An estrogen-charged crowd huddles at the entranceway of the historic neo-Romanesque Puck Building in downtown Manhattan.
Within eyesight are masses of women rummaging through designer winter hats, fingering sterling-silver jewelry and browsing over light cashmere sweaters. Salon stylists straighten unruly hair, brittle nails become ruby-polished, and palates are quenched by a select wine or brew. A pair of creamy taupe leather cowboy boots gets multiple stare-downs, and the line wrapping around the Chanel table calls out "free samples."
This is not the beginning of a dream sequence, and it's as far as possible from your typical mall. It's Shecky's Girls Night Out -- a five-hour shopping spree for burgeoning designer names from across the country, with complimentary cocktails and mini-makeovers all included in the admission price.
Girls' night out usually calls for a casual dinner, a round of martinis, and maybe some clubbing or a flick. But in a metropolis of fashionistas, a girls' night out can be taken to a whole new level.
And Shecky's Girls Night Out is coming to Philly: Thursday, April 19, at the Armory.
"We know how to bring in the crowd," said Shecky's events manager, Sara Motejl, in pre-event warning mode, "because we have a following at Shecky's. People in New York are pretty aware of us, and news of our planned events definitely spreads through word of mouth."
Or e-mail, as most shoppers claimed: "I was e-vited."
There are plenty of handmade designer dresses, eccentric precious-stoned necklaces and spa pedicures to go around.
"There's discounts on up-and-coming designers, but there is no flea market kind of feel," said Motejl. "We try to make it much more like a party, where each designer has a separate table for their merchandise."
Sign up for a Chanel consultation, and you get a free lip gloss and body lotion. Go on a hunt for a new buttery soft leather handbag, look for a warm wool scarf or seek out a Crunch Gym Membership. This event is all-encompassing.
The decor for the affair is simple, with tables dressed in snowy white cloths piled with trendy designer frocks and accessories. More than 100 designers have participated, including CheckerKat, Trends, Yumi Chen Designs, Sherry Wolf Accessories, Elissa Bloom, FromH. com, Dare 2 Diamond, String Bean, Conchi New York, Yukiko Sato and Page Sargisson.
In the Spiegel section -- one of the Girls Night Out advertisers -- everything was 20 percent off, and the young clutched their finds, like a short, funky green dress that fit like a glove.
Running the table for the designer Priorities was one of Martha Stewart's apprentices, Howie Greenspan, who said his product line of T-shirts, tanks, sweaters and jackets sold in Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom and Intermixx are must-haves.
"This flannel bedazzled shirt is hot for this fall," he said, "and so are our cashmere sweaters."
Priorities charged approximately 50 percent or more off at the Shecky's event.
Entire hordes of hungry-for-discount-designer-goods shoppers huddle around displays of chic leather belts, ribbon-band watches, dangling semiprecious-stoned earrings and glittering rhinestone handbags.
Racks of dresses, skirts, blouses, suede coats and handmade threads seemed to please.
'But I Drove Here!'
"Are we supposed to be drinking at this event or what?" said one shopper as a tray of alcoholic beverages held by a Shecky's staff member sweeps past her shoulder. "What a drag! I drove here," commented a young woman in response.
For some, it was as much a chance for some socializing as shopping. "We used to go to school together, so this was an excuse to see each other and hopefully buy something," said Sheera Jacob of Long Island, at Shecky's with two friends. "Plus, I love the discounts, the designers, the drinks. It's fun."
Jacobs and friends filed in line for the chocolate fondue, where shoppers dunked strawberries, brownie bits and marshmallows. Snacks and drinks -- from Finlandia vodkas to Amstel light -- were all included in the admission price.
Still, some shoppers felt that the prices were steep, and that discount prices would still leave a noticeable hole in their pockets. Shecky's claims all items were anywhere from 25 percent to 75 percent off the actual retail price.
But if that weren't enough, perks included goodie bags for the taking, complete with items such as mini Virgin Vines Wines, Skin Milk, Zone and Atkins Bars, Aussie and Rene Fuerter hair products -- and more. No one left empty-handed.
Girls Night Out even has a VIP pass, which guarantees front of the line privileges -- all for a one-time registration fee.
For more information on the upcoming Philadelphia event, log on to: girlsnightout. sheckys.com.