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Once-in-a-century Goodwill sale draws vintage fashion fans

Goodwill vintage collection sale draws hundreds of early Sunday morning

TK Murphy and Patric Paul of Studio City weren't taking any chances.

Upon hearing that Goodwill Southern California would be selling off thousands of special vintage items on Sunday, they awoke before dawn, arriving at the organization's Community Enrichment Center in Glassell Park at 4:30 a.m. -- more than five hours before shopping was set to begin.

By 9 a.m. they were standing at the head of a line of more than 500 excited people. Some sought menswear from the 1920s and '30s; others, midcentury accessories like Lucite purses. 

Murphy had come to buy hats. She wouldn't say how much she had budgeted to spend.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing -- so she brought enough!" laughed Paul.

The one-day Goodwill event wasn't just any old vintage sale. It offered thousands of special items -- the best stuff from 100 years of donations -- to buyers for the first time ever.

The dresses, coats and other items had been used in fashion shows and events over the years, said Sasha Itzikman, Goodwill Southern California vice president for marketing and community relations. But eventually, the organization realized that it couldn't properly care for the increasingly fragile collection.

"We're not an archival facility," she said. "At some point the clothing was going to start disintegrating."

Goodwill chose 200 garments to maintain as a reference collection. 

Damaged merchandise was sent to Goodwill retail stores or to fashion students for repurposing. The rest was up for grabs at the Sunday sale, which aimed to raise tens of thousands of dollars for Goodwill programs, Itzikman said.

In the moments Sunday morning before shoppers descended, workers from Goodwill donation centers and stores lovingly tagged and arranged racks of dresses organized by decade, rows of elegant gloves and more than 700 hats. Jan Bartell, who runs donation centers throughout the area, said that military garb and vintage lingerie were expected to be big draws.

As the line grew longer and the sun grew hotter, Itzikman and the team opted to open their doors a half-hour early.

The first 60 shoppers poured in, grabbing lacy dresses off the carefully organized racks, running fingers through a hat's feather trim.

"You should buy that!" Itzikman shouted to one woman holding up a black dress.

The sale was set to go on til 9 p.m. The organization will gear up again next weekend, with a "Blowout Prom Sale" just in time for high school dances.

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