CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Tiarra Hoyt wears a black strapless gown by Carmen Marc Valvo ($200) while resting on a Honolulu Design Center bedroom display topped with sheepskin rugs. CLICK FOR LARGE
» HOT bargains
You haven't lived until you've seen the well-heeled supporters of Hawaii Opera Theatre in a foot race, clackety-clack, clack, clack, ending at the clothing racks at HOT's Act II fashion show and sale of donated treasures straight from the wardrobes of some of Hawaii's best-dressed ladies and gentlemen.
The event at the newly opened Honolulu Design Center features a $60 VIP fashion show and sale from 6 p.m. tomorrow night, with a 10 a.m.-to-5 p.m. Saturday sale, with $6 admission at the door.
'ACT II: A FASHION REPRISE'
Hawaii Opera Theatre's spring benefit:
» Place: Honolulu Design Center, 1250 Kapiolani Blvd.
» Tomorrow: Red-carpet party and fashion show pre-sale with 6 p.m. cocktails and pupus on third floor, 7 p.m. fashion show in second-floor INspiration Room, and pre-sale at 7:30 p.m. in Cupola Events Theatre. Admission is $60. Call 596-7372.
» Saturday: Sale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Cupola. Admission is $6 at door, or $5 in advance with a downloadable $1 coupon from www.hawaiiopera.org.
"Everybody loves a bargain, and you know they're gently used clothes, many of them only worn once," said Reine Ah Moo, a Realtor who is co-chairing the event with Josette Marsh, who said, "This event is perfect for the woman who aspires to get ahead in the workplace and can dress for success without spending a fortune."
Up for grabs are high-quality clothing, including couture gowns by such designers as Carolina Herrera, Carmen Marc Valvo and Jean-Paul Gaultier, as well as smaller brands, menswear and vintage pieces ideal for today's mix-and-match, high-low spirit of personal style.
Ah Moo is a natural-born stylist who worked in the retail fashion industry in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas before coming home to Hawaii three years ago.
While growing up, "I didn't have a sister, so I used to dress up my brother, in no particular outfit, but I definitely accessorized with beads, long necklaces, sunglasses," she said. "I was probably, like, 7 and he was 5. He didn't have a chance."
She's never lost her passion for clothing and accessories, and her sources run the gamut of "vintage, regular sales, nonsales, you name it," she said, which makes her perfect to share a few tips about secondhand shopping, whether at Act II or the Salvation Army's pre-owned show and sale Saturday at the Sheraton Waikiki.
First of all, it's also a good idea to take stock of what's in your closet, what your wardrobe lacks, and try to fill in the missing pieces.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Bonita Wilkie wears a gown by the New York-based celebrity formal and wedding gown designer Reem Acra, who created the gown worn by Beyoncé for the cover of Vanity Fair. While Acra's gowns typically sell for more than $3,000, the one shown will be priced at $200 during "Act II: A Fashion Reprise." The area rugs shown in the backdrop are priced at $629 to $3,649 each. CLICK FOR LARGE
Then, she says, "I always look for classics. Chanel, Halston. The designer labels stand out because they have quality and reputation behind them.
"When I was younger I shopped the trends, but those styles go in and out so quickly you'd be better off investing in better-quality classic pieces. Then you find you don't have to spend a lot of money on trends."
Classic or not, she says details can cause your bargain to unravel. Unless you're a skilled seamstress, a piece could end up costing more to fix if a hem needs to be straightened, a zipper needs fixing or buttons need to be replaced.
And there's nothing chic about wilting or faded fabric. "Look for crispness in a garment," Ah Moo said. "Make sure there's still life left in it."
Don't write off a garment thinking it's too big or small. Even if your body never changes size, fit changes from label to label, so make sure you try everything on. This is particularly important with vintage clothing sized for a time when people were much smaller than they are today. You might find that a 1970s size 10 is today's size 4.
Then there's the specter of the clothing face-off -- the fear that you won't look as good in a dress as its former owner. "Everybody wears a garment differently," Ah Moo says. "It's not just the garment, but the attitude you bring to it. You can always style it differently with accessories. With good accessories you can pull off a lot of things."
Although Ah Moo, with Marsh and Susan Fusuma, was charged with weeding out pieces unfit for this high-caliber sale, many couture items are coming in at the last minute.
"I'm anxious to see them all," said Ah Moo, who, sadly, will have to wait until shoppers have finished making their picks before she gets her turn at the racks.
"I hope there'll be something left."