The draw of more than 20 of the region's best boutiques selling end-of-season clothes at prices up to 90 percent off regularly attracts 700 shoppers to the twice-annual event. Supermodel Hilary Rhoda, actress Ali Wentworth and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, have all braved the sea of thrifty fashionistas for a crack at the discounted duds in downtown D.C.
"You can immediately tell who has never been before, as they are usually the ones standing there looking a bit shocked that the other 75 percent of the room — including a lot of ordinarily conservative Washingtonians — are ducking behind whatever they can find, dropping trou and elbowing to get to the best bargains first," Martin said. "It really is a sight to behold."
The event is the brainchild of Liberty Jones, who owned designer shop Alex Boutique, as a way to sell her end-of-the-season merchandise and give to charity in the process.
Jones, who is now the public relations manager for Neiman Marcus Mazza Gallerie, and the other organizers — Martin; Jayne Sandman, co-director of BrandLinkDC; Shannon Haley, an executive at KPMG; and Mary Amons of "Real Housewives of D.C." fame -— met over drinks one summer night and launched the inaugural event that fall.
The first event raised $10,000 for charity. Since then, the event has donated $216,000 for charity. Tuesday's event benefits E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Northwest Washington, D.C.
"We choose a different charity each season," Martin explained. "In the fall, it's a women's charity. In the spring, a children's cause. And with each event, we donate not only to our chosen charity for the season, but we also donate a portion back to every charity we've worked with in the past, as well."
The major draw of the event remains the deeply discounted designer merchandise and a night on the town atmosphere. (Participants are treated to cocktails and hors d'oeuvres throughout the night.)
"It turns out hundreds of credit card-wielding fashionistas from D.C., Baltimore and beyond," said Lisa Schatz, owner of Cupcake, a high-end boutique in Fells Point. "Shopping, cocktails and Georgetown Cupcakes. What else could a girl need?"
In addition to Cupcake, other Baltimore boutiques such as the hip, funky Babe in Federal Hill, and Poppy & Stella, a popular Fells Point shoe boutique, regularly participate.
The event also features popular shopping spots in Washington, D.C., including: Urban Chic, Ginger, Julia Farr, The Shoe Hive, Wink, Caramel, Sherman Pickey and Hysteria.
If you go
The District Sample Sale takes place in downtown Washington, D.C., at 2101 L St., NW, on March 29 from 5:30- 9:30 pm. General Admission tickets are $40, VIP tickets are $100, Benefactress sponsor tickets are $250, and Corporate Benefactress tickets are $600. VIP and Benefactress guests receive a paperless goodie bag and will have private access to the sale for an hour.
Go to districtsamplesale.com.