Haute Gowns, Cool Savings : New resale shop sells drop-dead gorgeous dresses with European labels at hundreds of dollars less than the original price.

A tiny new resale boutique that makes up for its small size with a heap of ele gance has the makings of a winner. A gleaming espresso machine sends a message to the frazzled shopper that there's warmth and hospitality here in addition to elegant inventory at great prices.

The focus at Couture Exchange is definitely European, with such labels as Evelyne Mandel, Moschino, Faust and Angelo Tarlazzi. The fashions are refreshingly continental, adding a flair that is not prevalent at most resale boutiques.

Bella Bateyko, the gracious owner, is a natural fashion talent who can put together the entire ensemble. Her impeccable taste is obvious in the very select merchandise on the racks.

Most of the apparel would appeal to the 30-plus sophisticate, yet the under-30 crowd should take a look. They might spot a Size 4 yellow-and-black Moschino suit, which features a bolero jacket with facts about Moschino printed in black all around the edges. The original price on this dazzler was $1,700, but gently worn it's a $228 steal.

Many of the labels are from Paris, like Evelyne Mandel's black, 100% wool jacket with white piping (European Size 38, American Size 6). This would go for $600 new, but the resale price is $140. Byblos' collarless beige cashmere jacket features suede trim that adds a wonderful California touch. Instead of the $800 original price, try $198. A beautifully detailed jacket from Thierry Mugler (size small) carried a $1,570 price tag new; it's $249 here.

Angelo Tarlazzi is a fairly unknown designer to many Americans, but may be more familiar to those who love the unusual. A drop-dead gorgeous cocktail gown (Size 8) in a silvery gray has a stretchy, long-sleeved top and a skirt with abundant yardage that has to be seen to be believed. It's fabulous, but not for the $4,000 original price. At Couture Exchange, it's $350.


Consignment stores tend to shine when it comes to the special-occasion dress. A black custom-made chiffon with a stunning necklace sewn into the V-neck would turn heads at any affair. It's $425, a far cry from the $2,000 original price. A knockout white gown with spaghetti straps, well-placed white and gold beading and a Saks Fifth Avenue label, in a Size 10, was $275. At Saks, it sold for $750. (It was the only American label I spotted here.)

My personal favorite was a gray wool double-breasted suit, Size 14, that had a three-quarter-length jacket with six-inch-wide gray fox cuffs and no label, a sign that it may have been custom made. It's great--and expensive looking--for $169.95.

Check out the accessories. A navy pouch handbag by Moschino is beautifully made and, at $160, about $1,500 less than the original price. A Judith Leiber beige ostrich belt that adjusts from a Size 4 to a 12 is $119.95, compared to the $800 this belt commanded new.

Couture Exchange, which operates on a consignment basis with a 50-50 split, also stages fashion shows for charities and women's groups.



What: Couture Exchange.

Location: 12402 Ventura Blvd., Studio City.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

Cards: MasterCard, Visa.

Call: (818) 752-6040.

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