It's really fun to wear big fuzzy slippers in a mall. More than 1,000 girls in sixth through 12th grade discovered that Saturday night when they arrived at Dulles Town Center for the world's largest sleepover. They quickly changed into pajamas and slippers and began slipping and sliding down the tile hallways.
Conversely, it really hurts to run down escalators in your socks. Maybe that's why sixth-grader Ashley Allen was so intent on rescuing her navy blue Steve Madden slipper, which had somehow landed atop a storefront, out of reach.
"They were, like, $30," Allen said.
McLean Bible Church, which organized the giant slumber party, hopes that Guinness World Records will accept it as a new listing for largest sleepover.
Guinness sent rules that organizers took pains to follow: The sleepover had to last 12 hours, lights had to be out a minimum of five hours and the girls had to sleep in sleeping bags on the floor -- no cots allowed.
Reilly Stith was prepared for that last rule. Her father had helped her stuff a sleeping bag full of pillows. "It's the cushiony bed!" cried the Forestville Elementary sixth-grader.
The sleepover started at 10 p.m., and by 11, all of the good spots were taken. Girls had spread sleeping bags on the few upholstered couches and chairs and crowded together on carpeted areas. Girls from each grade set up camp in front of department stores, and activities took place in the mall's central atrium.
In between, girls relaxed in their pajamas, talking, reading Self and CosmoGirl! or chatting on cell phones, which glowed from sleeping bags all night long.
"I think it's awesome there's something like this," said Christina Karas, 23, a volunteer chaperon. "It's okay to do something girly with a bunch of girls. You don't have to worry about boys. A lot of times, high school girls forget that."
In a mall? Not a chance.
During the sleepover's fashion show, teenagers and preteens vamped in sexy Charlotte Russe fashions. It didn't look as if they had forgotten about boys as they strutted the aisle in denim cat suits and strapless evening gowns.
The models were chosen in an audition at McLean Bible Church, and the winners got to spend an evening at Charlotte Russe picking their outfits.
"I thought I would be nervous with everyone staring, but it's just fun," said Krissy Redabaugh, 13.
She won't be buying the clothes, though, not even the black velvet sweat suit she was stroking before curtain call. "I wish I could, but my mom won't let me," she said. "Too expensive."
At 11, Tiffani Chapman already looked like a fashion plate, albeit in nighties, as she watched the fashion show intently. Her pajamas were silky green with yellow ducks. She had tied her blond curls back with a sparkly scarf. The Blue Ridge Middle School sixth-grader shops at Dulles Town Center a lot, especially at her favorite stores, Limited Too and Icing.
Girls ran all night long, when they weren't dancing and singing karaoke or dancing in the glass elevators. Candy World stayed open past 1 a.m. to fuel the fun.
Volunteer Lindsey Drouin, 23, said the activities were "kind of like advertising. It draws them here, and then someone gives them a message."
Drouin volunteers for the church's youth group "because I want to see the Lord work in the lives of young people. They are facing so many struggles."
But with so many of them full of sugar, it was motivational speaker Tara Bollinger who struggled. The reigning Miss Missouri wanted to talk about teen suicide, pregnancy and drug use, if only she could quiet the girls long enough.
"Ladies, let me ask you to be mature young adults," Bollinger pleaded before soldiering on, while giggles and squeals echoed through the halls.
She used to think, Bollinger told them, "if I was only 10 pounds lighter, if I only had the perfect boyfriend, I'd feel loved. Let me tell you, that's not going to happen."
Volunteers handed the girls envelopes with a mysterious minty scent and told them not to open them. "There is only one lifesaver; do you know who that is?" Bollinger continued. "Jesus Christ!" shouted the crowd.
She then told them to open the envelopes. Inside were evaluation forms and a treat. "Take your Lifesaver out," Bollinger said. "You can eat it."
Evaluation forms and candy wrappers soon littered the floor. Childish handwriting on one form: "I would add more shopping."
The girls became familiar with all that the town center has to offer, especially during the window-shopping scavenger hunt. They had to find 30 items in store windows, such as giant Pez dispensers and a neon duck sign.
"I've, like, memorized all the stores," said Anna Gentry, 11.
She and the other sixth-graders seemed far from sleep when it was time for lights out at 3 a.m. Her friend, Meredith Weller, admitted that sleep did not figure into their plans.
"We were going to get up in the middle of the night and run around, but then we got worried it would ruin the world record," she said.
On the other side of the mall, Anne Dagostino, 16, and Talia Katz, 13, were ready for bed. "I'm tired," Dagostino said.
"I don't know if we'll talk for five hours straight," Katz said.
Earlier in the evening, Dagostino had described the sleepover as "a girl's dream and a guy's worst nightmare."
By 3:15 a.m., she sounded as if she'd rather be dreaming: "People are screaming, and cell phones are going off and it's, like, shut up."
The seniors fell asleep first in a quiet alcove by a door. Other high school girls tucked in soon afterward. But the sixth- and eighth-graders talked and giggled until almost sunrise, leaving their sleepy peers dragging sleeping bags to the central hallway and pulling them up over their ears.
The church will submit a final count of 1,042 girls and 134 chaperons from across the area to Guinness in hopes that the company accepts that as a record.