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NEW YORK — “Who doesn’t like a steal?” asked Jennifer Lopez mischievously as she rifled through the racks of designer clothes at Thursday night’s 7th On Sale Online benefit. Decked out in a black lace Dolce & Gabbana frock with her honeyed locks styled in a Sixties coif, Lopez was having a Dolce Vita moment with Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. How appropriate, then, that Dolce picked up a pair of oversized Michael Kors sunglasses and passed them to her to try on. “They’re too big,” Lopez offered. “But they’re beautiful,” Dolce urged, and with that, the deal was sealed for the actress-cum-chanteuse.

La Lopez wasn’t the only big spender sifting through the extensive array of designer bargains at Skylight Studios. Some 400 fashion, society and Hollywood types — including Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, Scarlett Johansson, Carolina Herrera, Chloë Sevigny, Michael Kors, Oscar and Annette de la Renta, Ellen Pompeo and Joy Bryant — dug deep into their pockets for some retail therapy and a good cause — to benefit the CFDA-Vogue AIDS Fund. The night raised over $1.6 million.

In the cashmere department, David Lauren held up two bright Polo Ralph Lauren cable-knit cashmere sweater against Lauren Bush‘s rosy complexion, before bagging them both. Diane von Furstenberg bought some Eames chairs, while Lopez lost a bidding war with Damon Dash over a sumptuous Ralph Lauren bed, which Dash bought for his daughter, Ava, for $4,000.

Johansson arrived on the arm of Calvin Klein’s Francisco Costa with the added boon of his buyers’ coupons. “I have Francisco’s, so I am going to spend, and I need a couch,” she said. In the end, the blonde actress scooped up a Moschino duffel jacket, cashmere sweaters and a blanket by Ralph Lauren, which had mistakenly been sold twice. No worries, though, since Polo promised to send her another one on Friday.

This story first appeared in the November 14, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Everybody’s shopping, which is the most important thing,” pronounced honorary chair Anna Wintour, who minced from shop to shop and even stopped to negotiate bargains for undecided shoppers.

Jacobs, for his part, decided to alter his holiday shopping strategy. “I’m going to buy gifts instead of waiting for the day before Christmas, which is what I usually do,” said the designer. But he was so overwhelmed by the hubbub that he wasn’t shopping live. “I can’t shop here; I’m going to do it online,” he said of the four-week long fashion auction for the cause on eBay, where the first of four rounds of bidding ends on Thursday.

The stunningly turned out Tilda Swinton, resplendent in a custom-made Alexander McQueen confection, had another reason. “I am not shopping because I haven’t got any money,” she whispered.

“I borrow gowns, wear them and give them back, so I won’t be buying eveningwear,” said Sevigny slyly.

The Skylight studios space was transformed into a spectacular enchanted winter forest, replete with frosted birch trees, massive icebergs and fake snow — Disney even supplied real props, like frozen animals, from the upcoming movie “The Chronicles of Narnia.” “You start with a theme and those Ralph Lauren people can do anything,” exclaimed Wintour. Simon Doonan, in an original shirt from Sammy Davis Jr., couldn’t conceal his amazement with the environs. “It took my breath away, I had to adjust my pacemaker,” quipped Doonan. “It’s like a groovy 1960s Italian movie. I keep expecting Monica Vitti to swing down from the ceiling.”

In the Gallery area, Mario Grauso bought both a Herb Ritts and a Bruce Weber print. “My wife is trying to talk me into the Irving Penn, too.”

The Gallery also caused some marital frisson between Patrick Robinson and Virginia Smith. “I might buy a Steven Meisel if I can talk my wife into it,” he offered. “It’s a bit of a family war. She wants the Tim Walker.”

Karan was interrupted from shopping and socializing when she had a bit of a fashion emergency: her high heel broke. She tried on several pairs of Manolos, but in the end decided to go with the spare pair she had kept in her car.

The rest of the fervent shoppers took a break from mulling over purchases of such goodies as crocodile Marc Jacobs bags and Chloé evening dresses for dinner in a luxurious tented room resembling an ornate glass house. Just before dessert, after speeches by Wintour and Lauren, Reed Krakoff presented the two runner-up awards for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund to Derek Lam and Thom Browne, who each took home $50,000. Swinton then gave top honors to the boys from Trovata — John Whitledge, Sam Shipley, Josia Lamberto-Egan and Jeff Halmos — who accepted their $200,000 cash prize with exuberance. “To think, two years ago we were making clothes in our dorm rooms,” laughed Whitledge.

After dinner, guests resumed their spending sprees, some reconsidering purchases as prices were slashed for frugal shoppers. But even the most luxurious department store can suffer from the odd glitch here and there, and 7th on Sale was no different. At the end of the night, there was a bottleneck at the pickup area for purchased goods, as Kenneth Cole worked feverishly behind the scenes to find customers’ respective bags. Scanning the pileup of fashion people waiting for their buys, Marina Rust concluded, “It’s still a party back here.”

Others had a different party venue in mind. “I wonder if they will ship it to me?” pondered Behnaz Sarafpour. “I want to go to Bungalow now.”

So too did Wintour, who made an appearance there with daughter Bee Shaffer, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez.

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