Glitter Sale

Steven Cowan double-checks each garment for price and condition before it’s put out for the final Goodwill Glitter Sale, to be held Nov. 9 and 10.

Everyone still talks about the Sequins Guy. The shopper who, when asked on live television about the armload of clothes he had nabbed in the first few minutes of Goodwill’s annual Glitter Sale in 2010, couldn’t help himself:

“Tons of (expletive)  sequins!” he exclaimed. Immediately, his eyes went wide, his brows shot up, he said something that looked like an apology, and the KING 5 reporter did a bit of damage control: “Oh! OK,” she stammered. “Thank you very much. Sorry about that ...”

It’s fine. We get it. Anyone who has been part of the Seattle  shopping extravaganza understands the excitement of finding something truly wonderful for next to nothing — and, even better, beating someone to it.

But this year’s Glitter Sale will be the last. After 35 years and more than $3 million raised to support free job-training and education programs, the Farewell Glitter Sale will be held Nov. 9 and 10 at the nonprofit’s South Lane Street (off Dearborn Street) store in Seattle.

“Increasing costs over the years have reduced the total dollars we can raise for our mission,” explained Goodwill spokeswoman Katherine Boury. It wasn’t cost effective to transport thousands of clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry and furs from Goodwill’s 22 stores, spread from Bellingham to Burien, and sort them all out.

From now on, all that glitters will be mixed in with Goodwill’s regular stock — except in stores that have specific areas for vintage and designer pieces.

“It’s going to make treasure hunting more fun for shoppers,” Boury said.

Glitter Sale hunting has never drawn any blood. But fists have flown. Straps have been yanked. Workers have needed security to get through clutches of grabby shoppers just to replenish the racks — which they do throughout the day, both days of the sale.

There are plenty of fancy closet staples that go for as little as $3.99 — cocktail dresses, costume jewelry, coats and jackets.

But it is the standout, high-end items that staff members remember like lost loves. The rare black Chloé bag that retailed at  $1,200 but sold for  $500.

The navy blue Chanel suit with an unusual long skirt that sold well below its $2,000 retail price. “It was really beautiful,” Boury said.

The authentic Louis Vuitton steamer trunk.  “When we brought it out, everyone just stopped,” she said

The Diane von Furstenberg dress worth $500 that went for $150. “Everybody wanted it.”

How such wonders end up in the rolling blue-plastic bins at Goodwill donation sites is anyone’s guess. Some people don’t know what they’re giving away. Others just want it gone; they’re in mourning, or mad, or heartbroken. Just take it.

Others know darn well what they’re getting rid of, and want Goodwill to benefit.

“This area is known for being a generous, philanthropic community that doesn’t draw a lot of attention to themselves,” said Glitter Sale veteran shopper Alysse Bryson, of Issaquah. “So people will just make that donation.”

One recent morning, a small army of Goodwill staffers that had already sorted through 32,828 items — including 11,500 pieces of clothing — were tackling the final 7,000 pieces.

“This jacket? It’s a fake one,” said Steven Cowan, examining a colorful jacket with a Givenchy label. He spread the collar over his fingers. “The stitching is all wonky. So I price it based on style. This is an easy $29.”

Cowan knows to check stitches, pull at seams and turn things over. One pair of shoes had “Valentino” across the top, and “Valbatino” on the bottom.

But there were also items of distinct, and verified, value: A Supreme T-shirt that bears the image of Kermit the Frog wearing, well, a Supreme T-shirt. A few vintage Hawaiian dresses. A size 4 St. John suit priced at $129.99 and a Chanel suit, size large, priced at $349 -- and missing one button. (“But I think you can get Chanel buttons on Etsy,” Boury said.)

There are Hugo Boss suits for men. Several pairs of authentic Bavarian lederhosen. A  ‘70s-era suede poncho tucked in beside a silk kimono, squeezed in with an authentic grass skirt with accompanying coconut-shell bra. (“That thing,” Cowan said. “It sheds like crazy.”)

And furs. Lots of furs.

“People feel better buying furs here because it’s sustainable,” Boury said. “No new animal has died for fashion. Not wearing them is not going to bring the animal back. And I’m a vegetarian, so I can say that.”

This is a year for those who love to shop vintage, which is anything 20 years or older. Ahem.

“Brace yourself,” said Lisa Basye, a visual merchandiser and longtime Glitter Sale shopper who now works at Goodwill. “That means that anything from the mid-’90s  is vintage. It’s hard to hear, but last year we had the most fabulous ‘80s  prom dress. Clothes of that era are amazing.”

Glitter Sale staffers start sorting in September and work right up to the day of the annual Glitter Preview Sale, to be held on Nov. 6. “Golden tickets,” which include access to the Preview Sale and priority entry into the regular sale, cost $125. General admission tickets for the Preview Sale were $50. All 200 tickets sold out in 58 minutes.

Even the 71 volunteer spots filled up quickly. People just want to be in the room.

Shoppers start lining up in the Goodwill parking lot at 10 a.m. Friday — the day before the sale. Some arrive in RVs, others crack open camp chairs and settle in with friends. Food trucks arrive, music starts. It’s a thing.

Bryson, a lifelong thrifter and Glitter Sale veteran, made a map of the sales floor and shared it with two friends who drove up from Portland for the 2016 event. When they drove by the store at 12:30 a.m. — eight and a half hours before the doors opened — there were 30 people in line. So they joined them, setting up lawn chairs and umbrellas and donning plastic bags against the rain. They were numbers 31, 32 and 33.

“That year I got a pair of Prada pumps, a pair of Jimmy Choos and a fur capelet that I still wear all the time,” she said. “I don’t think I spent more than $200.”

The following year, Bryson, a sales director, scored an Hermès cuff for $20.

“And it was not a fake,” she said. “It had a serial number on it and it’s one of my treasures. I brought it to Hermès to have it cleaned and they didn’t say anything.”

After more than three decades, the staff here has some solid tips for shoppers who will pack the place, 300 people at a time.

Don’t race around, Basye said. “Take a spin, walk around once and figure out where everything is.”

The room gets hot, so dress in layers. There are no dressing rooms, so wear a bodysuit or yoga pants so you can peel off and try on. Bring a trusted friend for an honest opinion. There will be a bench to take breaks if you need to. And don’t worry -- the racks get restocked throughout the sale, lest all the good stuff goes first. And the shoes are sorted by color, not size. So you may be disappointed -- and surprised.

“Pack water, snacks and patience,” Basye continued. “Do not walk away from your cart or your belongings.”

And remember, she said: “Nothing is worth losing an arm over. There’s plenty for everyone.”

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