The Well-Heeled Find a Surprisingly Good Fit at Goodwill

A Goodwill silent auction and fashion show draws a warm reception from a high society gathering at the French Embassy.
By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 20, 2008

Of course they don't shop at Goodwill, the women said.

At least that was their line at the start of the French Embassy event Thursday night. Buy secondhand couture? A toss of salon-fresh hair accompanied the "no, not me" wave of a well-manicured hand.

Then they saw the taupe-and-blue bugle-beaded number going for a mere $17. The $7 to-die-for green suede jacket. The $8 graphic print Diane von Furstenberg cocktail dress.

So wives of board members, friends of French envoys, lawyers and lobbyists flitting across the embassy's lobby dived with gusto into the racks. The scene was a fundraiser for Goodwill that featured a fashion show culled from the thrift store's donation bins.

These well-heeled Washingtonians were discovering that it's still possible to look fabulous without a Wall Street severance package, a realization that's sinking in across the country.

Goodwill has seen a 6 percent jump in sales nationwide as the economy has worsened in the past year. A recent survey of about 200 thrift stores found that more than half enjoyed sales jumps averaging 30 percent.

On Thursday at the embassy, a contemporary mansion on Reservoir Road, the white marble floors, soaring ceilings and skylights helped make castoffs look chic.

As Patty Edwards surveyed the spread of Goodwill donations that were up for a silent auction, she cast her eyes across an array of gold rings, mink coats, LladrĂ³ statues and even a custom gown worn to President John F. Kennedy's inauguration.

The Bethesda resident said she has never shopped at a Goodwill before. But Thursday, she bid $75 on a size 4 eggplant-colored St. John knit outfit.

"I don't even know if it'll fit me, but for $75! St. John!" she said.

After they sipped wine and nibbled on salmon in champagne sauce, the crowd settled in for the fashion show.

Catherine Meloy, president and chief executive of Goodwill of Greater Washington, gave a speech extolling the value of the organization's job training programs and the pride and dignity they give to people.

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