District Sample Sale
Galleria at Lafayette Center, downtown DC; districtsamplesale.com
Next sales: September 9; March
The area’s biggest sample sale—tickets always sell out—features merchandise from such stores as Urban Chic, Sassanova, Harriet Kassman, Sherman Pickey, and Daisy Too. A ticket is $45, but a $125 VIP pass gets an extra hour of shopping plus a swag bag. (Last season’s included a $25 gift card to National Jean Company and $20 gift card to WeOneYouTwo plus goodies like chocolates.) Afterward, stick around for free nibbles and drinks.
It’s a good idea to sign up for e-alerts. Besides finding out about local sales and trunk shows throughout the year, you’ll be notified about twice-yearly District Shopping Days, where a $15 card—the proceeds go to local charities—nets 20 percent or more off at such stores as National Jean Company and Sangaree.
Alexandria Boutique Warehouse Sale
George Mason Masonic Temple
Next sale: late February/early March
You’ll need to line up early to get into this free-admission yearly sale, featuring such boutiques as Hysteria, Shoe Hive, Tickled Pink, and Treat. An hour before the sale opened last year, the parking lot was full and lines ran around the block. You’ll fight to snag uber-cheap merchandise from Lily Pulitzer, but moms-to-be can have a field day at boutiques such as Apple Seed. Outside, vendors sell well-priced pashmina wraps and jewelry, including perennial favorite Queen Bee Designs. The owner of Shoe Hive organizes the sale, so it’s best to check in a month or so before (or on the store’s Web site) for times and dates.
Annapolis Warehouse Sale
Next sale: late September/early October
Boutiques including Diva, Bailey’s, Horse, and Saucy Shoes offer merchandise at up to 75 percent off. Because this free-admission sale has been held only once, you’ll find fewer shoppers than at the DC or Alexandria sample sales. At the spring event, I found a $400 Walter dress for $60. There’s no Web site or phone number; ask at Saucy on West Street or Bailey’s on Main about dates, which are usually posted on their Web sites about a month in advance.
Next sale: through early August
Sassanova’s aptly named “insane sale” offers up to 80 percent off brands such as Giuseppi Zanotti, Loeffler Randall, Tory Burch, and Delman—often before the styles go on sale elsewhere.
Next sale: starts September 5
This two-room rowhouse boutique in Old Town offers sample-sale merchandise year-round from such names as Diane von Furstenberg and Nanette Lepore. During end-of-season clearances, the classic pieces are sold on $25, $50, $75, and $99 racks.
National Jean Company
Next sale: September 11 to 14
The local branch of this national firm knocks 20 percent off its jeans and casual wear (from the likes of Splendid, Ella Moss, and Alisha Levine) during semiannual tent sales—and this year coincides with the opening of a Reston location. At one sale, I bought a pair of J Brand Jeans and two Splendid tops for about $200.
Next sales: August 1 clearance; November/December designer sale; January clearance; April designer sale
The District’s grande dame of style, Kassman each quarter marks down merchandise 40 to 80 percent. There are classic labels such as Teri Jon and Sonia Rykiel as well as of-the-moment pieces by Pink Tartan and Lela Rose. In the bridal salon next door there is always an unmarked sample-sale rack where gowns are up to 70 percent off.
Daisy Too, Daisy Baby, and Zelaya
Next sale: December 4 and 5
During a yearly anniversary bash for these sister stores, save 20 percent off everything from shoes (Zelaya) to babywear. This kickoff to the holiday season can mean great deals on in-season merchandise: They restock beforehand.
Next sales: January, June 2009
Arrive early—there’s usually a line around the block of well-dressed women waiting to get a chance at 30 to 50 percent off Marni, Brunello Cucinelli, Dries Van Noten, and Proenza Schouler during this boutique’s biannual sale.
Tiny Jewel Box
Next sale: April
This jeweler’s annual top-to-bottom sale slashes up to 70 percent off top-brand jewelry (excluding Rolex) plus wedding-friendly china and housewares. Current clients know to ask about the “secret sale,” a preceding weekend where pieces are discounted before going on sale to the public.