As long as we're all into carbon footprints and fair-trade and such -- we are, aren't we? -- here's how I do my part for recycling and sticking it to the sweatshops:
It's a shopping secret, a little chain of stores I like to call Bonne Volonte.
If you're the sort who buys clothes the way we all buy gasoline -- resignedly, hurriedly, just-tell-me-what-I-owe-and-get-it-over-with -- this isn't for you. But if serendipity and treasure-hunting appeal, hurry on down to those little boutiques, your local Bonne Volonte -- Goodwill.
It takes more imagination and wit than money, but a wise and fashion wised-up Goodwill shopper can suss out the treasures amid the trash, among them:
A Chanel pearl torsade, a 1960s Rudi Gernreich knit suit -- he invented the topless swimsuit -- 1950s beaded cashmere sweaters and I. Miller shoes, an original Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress, 1970s Bottega Veneta lizard platform shoes, a Bonnie Cashin leather coat, an early Judith Leiber bag, a fabulous 1930s embroidered silk coat, a Don Loper orange ostrich passport case [Don Loper was the Beverly Hills designer whose clothes Lucille Ball angled to get in one of I Love Lucy's Hollywood episodes.] And drawers full of bias-cut silk and lace pre-war lingerie slips and bed-jackets and lavishly embroidered hostess gowns... and nothing costing more than $10. Oh, except the Chanel pearls. Those were $20.
And for a vegetarian like me, finding Coach and Fendi bags ''off the books'' is doubly gratifying -- clear-conscience bags that don't create an inventory check-mark that generates more leather, in the same spirit that my friend the vegan eats roadkill but would never ever buy so much as a Vienna sausage.
It's about end-running the system, shopping off the grid. The only difference between the ''vintage'' you see in on the backs of celebs in the fashion mags and the Goodwill stuff in my closet is the middleman, or middle-woman, who does the fun part -- the shopping -- and charges the markup.
I'm waiting for the day -- the evening -- that some star steps onto the red carpet and answers the question "Who are you wearing?" with an honest "Bonne Volonte!"