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On last night's episode of Stylista, the contestants were divided into teams and tasked with devising a "shopping" page, one of those cheap-to-create catalogue-ish pages that highlight an alleged trend. When the hour of judgment rolled around, one team got roundly scolded by Joe Zee and Anne Slowey for not bothering to include store details and prices because, Anne frowned, what on earth is the point of looking at something if she cannot instantly totter off to purchase it? Elle would never feature clothes that aren't actually available to anyone, right? Um, not exactly, as the Times' Eric Wilson discovers during an intrepid investigation into what those three tantalizing little words, "price upon request," actually mean.

As shocking as it may seem, glossy mags like Vogue, Elle, and Harper's Bazaar—even the Times' own T—are wantonly colluding in the practice whereby ridiculously over-the-top clothes, shoes and accessories are created as publicity stunts for the runway with no intention that they'll ever reach the stores. So that embroidered Chloé skirt in the October Elle, or those vertiginous Versace platforms in the November Harper's Bazaar? Our condolences if they were on your fall wish list: In these instances, as in many others, there are no prices available on request because they never went into production.

We know: It almost makes you wonder if mag execs are more concerned with pleasing their advertisers than their readers, but let's take heart at the fact that sometimes, the phrase "price on request" genuinely means that a price wasn't available before going to press, as in the case of the red Alexander McQueen coat modeled by Emma Watson in Harper's Bazaar. It can be yours for $60,000 and—and—it can be made in other colors. You're welcome!

Phantom Clothes, Price Unknown [NYT]