The Ultimate Guide to Shopping the Lilly Pulitzer Sample Sale

How to win big at Lilly Pulitzer’s sample sale without losing your sanity, your dignity — or that last size six flamingo-print shift.


The frenzied scene at a past Lilly Pulitzer sample sale. | Julie Davis, Racked.

We have a certain reverence for Philly sports fans, the ferociously loyal folks who sit in stadiums rain or shine, who fist-pump and paint letters on their bare chests. But rarely do we talk about the other, lesser-known die-hards, that fierce tribe of women who camp outside an expo center for a week, who strip naked in front of 100 strangers without batting a mascaraed eyelash, who drag 50-pound hot pink bags endlessly back and forth across a concrete floor.

Meet the Lilly Pulitzer fans.

These women — maybe you, too? — now face their ultimate challenge: the Lilly Pulitzer sample sale, a three-day event that kicks off on Thursday, June 4th, at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks. I talked to sale veterans and Lilly insiders to get the scoop on how to conquer the sale. May victory (and that octopus-print caftan) be yours.

Go early on the first day. Lilly lovers have been known to camp outside the Expo Center for an entire week before the sale. Not necessary. Go on the first day, and get there by 3 a.m. to score a spot at the beginning of the line; doors open at 5 a.m.

Make friends. This might be beneficial later on (see: dressing rooms). But don’t get too attached: “The best friend you had in line? You’d walk over her dead body to get to the same dress,” says Julie, a 2013 sale shopper.

Know the layout … Everything is separated by category and then by size. Dresses are at the front, sportswear is in the middle, and accessories are on the sides.

… but make a beeline for the back. This is where you’ll find the coveted selection of samples (prints and designs that didn’t make the cut). Head here first, because these go fast. “It’s a total shit-show,” says Julie. “I got there around 5:30 a.m. and it was ransacked. Women’s eyes were glazed over with excitement.”

Go with a game plan. Once you’ve hit the sample section, make your way through the rest of the racks, but shop smart. “Decide what the priority is, and shop for that first,” says Anna, a seasoned Lilly sample-sale shopper. “It’s way too big, overwhelming and time-consuming to do the whole sale.”

Shop the dressing rooms. This is where most of the swapping and poaching happens. There’s no item limit, so shoppers lug in huge quantities of items. (Everyone gets a massive pink shopping bag upon entry.) Don’t be shy about asking to try on something in someone else’s “no” pile (that friend you met in line, perhaps?), but never rifle through without asking first. Manners, people!

Dress appropriately. Speaking of dressing rooms, these are communal, so check your modesty at the door (and wear underwear, please). Trying on clothes on the sales floor is frowned upon, but this isn’t heavily policed.

Don’t expect dirt-cheap items. The prices are good — up to 70 percent off — but this isn’t the place to score $10 dresses. The deals on the sample items are the best, but you’ll pay around $80 to $100 for a non-sample dress. Oh, and yes, they accept credit cards.