She shares secrets of shopping success


Candid Closet: Bernie Hurtt knows how to look like a million while spending little.

August 05, 1999|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Bernie Hurtt remembers that stuck feeling: Home with three children, no money and needing to get out of the house and release some stress. She wandered into the neighborhood thrift store and found a treasure trove. "Probably that day I spent all of $5, and I bought a Gucci bag and an Anne Klein silk scarf. I was hooked," she says.

It was a winning experience: "I didn't damage the household budget, I felt good when I came back, and I treated myself to something," says Hurtt, 50, who lives in Waverly.

Hurtt, secretary to Jim Welbourne, the Enoch Pratt Free Library's deputy director, is now sharing decades worth of shopping secrets with others.

She began with a workshop for clerical employees in the library system, and now she is giving free lunch-time workshops for employees and the public.

The next two "Dress for Success -- With Less!" programs take place 12: 15 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 12 and 19, in the Poe Room at the Central Library. To register, call 410-396-5204.

Where did you learn your sense of fashion?

My mentor was always my older sister, Floryne, a Baltimore City public school teacher.

As a teen-ager, I would watch her leave the house every day dressed to the nines, even for practice teaching. I owe my knowledge of fabrics and quality clothing to her.

How did your workshop get started?

This past April, I approached my boss with the idea of starting a workshop for branch clerical workers, some of whom are very new to the staff and aren't sure how to dress in a professional setting.

It's also hard when you work for an organization that does not have a dress code. He thought it was a great idea.

How do you make second-hand clothing work for you?

You need to seek out the services of a good tailor.

Would you buy something for a pittance that you wouldn't buy for full price if you could afford to?

When you first start thrift-store shopping, you buy things just because they're affordable. Then you realize, if you look long enough, you will find the designer items you're longing for.

What is your thrift-shop rule of thumb?

You need to visit thrift stores in more affluent neighborhoods, where there are people who tend to donate items for the tax write-off and don't want to be seen wearing the same garment more than once or twice.

How would you describe your personal style?

Conservative chic. I am petite and very particular about what I put on my body in terms of proportion.

Do you shop at discount retail outlets?

I've had success at Aisle 3. I found a one-piece Liz Claiborne jumpsuit marked down from $139 to $39.95.

The zipper was stuck, so they gave me another $10 off.

At home, I took a bar of soap, loosened the zipper and wore it out that evening.

Is there anything you find frequently?

Coach bags. I have at least five Coach bags from thrift stores and flea markets.

Is there more or less good stuff out there compared to when you started your thrift quest?

I'm finding better items, but maybe that's because of my trained eye.

Any more tips?

Invest in a full-length mirror.

What would Edgar Allan Poe think about a fashion workshop held in a room named after him?

Poe liked black, and I stress the basic black wardrobe.

Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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