Senate Spouses Auction Dresses to Help Gulf Coast Schools

Shopping for a special occasion — day or evening — and don't mind getting a secondhand piece that comes with an interesting back story? Or just curious about the fashion choices of women in the political elite?

Either way, 115 suits, dresses, cocktail ensembles, evening gowns and other outfits are now on sale on the Internet auction Web site eBay that were donated by the Spouses of the Senate organization. Proceeds from the sale of the dresses, which began Tuesday and closes May 26, will help Gulf Coast schools damaged by Hurricane Katrina rebuild their libraries and restock the shelves.

The money raised will be sent out through first lady Laura Bush's foundation.

"I appreciate their help to put library books back into the hands of children," Mrs. Bush said.

The dresses were donated to the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries. Donors include female senators, former first ladies, wives and children of senators and others — including singer Gladys Knight, actress and comedian Rita Rudner and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

For most, the bidding starts at $99.99. Children's dresses and baby clothes open at $24.99.

There are some higher-ticket items that came from higher-wattage donors: a long white Lillie Rubin gown worn by Marshall Bush, the president's niece, to an inaugural ball last year; a green satin bolero jacket and matching full-length skirt worn by Lady Bird Johnson at a welcome-home-to-Texas party after President Johnson left office; a Valentino wool plaid suit worn by Nancy Reagan; a yellow Carolina Herrera dress from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., among them. The bidding for these begins at $500.

Mrs. Bush's foundation estimates it costs about $50,000 to restore an elementary school's library and about $100,000 for a secondary school. The U.S. Department of Education says 1,121 public and private schools were damaged or destroyed last year by Katrina and Hurricane Rita.