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Famous Threads : Star Wares Store Aids Charities by Selling Celebrities' Discards


SANTA MONICA — Let's face it, money does buy just about anything. If you fancy Cher's delicate beaded evening bustiers (Size 34-C), you can even own one of those.

At $275, Loretta Swit's barely used $6,500 Valentino silk dress is a real steal.

And, for fashion-conscious men, Michael Douglas' slightly worn "Jewel of the Nile" silk suit is only $1,700. Hammer's once-worn, hot-pink, two-piece stage suit will run you $4,500, however.

Has the recession gotten that bad? Are celebrities really hawking their clothes?

The answer is yes--and no.

Star Wares on Main in Santa Monica does indeed take the good, the bad and the glitzy from celebs' closets and sell them on consignment.

But don't work up a lather of outrage at the thought of overpaid stars actually selling their clothes for still more cash.

Although a wee percentage of the money earned does go to the stars, most of the booty goes to one of the six charities that Star Wares supports: Heal the Bay, Music Against AIDS, the Wellness Community, Big Sisters of Los Angeles, the Celebrity Outreach Foundation and the Starlight Foundation.

Star Wares owner Marcia Tysseling, who opened the shop three years ago, said her career in star clothing began when she worked for Ms. Clothing herself, Joan Rivers.

Tysseling spent eight years as a nanny for Rivers' daughter, Melissa, and then launched into retailing when Melissa went off to college.

"I remember seeing Joan Goodwill-ing all her clothes or having someone pick them up," she said. "So, I just got interested in it."

Although there already existed a star-garb store on Melrose Avenue called A Star Is Worn (which is still a popular spot in Hollywood), the place also handles non-star wear. Tysseling was determined to have a star wares-only shop and found the Santa Monica location in 1989.

Former employer Rivers not only encouraged her to start the clothing venture, she offered up a slew of personal effects and advice.

"I started out with Joan," Tysseling recalled. "In the beginning the store was just bare, almost everything was from Joan. Now almost everything is from Cher. People think it's Cher's store."

Cher is indeed well represented, but so are many others. Inside you'll find sequined bolero jackets, crocheted berets, sling-back kid pumps--almost every personal wardrobe item imaginable--from such film and TV stars and personalities as Tina Louise, Farrah Fawcett, Roddy McDowall, Rita Moreno, and Sasha Stallone, just to name a few.

There's even a $5 rack, featuring less showy items, such as Farrah's old T-shirts. Even celebrities have to sort out their closets at some point.

Tina Louise, the "Gilligan's Island" icon who starred more recently in the film "Johnny Suede," is a big Star Wares fan. The store "is great--I can't exactly have a garage sale like a normal person," she said.

"I clean out my closet a lot," Swit added. "Other celebrities will tell you that, after you've been photoed three or four times in one outfit, it has kind of had it--you feel you have to move on."

"I just walked in and said I had a lot of stuff in storage," said Robert Hedges, who portrayed Epstein in the '70s TV show "Welcome Back, Kotter." "To my knowledge, there isn't anything (from Kotter) left."

Cher, said that she gives some of her clothing to her sister, her mother, and her two assistants, but the "bulk of my stuff goes to Marcia."

"I get rid of what I don't wear," she said.

A good part of the appeal of Star Wares, Cher said, is that worthy causes benefit. "I'm really glad it's happening," she added.

Celebrity Outreach President Bob Oettinger said Tysseling's store has given thousands of dollars to his nonprofit organization. The foundation serves as a clearinghouse of sorts, matching celebrities with a variety of charitable causes, and it also sponsors its own auctions of celebrity memorabilia.

"We probably view it differently, less glamorously, than the average person, because we're one of the benefactors of the store," he explained. "Marcia is vitally involved in helping us get entertainment memorabilia for our auctions."

For shoppers, the store has a variety of uses. Obviously, you can find an amusing costume for almost any occasion. But you can also find a crisp $35,000 designer gown at a greatly reduced price. The fact that it once belonged to Joan Fontaine, or another classic film star, is an added touch.

There are custom-made outfits, like Hammer's pricey pink suit, but the stars seem to favor off-the-rack Donna Karans and Versaces.

Rivers, who warned that there are plenty of fakes in the celeb wear business, said Tysseling's shop carries only the genuine article. "If she said this or that belonged to a certain star, then by God it belonged to them," said Rivers.

On her pricier items, Tysseling provides autographed letters of authenticity, as well as film stills and research documentation.

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