"Bob Levey," declared Jane Mills, with a plaintive warble, "you're my last hope." But as it turned out, Jane may become a source of hope for closets all around the Capital Beltway.

The immediate issue is a purple satin dress.

"It is a hateful purple satin dress, Bob," said Jane. "I wore it Saturday, in a wedding. I was a bridesmaid. I paid $400 for it, but I never want to see it again. My closet never wants to see it again. Could you help me get rid of it in some constructive way?"

There is no such thing as a bridesmaids consignment shop, I told Jane. Nor is there any such thing as a refund.

Some women have conned ultra-fine stores by returning a bridesmaid dress right after a wedding, claiming the dress "just wasn't right." But in addition to being dishonest, that isn't a sure thing.

I promised Jane I'd think about it and try to devise a solution. It took one phone call.

"Sure," said Peter Zakutansky.

You mean you're willing to accept whatever horrid bridesmaid dresses the masses deposit on your doorstep?

"Sure," said Peter Zakutansky.

You mean you're willing to spend the time and shoe leather to sort through them all?

"Sure," said Peter Zakutansky.

You mean you're also willing to accept Aunt Matilda's wedding gown, hideous mother-of- the-bride dresses, anything that could be a period costume?

"Sure," said Peter Zakutansky.

Zak does not work in heaven (although if he ever needs a reference. . . ). He is a professor in the theater department at Montgomery College in Rockville, and he runs the department's costume shop.

He is willing to accept whatever old clothes you might want to send his way, for use in future shows. They have to be in good condition. They can be boy clothes or girl clothes. They have to be delivered (he can't pick them up). And it's best if they're generic (a football jersey that says TIGERS across the front is less useful than a football jersey that says nothing across the front).

Call Zak at 301-251-7510 to make arrangements and obtain further information. By the way, you can claim a tax deduction for your gift. You set its value; Zak doesn't.

Jane Mills said she'll be the first plaintive donor on Zak's voice mail. Then Jane really fell into the soup. She asked about the theater program at Montgomery College.

Levey has seen it firsthand for several years, he told Jane. Both of his children have appeared in shows there. Even Levey himself was dragged out of theatrical oblivion in 1996 to appear in MC's production of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."

Somehow the reviewers didn't compare Levey to Pinza or Harrison. But I'm told that wildlife in Rockville forests was seen cringing that fall -- something about a deep bass voice that belted out "Brotherhood of Man" in a scary way during late-night rehearsals.

Anyway, MC runs classy theater all year, every year, under the direction of Susan Hoffman. It's a ton of fun on both sides of the lights. And this year's Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theater season is upon us.

"Guys and Dolls" begins a three-weekend run on June 25. "Bye Bye Birdie" opens on July 16, and also runs for three weekends. Jane Mills says she'll attend both -- and laugh at all the purple dresses, if any. If you'd like to do the same, the box office number is 301-279-5301.

It's a T-shirt culture, so it's time for our annual T-shirt trolling mission.

Each summer, I publish a collection of the funniest messages seen on T-shirts that season. No less than Readers Digest has picked up some previous pearls, so you know the Best of the Best are both clever and clean.

It's time for all readers with eyeballs to start doing some noticing. If you see a funny T-shirt message over the next six weeks, send it to me in any of these ways:

By phone: 202-334-7276.

By fax: 202-334-5150.

By mail: Bob Levey, c/o The Washington Post, Washington D.C., 20071.

By e-mail:

Many thanks.


Have you made a donation to our annual drive? No time like the present. Thanks for supporting our effort to send hundreds of underprivileged local children to sleepaway camp this summer.

Our goal by July 30: $550,000.

In hand as of June 13: $47,483.85.


Make a check or money order payable to Send a Kid to Camp and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.


Call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in K-I-D-S, or 5437, and follow instructions.