, Marisa Acocella Marchetto’s doormen now know that they’re never to hand over any packages to her husband without official clearance from the cartoonist and Cancer Vixen author herself. “They’ll ask, ‘Did you buy him a gift?’” Marchetto says. “And I’ll say, ‘No, I bought me a gift.’”
To assuage her guilt, Marchetto has been trying to frequent sales as much as possible. And she has scored a number of prized possessions at a discount, including Giuseppe Zanotti shoes. But despite her frugality, the secrecy persists. “Even though I shop at sales,” she says, “I still hide the bags.”
And it isn’t just clothes and accessories that women covertly splash out on. Just ask “dentist to the stars” Marc Lowenberg, who recently outfitted one of his female patients with $44,000 worth of veneers. “She insisted her husband would never notice and paid for it all with a bank check,” he says. When she returned a week later for her postprocedure checkup, the patient informed Lowenberg that her instincts were spot-on. “Not one word” was uttered by her spouse regarding the toothy overhaul.
In his 32 years in practice, plastic surgeon Lawrence Reed has seen more than his fair share of financial maneuvering on the part of his female clientele. Frequently it takes the form of seriously downplaying what goes on behind the doctor’s door. “They’ll say, ‘I’m just getting a few injections.’ Meanwhile, they’ll get a cheek or chin implant and their eyes done,” Reed says. “Very often, the husband’s out of town for four or five days, and then he comes home and doesn’t really notice it.” Another popular trick is to slip a cosmetic procedure in with something legit, such as the removal of a precancerous mole.
Reed’s stories are bountiful and, at times, a tad shocking. Consider, for instance, the one about the client who asked her hardworking husband to save for a cruise—ostensibly a trip that he, too, could enjoy—and then blew the entire kit and caboodle on tweaks to her face, breasts and other body parts. “She came in and said, ‘I’ve got the money. He’ll get over it,’” Reed recalls.