Divorce is never easy. Even in the privileged circles of southern California it is a traumatic and costly experience. There are lawyers to pay, prenuptial agreements to regret and houses to sell as once comfortable lives prepare to undergo a transformation. That is where Jill Alexander steps in.

Alexander, 37, has sparked a craze for "divorce parties" among well-heeled divorcees who are looking to offload the baggage of their married lives. Her new company, the Divorcee Sale, organises events where newly divorced women can sell their clothes, jewellery and handbags at bargain prices. Held in hotel ballrooms and chic event spaces, the sales have become a huge smash.

"I just knew it would work. Divorce is pretty common these days and people are looking to offload their stuff," said Alexander. She sees huge potential for the Divorcee Sale across America and the rest of the world.

"Divorce doesn't just happen in southern California," she said. "It will be my way of turning a negative into a positive."


It seems a win-win situation. The women get a windfall just when they need it; customers get knock-down prices; and Alexander takes her cut. A percentage of the proceeds goes to various charities.

Certainly the items on offer are attractive, and at a price that means everyone from the rich to the budget-conscious can find a bargain.

Recent sales have included a poncho by Dior - a snip at US$4200 ($5050). Other brand names included Prada, Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana.

But Alexander, who perhaps tellingly is a little wary of marriage these days, says that the main aim is not to create a business: it is to help a woman get through a difficult period of her life. While the money the sales produce is important, it is the psychological lift of shedding the trappings of a previous life that can be most important.

"It is a really cathartic experience. When you clear out your closet, it can be freeing. You are downsizing, but you also don't want the clothes from your past life," said the former fashion manager.

One of Alexander's clients, internet and radio executive Julie Spira, has blogged about her experience of a sale. Alexander came to her house and helped her examine her closet. "It felt like the scene in the Sex and the City movie, where Carrie and her friends collectively decided on what she would keep as her life was moving forward with Big," Spira wrote.

Next month Alexander hosts a three-day sale in New York. A space has already been booked in the trendy downtown neighbourhood of SoHo, and Alexander is anticipating major demand.

So far Alexander's only disappointment is failing to attract any celebrities to the cause. Perhaps image-aware stars are still a little wary of being associated with divorce, despite its prevalence in Hollywood, or more likely they are used to handling such things themselves.

Big name stars have long been hitting the headlines for their own personal divorce sales. When actress Ellen Barkin split from her husband Ron Perelman in 2006, she flogged off jewellery worth US$20 million via a sale at Christie's. Kim Basinger did likewise after divorcing Alec Baldwin in 2002, selling off numerous pieces of jewellery and donating cash to an animal welfare charity.