Resale Habit : Consignment stores can make top designs affordable. But large sizes are rare, and shopping there can be addictive.

When speaking to a group of women on the joys of resale shopping, I always ask for a show of hands of those who regularly shop at the many resale stores we have in Southern California.

Invariably, the hands that go up belong to those ladies who are the best-dressed in the room. And why shouldn't they be? They have a selection of haute couture and top designs from all over the world to choose from at the growing number of consignment stores.

From Encino to Studio City on Ventura Boulevard you'll find a wonderful selection of these stores, and it can be a grand day of shopping for that special-occasion outfit or just to replenish the wardrobe. One of the latest additions is Forever Young, which was once a part of Winnick's Furs, but now is a whole new operation under the aegis of Lisa Zohar.

Were it not for resale, how else could the average shopper afford to own a Gianni Versace purple suede jacket with gold beadwork originally priced at $2,800? In perfect condition and in a medium size, the tag at Forever Young reads $379. It has that never-worn look; perhaps it was a gift and the recipient was not the purple-with-gold type. But someone out there will adore it.

One favorite was a pink and black linen Valentino dress, Size 12, for only $129; originally it sold for $700. Can't get through the summer without a good white jacket? Here's an Isaac Mizrahi white linen jacket for $169. A print sun dress with a matching jacket, also by Mizrahi, in a Size 6, sells for $269--considerably less than the original $800. Good in any season would be a Christian Lacroix Size 8 brown jacket with gorgeous rhinestone buttons for $398 (new $1,900).

Certainly Bob Mackie is a name we all know but few of us can afford to own. However, for $249, you can have this esteemed designer's silk dinner suit in a gorgeous cobalt blue--if a Size 6 will fit.

This brings up the chief drawback in shopping resale--most of the inventory in these stores is from Size 4 to Size 14. There are very few garments larger than a 14 and not many of those, which just confirms what we already know. The rich are thin.

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Turn then to the accessories, particularly handbags. The finest in my wardrobe are from resale stores. Good leather only gets better with age, remember?

At Forever Young, a Louis Vuitton satchel that originally sold for $400 was in perfect shape and priced at $149, and a white Hermes handbag can be yours for $499--not cheap, but a lot better than the original $1,700 price. Or how about a Furla bag for $39 instead of $139?

A word of warning about shopping resale--it definitely is addictive. Once the feel and fit of a Chanel or an Ungaro or a Claude Montana gets to you, you're hooked. Let the owner of any resale shop you visit know who your favorite designers are so that when items come in--as they do every day--you can be notified.

If you're bringing apparel in to Forever Young to sell, it must be in perfect condition and no more than 2 years old; when it has been sold, you get 50% of the selling price.

Geri Cook's Bargains column runs every Friday in Valley Life! Questions about shopping may be sent to her, in care of Valley Life!, Los Angeles Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, CA 91311. Letters will not be answered individually, but topics of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Geri Cook can be heard from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturdays on KIEV 870-AM.

WHERE TO SHOP

What: Forever Young.

Location: 13900 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

Cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa.

Call: (818) 990-4743.

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