A chorus line of women -- mostly young or passably young -- sit on folding chairs in a Melrose Avenue store, resigned to a long wait, looking a lot like actresses at a Hollywood cattle call.
Lia Tamparong picks up a clipboard and scans the list of names. "Kristina?" she calls out.
Kristina Mirazic smiles gamely and totes seven shopping bags and a suitcase to the counter.
"You're going to love these shoes," Kristina says, showing off a pair of ruby patent leather Charles David pumps. They are in pristine condition. Kristina wore them only once.
"Oh, yes, they're great," Tamparong says. She affixes a price tag -- $32.50 -- and starts a tab on a calculator. Mirazic beams.
The unlikely stars of this open audition are used clothes.
Would-be sellers drag packed suitcases, plastic storage bins, trash bags, even paper bags to Crossroads Trading Co. seven days a week. Store buyers decide what to take and what to turn away. Savvy clotheshorses leave with money, store credit or new purchases. The rest repack their rejects and trudge back to their cars.
Paying money upfront and being willing to take Gap along with Gucci has helped spawn dozens of trendy resale stores in California. They have become the blood bank and bargain basement of the chic, a place where fashion and compulsion cross paths.
Wracked with guilt over the Prada bag you bought because you were happy? Or the Christian Lacroix sundress you bought when you were sad? Or the Manolo Blahniks you absolutely needed to dress like a movie star one night?
Looking for something hip but not willing to spend $500 on it? Buy used. Fashion long ago tossed away its rules, so anyone can mix design house with Old Navy, 2004 with 1999, retail with resale.
Sellers generally are shoppers who love clothes, spend too much on them and have so many they can't wear them all. "If you're not using it, you might as well sell it," says Brenda Parson on her way out of Crossroads. "Purge."
In the last five years, resale stores have steadily grown in popularity with fashionable shoppers, says Diana Eden, a costume designer for the daytime TV soap "Passions" and co-author of "Retro Chic."
'It Became OK'
"People used to think of them as used clothing," she says. "Now it's a different mind-set. It's recycled. It's fun."
The change was propelled by movie stars' fascination with vintage couture clothing. "The moment the A-list celebrities started walking the red carpet saying, 'My dress is vintage Valentino' was the moment it became OK to wear second-hand clothes," Eden says.
The Crossroads wish list of designers include Diesel, Habitual and True Religion -- makers of $100-plus jeans -- Chloe -- $600 pants and $1,100 peasant blouses -- and anything by Marc Jacobs or anything that looks like Marc Jacobs.
Labels aside, the goods must be trendy, close fitting and near new. Forget about those pleated pants from 1994. Store buyers can be ruthless about the second-hand clothes brought in by cash-hungry customers.
"We're not here to pay their rent," Tamparong says, "or feed their children. We're here to sell things."
She has heard every pitch, every plea, every hard luck story. Tamparong tries to explain every "no" to customers: their clothes are out of style, out of season or just out of the loop for the store's clientele.
"They have an emotional attachment to the clothes," Tamparong says. "If people are saying, 'Why, why, why?' we say, 'We're not rejecting you. We're rejecting your clothes.' "
Crossroads opened 13 years ago in the San Francisco Bay Area and now operates 15 stores, three in the Los Angeles area. And the competition is everywhere, even across the street. The Melrose Avenue store sits catty-corner to Wasteland, another trendy resale shop. There's an outpost of Buffalo Exchange -- a 30-year-old resale operation with two-dozen stores across the West -- about a mile east on La Brea Avenue.
Crossroads is packed this weekday afternoon as Mirazic plunks down sandals, pumps and heels.
"I'm concerned about the shape of the heel," Tamparong says, gently pushing back a pair of block heels. "We're looking for more of a stiletto or wedge."
Mirazic is undaunted. She's got wedges. She pulls more shoes, as well as tops and bottoms from her bags.
Tamparong rapidly sorts Mirazic's clothes into "yes" and "no" piles. A black-and-white mock turtleneck -- no. Two print skirts -- yes and yes. A slinky sleeveless dress. "It's great," Tamparong says. Yes, then? Alas, no. "We just have a lot of dresses at this time," she adds gently.
The pink handbag is a definite keeper. "It kind of looks like Marc Jacobs," Tamparong says. A Polo Jeans Co. gray-and white-striped seersucker jacket gets a yes for being "in touch with the whole preppy look," Tamparong says.