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Star's Clothing Line, Bitten, Goes on Sale And Bargain Shoppers Scratch Their Itch

Actress Sarah Jessica Parker greets fans at the launching of her clothing line Bitten at Steve &  Barry's at Manhattan Mall.
Actress Sarah Jessica Parker greets fans at the launching of her clothing line Bitten at Steve & Barry's at Manhattan Mall. (By Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)

The blouses with cap sleeves and ruffles are charming. The cargo pants roll up at the hem and fasten in place with a button. Women report that the shoes are comfortable -- at least in a 30-second try-on. The cotton T-shirts are substantial and the denim has body, heft and stretch.

"I'm excited to see what the quality looks like up close, but it truly doesn't need to be made to last forever," says Kristen Curran, 29, who took the morning off from her job as an office manager to be one of the first in line. "I love to shop and I don't really wear things that many seasons."

Based purely on aesthetics, it would be tough distinguishing between a pair of Bitten shorts and those in Club Monaco or Old Navy. For a few more dollars, one could go to Target and find clothes with a more distinctive point of view from designers such as Patrick Robinson, Proenza Schouler and Isaac Mizrahi. Or one could wait for the next celebrity or designer mini-collection from H&M.

Parker isn't the first to sprinkle a little glitter on bargain-basement clothes, but her brand has been the most eloquent at summing up the reasoning. Advertising slogans for the collection include: "A sweater should not cost more than groceries" and "Fashion is not a luxury."

As customers prowled through the store, the diversity was striking, not just in age and ethnicity but in size. It is a rare thing to see size 0 women shopping alongside those who wear a size 22, and all of them finding success.

"Not everybody is Posh Spice, size 2," said Curran, the office manager.

Mia Mitchell, 33, was expecting to fill 10 shopping bags. She'd been waiting and plotting for this debut.

"At these price points, I have the luxury of buying three times as many pieces as at the Gap or H&M," said the Brooklyn resident. "If I get home and there's something I don't like, I'll take it back." She hadn't had a chance to really inspect the quality, but after a cursory look, she was fairly pleased. "I wasn't expecting an Armani cut at these prices."

Mitchell, tall with shoulder-length black hair, leaves nothing to chance with these opening-day shopping frenzies. She had friends shopping in Maryland, Florida, New Jersey and Long Island. (Steve & Barry's has a store at Potomac Mills, too.) If a pal in Florida, for example, wanted one of the canvas, wedge-heeled espadrilles in a size 6 and it wasn't available, she could text her posse to search the shelves in their respective stores.

When last spotted around 10 a.m., Mitchell was texting her friends to round up all shoe styles in size 10 or 11. The texting "was my idea," Mitchell said. "I'm the one who sent the original e-mail that this was happening. I'm the one who saw [Parker] on 'Oprah.' "

To the organized go the spoils.

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