Diane Von Furstenberg Fall 2011/ Winter 2012 collection. (Maria Valentino/FTWP)

Fashion’s Night Out (FNO), for the uninitiated, began in 2009 in New York as a collective effort by the city and the fashion industry to drum up consumer optimism and combat the effects of the recession. There was music, food, alcohol, contests, giveaways, and, of course, discounts, all intended to draw shoppers out of their shells.

The events, held the night before the start of New York Fashion Week, turned Manhattan into a block party — albeit one where guests carried Derek Lam clutches instead of coolers — and made the ultra-coveted spring/summer collections being shown on runways across the city accessible to the masses. Well, at least the FNO t-shirts were accessible.

FNO was such a hit that the concept spread to other cities worldwide and, in 2010, made its way to Washington.

“It was such a great event last year,” said Nancy Mihayira, marketing director of the Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID), which is organizing FNO in Georgetown. “It was our first year doing it and we didn’t know what to expect.”

The participation of 80 merchants, thousands of visitors and “beautiful weather” made the 2010 event a success and encouraged the BID to do it again.

This year, more than 100 businesses are signed up to participate.

“We really feel like it’s a natural fit for [Washington],”Mihayira said.

Not everyone would agree. When it comes to style, D.C. gets a bad rap. Just say “fashion” and “Washington” in the same sentence and try not to imagine men in bland, beige suits with poofy, pleated pant legs that look like they could serve as sails, and women — also in bland, beige suits — with nude pantyhose tucked inside their white sneakers.

Yes, somehow, Washingtonians are considered about as fashionable as the cast of “Working Girl,” stuck in a state of frumpiness circa 1988.

Mihayira said the BID and FNO are trying to change that perception because, in her opinion, it’s simply not true.

“There is a demand. There are fashionistas out there,” she said. “We don’t have a fashion industry in D.C. but we do have an interest in fashion. And Fashion’s Night Out is everything one would expect from a fashion event.”

Tonight’s events include a roller derby demo, a dancing flash mob, a photo booth, wine and Scotch tastings, flower accessory-making, a live fashion show and a dream wedding giveaway. Oh, and in case you actually want to shop, stores will stay open late, until 11 p.m.

Tysons Galleria in McClean will have its own FNO celebration, complete with live jazz performances, a cooking demo, cocktails, snacks and giveaways.

“Fashion’s Night Out isn’t exactly the silliness or craziness of Halloween here in Georgetown,” said Jim Bracco, executive director of the Georgetown BID. “But it comes pretty close.”