Get into Versace and ‘Le Club’ without breaking the bank

BY DOMINIQUE CASTRO

You don’t have to twist my arm to get me to go shopping – especially now that I’ve discovered Boomerang’s. All it takes is five minutes in my closet before the little fashion-devil on my shoulder starts chanting, “Your clothes are hein; you know you’re vain; go to Jamaica Plain; for clothes that are off the chain!”

I used to try to resist this little impulse, but now that I’ve discovered guilt-free shopping, there’s no need. Boomerang’s, a thrift store in Jamaica Plain, combines the best of all possible worlds: designers donate shoes and clothing, and all the proceeds go to charities that assist people living with AIDS. OK, it is a thrift store (and kind of smells like one), but there are truly some fantastic finds. Amidst the old T-shirts and sweatshirts, I also found Miu Miu pumps, brand new Dolce & Gabbana and Max Mara blouses with the original tags on them, and various other designer clothes ranging from DKNY to Versace to ABS. My friend even found a brand new pair of Armani pants. The best part is that everything is marked way down, so that you’ll usually pay less than $30 for a brand new designer shirt or skirt! Some of the clothes are gently worn, but when I checked the seams of an $8 Michael Kors skirt, I was amazed at the condition it was in – I just needed to dry clean it (and gain 20 pounds to fit into that size, something I’m already well on my way to doing, so it’s nice to know I’ll be fashionable when I get there). Finds like these are definitely an incentive to keep digging.

The second-tier brand names are also far above what one would expect to find in a thrift store: Banana Republic, Old Navy, the Limited, etc. Boomerang’s also has lots of cute housewares, furniture, books, and accessories. Some of the stuff, admittedly, is garage-sale-quality junk, but dig a little and you might find cool margarita glasses or a fondue set for less than $10, or countless other things you can salvage that you didn’t even know you needed. You could conceivably spend an hour rummaging around, spend $50 and walk away with hundreds of dollars worth of new and gently used designer clothes and unique decorations.

Now that you’re fashionable and you’ve donated to charity and even saved some money, reward yourself by heading to the chic Mantra for dinner, drinks and people-watching. People differ in what they think of Mantra, a place where dinner for two easily runs $200 and where the wines are no less than $50 per bottle, but one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that when they go there, they feel like they’re in New York City. Maybe it’s the small portions juxtaposed with the super-sized bill and the unpredictable service. Still, it’s worth it to have a nightcap here for the atmosphere. The décor and the ambiance is certainly not what you’d expect to find in a snowy New England town: There are high ceilings and large chainmail curtains hanging on the wall. This is a place where the lighting is dim, the women’s heels are high and the men’s cologne is strong. The tables and chairs are interestingly shaped, and the slow chanting music (it was a Thursday night) lent a sultry appeal to the place. The most interesting part of the whole place is the ladies’ room. The doors of the stalls are full length, one-way mirrors, so that as you take care of business behind the door, you can watch a leggy blonde adjust her skirt or apply yet another layer of mascara. And as for the crowd, it’s a stylish early- to mid-thirties set, and I won’t come right out and say how I’d categorize them, but here’s a hint: The word I’m thinking of is four letters, it starts with an “E” and ends in an “o” and rhymes with “Thoreau.”

Dispersed among this trendy crowd are a few sketchy types. One man who was old enough to be my grandfather began to circle our table, and before long, he moved in for the kill. He leaned in and handed my friend a business card imprinted with the words “Le Club,” and explained the concept behind his business: We’re invited to parties at his house, he photographs us and puts our pictures on the web. “Any takers?” he wanted to know. As if!!! After he left, we had a little chuckle and forgot about it. Then, about 15 minutes later, a young man approached our table. He was sporting a striped Gaultier T-shirt with mesh shoulders and sleeves that were painted to look like tattoos; his hair was a medley of colors and his eyeliner was perfectly applied, better than I could ever hope for mine to look. He leaned in and started telling us how fantastic the parties at “Le Club” are, and he put another one of those business cards on our table and invited us to join this seemingly exclusive “cloob.” This “Le Club” thing was less amusing the second time around. Obviously annoyed, my friend reached in over, picked up the card, crumpled it in her hands, threw it on the table, and asked the guy exactly when he planned on leaving us alone. Maybe that’s the kind of assertiveness that comes from saving $200 on a Dolce & Gabbana shirt at Boomerang’s, or maybe she was feeling the effects of her third Galliano. Whatever it was, she was able to break up the cloud of turpitude that had surrounded our table so that we could enjoy ourselves.

It was after dinner, so we ordered from the bar menu. I snacked on a selection of cheeses, and my friends ordered tiger prawns and other assorted tapas. The cuisine is French, with a twist. The chef describes the food as ” a seamless blend of the familiar with the exotic, the delicate with the robust … a harmonious marriage of classic French cuisine with exotic Indian nuances.” The food we had was delicious, and I’m sure the dinner would have been fantastic, if we could have afforded it.

So, if you’re looking to add a little spice to your wardrobe and then to your social life, hit Boomerang’s and then (after dry-cleaning your new clothes) take a first date to Mantra. Your partner will be incredibly impressed with you, as long as you can keep from getting sucked into the “Le Club” vortex.

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