Joyce Pollnow gazed at Farrah Fawcett's evening gown and sauntered past Shari Belafonte-Harper's T-shirts when, there by the rack of furs, she stumbled upon a curious collection of white-feathered coats.
"Those are Phyllis Diller's!" the visitor from St. Louis declared. She could tell, she told her sister-in-law, Judy Hoefer, "before I even looked at the tags."
Hoefer, for her part, kept eyeing the Halston-designed pearl-festooned Fawcett gown. "It's fantastic," she said. "Although I can't quite figure out how to close it."
Despite their enthusiasm, the two customers left the Melrose Avenue recycled celebrity clothing shop without making a purchase. "Even if it is the stars', it is used clothing and I've never bought used clothing before," Hoefer said.
Nonetheless, they added, A Star is Worn stuck out even in a neighborhood trendy enough to include such establishments as Wacko, Aaardvarks and Retail Slut.
Indeed, in a city where many tourists and residents alike keep tabs of celebrity sightings as if they were philatelists filling their stamp albums, perhaps it is not that strange that a shop would eventually open where one could collect the hand-me-down clothes of the stars.
In business for almost two years, A Star is Worn offers merchandise that, in a recent catalogue, ranged from Rosanna Arquette's orange-on-white lace-up leggings ($20) to a pair of autographed motorcycle boots worn by Cher in the movie "Mask" ($1,250); from Ally Sheedy's autographed red baseball cap ($75) to Joni Mitchell's blue-grey dyed full-length fox fur ($1,250).
"God, you know, there's really a need for something like this," said owner Susie Coelho, herself an actress and former wife of Sonny Bono. "I knew that the public always wanted to buy things of celebrities. . . . And I knew that celebrities had a ton of clothing that they wanted to get rid of that they didn't really have a means to get rid of that motivated them."
A handful of other local used clothing shops, including Jean's Star Apparel in Sherman Oaks and the Retake Room in Studio City, also sell fashions that previously bedecked notables or were featured in Hollywood productions. But those stores do not disclose who wore what.
"We don't say whose clothes they are. A lot of the women we sell clothes from are really well known, but they don't want to seem mercenary to the public," explained Janet Snyder of Jean's.
A Star is Worn is different, Coelho said, due largely to her personal relationships with Hollywood celebrities: "Mostly they do it because these people are my friends and they trust me."
Not so incidentally, the stars receive a tax write-off or a percentage of the take, she said. And Coelho said she regularly donates a portion of the proceeds to charity, although she declined to divulge how much.
While some stars might be reluctant to see their names (and used clothing) in lights at a resale shop, Phyllis Diller, for one, said she has no misgivings about being known as a regular contributor to Coelho.
"I don't feel the least bit self-conscious for turning something over for money," said Diller, "(because) somebody gets them for a fraction of what you pay.
"In a position like mine or any star, you can't really repeat gowns. You never really get the full worth out of them. And these things aren't something you want to send to Goodwill because they don't have any use for them. What good is a feathered coat to somebody that's trying to get along with nothing?"
The same, presumably, could go for Cher's massive collection of blue, red and purple spiked wigs, metallic tinsel wigs and Mohawk falls, which Coelho stores in two filled-to-the-brim plastic milk crates and sells for anywhere from $25 to $175.
Cher, Coelho said, is a perennial favorite of her customers (despite the fact that most might find it tough to squeeze into her miniskirts) as are Donna Mills, Mark Harmon and Victoria Principal. She said she also once received a "stupid" request for Marilyn Monroe's underwear.
Like any resale shop, A Star is Worn also features a mark-down rack, which the other day contained clothes that once graced, among others, Priscilla Presley, Susan Blakely and Joanna Kerns.
In addition, the shop offers such collectibles as a suit John Lennon wore in the film "A Hard Day's Night," priced at $15,000, and a small grouping of men's clothes, limited last week to those of auto racing champ Danny Sullivan, rock group America member Gerry Beckley and actor Andrew Stevens.
Rather than proving a short-term fad, Coelho said, business has been improving since she opened in April, 1986. On a recent Friday afternoon, the boutique boasted a steady stream of customers, although most seemed far more interested in browsing than buying.
"It's fun to look at the tags and see who wore what," said Diane Lerner, wife of a Hollywood stunt man. "I thought Victoria Principal's gown looked big. I had thought she was smaller than that."
Not everyone, though, was impressed by the alternately glamorous, gaudy and extravagant wares. A trio of men from Ottawa swiftly exited the shop, after cursorily glancing at the garb of Fawcett, Principal and others.
"There's nothing interesting here," said Rick Welch. "Although I would like to see the actresses in the clothes."