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Where to Find Inspiration (and Lower Price Tags) for Inauguration Gowns

Discounts, special events, and more.

Who says Michelle Obama gets to be the only one with a gorgeous dress for the inaugural balls? Photograph by Charles Dharapak/AP Images.

The inaugural ball is unquestionably one of Washington’s most lavish affairs—and with the range of official and unofficial celebrations at countless venues this year, it seems an event exists for any taste. But with the many invitations to these fine soirees come some serious dilemmas: namely, what to wear and how on earth to pay for multiple black-tie ensembles. Thankfully there are multiple shows and sales to help you navigate the shopping and primping processes. Here are a few that can help you out.

This is my vacation—I don’t want to leave the hotel.
If you’re staying at the Park Hyatt for inauguration, you’ve saved yourself a shopping trip: Saks hosts a pop-up shop on the mezzanine level of the hotel from Friday to Sunday that weekend, to include jewelry, furs, cufflinks, and other ball-appropriate items. The hotel can even arrange for beauty consultations at the guest’s request. 1201 24th St., NW; 202-789-1234.

Help! The party’s in an hour, and my outfit is full of wrinkles.
On inauguration night, Nordstrom at Pentagon City will host its popular Drive-by Bow Tie event: Procrastinating partygoers can step in from 5 to 8:30 PM to take advantage of a range of outfit-polishing services, from jewelry cleaning to shoe shining, or pick up accessories at a special inaugural shop. Also at Nordstrom this Thursday evening, stylists will be on-site to help stumped shoppers—men included—put together their inaugural ensembles. Meet with one of the consultants from 6:30 to 9:30 PM. 1400 S. Hayes St., Arlington; 703-415-1121.

I want to support local designers.
Organized by the team behind DC Fashion Week, the Washington Presidential Inauguration Fashion Show will showcase evening gowns by Washington-based Ean Williams, Jovanna Reyes, and Concept OM, just to name a few. Admission to the event, held on the Sunday before inauguration at the Crystal City Doubletree hotel, is $40, or $80 for front-row seating. Purchase tickets online. 300 Army Navy Dr., Arlington; 703-416-4100.

I want a high-end dress (and shoes, and bag) but don’t want to spend my entire paycheck.
At Inga’s Once Isn’t Enough, that’s doable. The consignment shop is stocked to the brim with evening dresses, and is a great option for affordable pre-owned finds by the likes of Oscar de la Renta, Chanel, and Carolina Herrera, among other brands. Owner Inga Guen says she received an overwhelming demand for gowns during Obama’s first inauguration, and plans to sell more than 500 dresses, bags, and shoes this year. 4830 MacArthur Blvd., NW; 202-337-3072.

Vintage Chanel for $250? Tell me more.
The popular website Rent the Runway—which temporarily puts high-end apparel and accessories in the hands of shoppers who may otherwise not have access (currently offered: a floor-length Versace gown rentable for $275; a vintage Chanel clutch for even less)—is bringing its goods to Washington this weekend with a pop-up showroom at the LivingSocial HQ. Admission to the showroom, where you’ll get an extra 20 percent off rentals, are $8 online; you can then choose a time slot to chat with a stylist at the event. 918 F St., NW; 877-521-4191.

I want something simple and classic: black or white only.
All dresses—in varying black-and-white patterns and silhouettes—in White House Black Market’s inauguration collection are already under $300, but from 5 to 9 this Thursday you can score an extra 15 percent off at four locations, where stylists will be on-site to help craft and accessorize your black-tie look. 1100 S. Hayes St., Arlington, 703-413-4130; 5330 Western Ave., Chevy Chase, 301-652-2079; 7101 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda, 301-469-0413; 8023 Tyson’s Corner Center, McLean, 703-413-4130.

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