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Aug 6, 2012 – Marilyn Bethany – Rural Intelligence:

Some of us want clothes that whisper nice things about us. And some of us want only as many of them as we need to get by.

Retired attorney Vicki Bonnington, far left, comes at clothing from an entirely different direction. She collects it with all the avid focus a museum curator lavishes on acquiring art. And, like a curator, she occasionally wants to de-assession pieces that are no longer relevant to the collection. On Saturday, August 11 at noon, Bonnington and a partner, the costume designer Wendy Darling, will cut the ribbon on their pop-up resale shop in Pittsfield. “These clothes are for people who don’t mind being noticed,” Bonnington told RI co-founder Marilyn Bethany, speaking of the hundreds of garments, mostly like-new designer evening wear, that will be on sale. Prices range from $20 to hundreds, a portion of which will go to Berkshire Creative, IS183 Art School, and Shakespeare & Company.

“Some people smoke. Some people gamble. I buy clothes,” shrugs Vicki Bonnington, above, an attorney who retired early when General Electric in Pittsfield sold to a Saudi Arabian company that eliminated her division.   Close readers of Rural Intelligence are familiar with Party-Girl Bonnington’s propensity for playing dress up. She is a die-hard fashionista, the sort who is on a first-name basis with the sales staffs at scores of stores and who follows the action on e-Bay the way a racetrack tout keeps tabs on the ponies. “When David [her significant other, the attorney David Schecker] came home one day and saw me wearing a new jacket, he asked, ‘Is that Christian Lacroix?,'” she says. “That’s when I started worrying that this whole thing had gotten out of hand.” (In fact, he was right; it was Lacroix.)

Last winter when Nancy Fitzpatrick of The Red Lion Inn came up with the idea for BerkChique, a used clothing sale/fundraiser to benefit Berkshire Creative, Bonnington naturally was among the first prospective contributors she approached. Recognizing an opportunity to do good and get her wardrobe under control, Bonnington’s response: 500 donated items, including 195 dresses, mostly work clothes from her lawyer-ing days. Then she went an extra mile by setting up her own boutique alongside those of other vendors. On opening night, a veritable stampede ensued.   Now Bonnington and a fellow BerkChique vendor, Wendy Darling, have teamed up on a six-month venture, leasing half of the building at the corner of South & East Streets in Pittsfield that formerly housed the Berkshire Museum gift shop. (The other half is occupied by the Berkshire Masquerade Costume Shop.) To help promote the fundraiser that brought them together (which will reprise in March), Bonnington and Darling have adopted the BerkChique sobriquet. As she did last March, Bonnington will contribute a portion of her pop-up proceeds to Shakespeare & CompanyIS 183 Art School of the Berkshires, and Berkshire Creative.

As Bonnington puts it, her clothes “are for people who don’t mind being noticed.” Darling, no shrinking violet herself, claims as her fashion philosophy, “If it’s wacky, I want it.” Darling, a costume designer for theater and musicians, has, over the years, dressed the likes of Minnie Ripperton, Elton John, and Alice Cooper. At the pop-up shop, in addition to an entire rack of Hawaiian shirts (gentlemen, you know who you are), she offers some outstanding vintage items, including a pair of tiny shoes once owned by Carmen Miranda and a number of evening ensembles that were designed for Camille Cosby, Bill Cosby’s wife.   But it’s Bonnington’s cast-offs that are likely to command the spotlight. Organized on $20, $40, $60, $80, $100, and $150 racks, with another dubbed Priceless ($200 and up), most of her offerings are nearly new and deeply discounted evening wear by designers with household names. There are jackets, including a fringed suede by Ralph Lauren, $20, a bejeweled cocktail suit by Lacroix for $400 (originally $2,000), and a tour de force in appliqued red-and-black leather by Dolce & Gabbana, $400 (originally $3,000 – $4,000). Size? Not a problem. As luck would have it, Bonnington’s weight fluctuates wildly, so there’s something there for virtually everyone. Moreover, like all collectors, she sometimes buys things for reasons that make sense only to herself. “I once rescued a dress from Filene’s Basement that I knew I could never wear. But it was just too fragile and beautiful to leave in that environment, and it could not fend for itself.” —Marilyn Bethany

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