For those playing the home game, Oscar is fashion superstar Oscar de la Renta. His clothes are as common on the red carpet as Entertainment Tonight and borrowed diamonds, which is good news for Gayle, who has several big parties coming up. "I need a gown and a dress and a—" Adam calls for a time-out and offers his first insight of the day: "There's an old saying—'Outlet shoppers plan and God laughs.'" He explains that it's fine to have some sense of what you really need; otherwise you'll wind up with a bunch of "terrific buys" that never see the light of day. "But," he continues, "you can't come to a place like this with a concrete agenda, any more than a great chef can sit down and plan two weeks' worth of menus. He just has to work his way through the greenmarket to see what looks fresh that particular morning. He's gotta stay open to possibility."

Gayle hears what he's saying...sort of. She is, after all, a woman with a mission: She needs something to wear to a movie premiere and she's taking a no-retreat, no-surrender approach to finding it.

They enter the Oscar de la Renta store as if entering the Promised Land: Clouds part. Angels sing. Within minutes, Gayle is modeling a 50 percent off turquoise-and-tangerine halter dress for Adam. "Gayle," he says, studying her from every angle, "do you see how this is fitting in back? I mean, it's perfect if you want to work at a Howard Johnson's...or if you are a Howard Johnson's. I don't care if they're giving it away; this would be wrong for you at any price." As he helps with her zipper, a strappy red alligator pump catches his eye. It is love at first sight.

"My God, Gayle!" he says in a voice usually reserved for people who find a perfect likeness of the Madonna in their waffle batter. "These shoes were $3,600 and now they're 448 bucks," he says, kneeling down to slide them onto her feet. But he lost Gayle right after the word thousand; she hasn't heard a thing since. "They're not even comfortable," she mumbles. He repeats the new and vastly improved price. "Okay," she says, momentarily taken by their sleek silhouette, "maybe they're starting to feel a little more comfortable." Then, snapping out of it, she adds, "But I still wouldn't spend $448 on a pair of shoes." Adam points out that alligator is a classic, that they'll still be in style 25 years from now, that she'll get more use out of this one perfectly constructed, totally timeless pair at $448 than she'd get if she were to buy three trendy pairs for the same amount. Gayle studies the thin red strips crisscrossing her feet and finally replies, "Forgive me, but I might feel like these alligator shoes were more of a deal if they had a little more actual alligator on them. By the way, when is lunch?" Adam reminds her that this is only their first stop and hands her two cocktail dresses and an energy bar.

One of the dresses, a gray, blue, and sunflower-yellow print, has potential. "Wait a second!" Adam says, cinching a yellow patent leather belt around Gayle's waist. The belt does the trick; it nips her in and completes the look. She loves the dress. He loves the dress. Her accountant will love that the dress is half price. But there's a problem: "Whoa!" Gayle screeches, jumping back from the belt's $245 price tag. Adam points out that it's the perfect width, just the right color, and "she who hesitates is naked at a movie premiere," but the day is young and Gayle is convinced she can find a belt for much less money at one of the other shops.


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