Wednesday, September 25, 2013

District Sample Sale Review: Almost a Complete Disappointment

There are many, many things I love about living in DC. The relaxed pace of the city, which seems to balance work life and family life better than NYC ever could (for lawyers, at least). The low height of the buildings, which allows you to see sky even in the depths of downtown. The metropolitan nature of the place, meaning that there are very few cultural phenomena you miss out on, even if NYC gets some of them first.
One thing I don't love? The lack of fashion culture here.
Now I am FAR from a fashionista. I read Atlantic-Pacific with the same sense of impossible bewilderment as the rest of us pleebs. But I enjoy a good sale as much as the next gal, and I miss being able to check RackedNY's list of sample sales on any given day and find something more or less interesting.
That feeling of loss is part of what motivated me to try out District Sample Sale, despite the following misgivings:
* The sale did not feature brands, but rather DC-area boutiques, only a few of which I'd ever heard of.
* The sale cost $40 TO GET IN.
These misgivings were eventually overcome partially by the fact that I missed going to sample sales, but mostly by the fact that there would be cupcakes.
FWIW, Georgetown Cupcakes are tasty, but extraordinarily overhyped.
So I ponied up the $40 and checked out the scene with a good friend of mine. This year's event was held at a building called the Sphynx club (where, incidentally, my boyfriend ran a charity poker tournament last year). I found the line to get in to be calm, well-organized, and short. The layout of the vendors inside was impressive:
The food offerings were also impressive. For your $40 ticket price, you could sample small bites from a bunch of excellent local restaurants. Some of the items up for grabs included a mushroom gnocci, several varieties of gazpacho, a delightful english pea soup, crab sandwiches, and a seasonal cocktail made with apples and squash.
Cocktail by Federal. They torched the rosemary. TORCHED it.
I started with the food. While I doubted I would make up my $40 ticket price in clothing savings, I figured I could throw down at least $20 in appetizers. Also, there was a bar in the back of the venue offering wine and a few cocktails, but everything used "Skinnygirl" alcohol products which I think kind of suck? Am I wrong? Did you know Skinnygirl makes wine, too? Why would you skinnify wine? I feel like this is a step too far.
The salmon had some kind of tequila-type glaze. Tasty.
Upon descending into the madness of the actual sample sale, I immediately felt discouraged. None of the prices before my eyes were particularly startling...most things worth buying seemed to be about 50-60% off of already pretty expensive prices. Lots of $100-$150 dresses, etc.
Case in point: This necklace, advertised as "unique" and "marked down" to $40, sells at Eastern Market for $15 (and you can negotiate down to $12 or $10). Dissappointing.
I mentally gave up on the clothes and sat down at a chair in the back to get free hairstyling:
My instruction was to make it look like Michelle Williams' Louis Vuitton campaign. It ultimately looked nothing like that.
Ultimately, my friend found a cute chartreuse fabric purse with a blue lobster on it for $25, and I bought a scarf and a $65 necklace, mostly out of desperation but also because the necklace is very pretty and consists of real pearls/turquoise, somewhat justifying the price.
Overall, I am not sure if I got my $40 worth at this event. I probably did, but only if you add it up as follows:
$12 worth of booze (I'm not a heavy drinker, plus it was hard to hold wine glasses while shopping)
+ $10 worth of food ([wo]man cannot live on small bites alone)
+ $10 worth of a blowout (of course, this would have cost more than that if I'd gone to a salon, but I would not have been going to a salon so it's not really money saved)
+ $0 in discounts (although the necklace was theoretically reduced in price from "retail," I have my doubts that this piece ever went for $130, as it was sold by the same vendors as the above-posted-$40-Eastern-Market-necklace. Had I nabbed some kind of a deal beyond an ordinary sale price, I would have put that amount here
= $32, plus probably a movie-ticket's worth of fun with a friend, so that comes out to about $40.
Of course, you could always point out that I definitely spent some money I otherwise would not have spent had I not attended this event (on the necklace and a scarf), so what I'm saying is I have no idea how I come out on whether the sample sale was worth it.

Would I attend this event next year? Possibly. It is a decently fun girl's night out and I think I can deduct the cost of entry as a charitable donation (proceeds went to charity, after all). As long as you don't go with the intention of scoring OMGAMAZINGDEALS then it will probably be a few hours interestingly-, if not well-, spent.

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