DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sherry Shaoling wears a vintage Valentino Couture gown that will sell for $400 at Hawaii Opera Theatre's "Act II: A Fashion Reprise" event April 7. Don't worry if you're not a model size 2 or 4 like Shaoling; the gown is a size 8. Photographed at HOT's Kakaako headquarters. CLICK FOR LARGE
A benefit sale has designer clothes at bargain prices
HAWAII OPERA THEATRE'S spring benefit sale requires no sales pitch of its own to draw a crowd. The prices tell all:
» An Oscar de la Renta blouse in angelic mesh and lace, $25.
» A Chanel belt with black bow, $15.
» St. John dresses and suits, $30 to $40.
Collectible designer garments that fetched more than $1,000 at retail will be offered at a fraction of the price for three days thanks to HOT members who have offered up their gently used -- some pieces worn only once or even never -- and vintage frocks and accessories, as part of a fundraising effort for the theater.
Hawaii Opera Theatre hosts "A Fashion Reprise":
Featuring: Red carpet party with wine, pupu and fashion show
When: 5:30 p.m. April 7
Place: Hawai'i Convention Center
Also: Spring benefit sale 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 8 and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 9; free admission.
The clothing will be modeled during "Act II: A Fashion Reprise," a wine, pupu and fashion party hosted by HOT at the Hawai'i Convention Center April 7. The garments will be offered for sale after the $50-per-person event. Items not sold that night will be offered to the general public April 8 and 9, and unsold items will be donated to Dress for Success.
With prices such as $30 for an extra-small Pucci pink, black and white T-shirt (hands off chickie-babes; I'm calling dibs on that one!), it's easy to picture sales fiends -- eager to thrust elbows and raid unguarded carts at normal sales -- getting into tug o' wars and wire-hanger battles. But Nikki Nielsen, development associate for HOT, who's helping coordinate the event, is a picture of calm.
"We'll probably have about 40 volunteers to help, so I think we'll be OK."
While planning the sale didn't take as much logistics as setting up an opera, there was a lot of work involved in collecting the clothing donations from about 60 members, storing them in nooks and crannies throughout the HOT offices, and making rack arrangements.
"We're really close to having 1,500 garments, and we've gotten a lot of good donations," Nielsen said. "I took two days off from work, and I came back to find clothes on the conference room table, clothes all over my office. It was like the clothes had exploded!"
The highlight of the sale will be a handmade Valentino Couture ball gown, size 8, with a black-and-red taffeta skirt and lace bodice embellished with hand-sewn beads. The price is set at $400 for the gown donated by Phoebe Coles, who came up with the sale idea and made the first donations after hearing about a similar event in San Francisco.
Nielsen has been privy to a whole history of relationships between the donors and their clothing, ranging from those who remember where they bought pieces and when they wore them, to unsentimental types who simply say, "Here," as they hand over bags of clothing.
"We got a lot of men's items from a widow whose husband had been a fan of opera. She was really excited when she heard about this sale, because this is where he would have wanted his clothing to go.
"As she was talking about the clothes, she was lovingly holding each item to her body. She had us almost in tears because they clearly meant a lot to her," Nielsen said.
Other menswear items include silk aloha shirts and tuxedos.
"So we have a nice range of items. It's not just for women, although there will be lots of purses, shoes, some jewelry. We're probably going to have one or two racks of St. John items alone."
Just don't count on the sale to take place annually. Even the opera set can't be buying a new Lacroix or Gaultier outfit every season.
"I hope everybody is excited and will want to buy," Nielsen said. "Then we'll probably take a year off, let everyone start saving their clothes again."