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OR TRY: Many of these super-pricey designer looks can be had for much, much less. At AgnÈS B., precisely tailored little funnel-neck coats in scarlet and white are $500, and Sisley has stone-gray bathrobe wraps for under $300.Department stores are also great places to get deals on coats, including top labels. Their inventories are huge, and coats go on sale long before cold weather sets in.

Petal Pushers
Q: I entertain a lot and hate worrying about flowers. Are there any florists that might come to my home and arrange flowers weekly or monthly?

A: Actually, there are many, but here are a few of my favorites. They'll visit your apartment to check out the color scheme and the containers. Smallish vessels are usually picked up and filled in the studio; oversize ones are arranged in your home.

Antony Todd (212-367-7363), he of the intimidating client list, is not above putting together fabulous flowers for the ordinary mortal, at a price. Todd loves doing festive arrangements for parties, subtler and quieter ones on a weekly basis. He might do a bowl filled with water lilies in the foyer and use moss (not flowers) another time, and he likes coming up with confections that last more than a week. Though there's no charge for an initial visit, his services do not come cheap -- $500 a week, he tells me, is a good starting point.

Wolfgang Thom of Décor Floral (212-279-9066) does bold, inventive nosegays for the city's beautiful people. There's no initial fee, but the minimum for an arrangement is $75, plus $25 an hour for in-house arranging.ELAN (212-240-9033) has Michael Davis, who's comfortable with any arrangement, from dramatic to simple, so he can create whatever look a client might want. There's no charge for an initial visit; minimum for flowers is $45, plus delivery.

OR TRY: Zezé Calvo of Zezé (212-753-7767) works in many styles, but he's known for his monochromatic creations. There's no initial fee. His minimum is $65, plus delivery.Lesly Zamor, the owner-designer of Bloom (212-620-5666), creates tone-on-tone designs, seen in various haute magazines. The charge is $50 to $100 for a consultation, and the minimum order is $65.Sandra Bernhard, Cynthia Rowley, and William Wegman are on Prudence Designs' (212-691-1356) client list. Grayson Handy is as much into containers as flowers; he'll even supply a vintage McCoy vase or a hand-thrown pot when needed. The minimum arrangement is $45, $150 for something on a grander scale.

Shooting For the Hip
Q: My younger brother is visiting me in October. He's so cool, and he's always teasing me because I'm so Brooks. What hip men's stores should we hit?

A: For starters, take him to Barneys New York, where there's always a crop of young, up-and-coming designers as well as the big-league names. Neo-military is still the look of the moment, and Helmut Lang and Prada designs have lots of the requisite army details: sweaters with nylon patches, pants with seamed knees, motocross accents. Many of the boots are takes on combat footwear. Newly groovy on the men's fashion scene are sweaters with color-block tipping, like the nifty designs of Roberto Collina and Giuliano Fujiwara.

OR TRY: If his credit card can take some major action, hit Gucci (10 West 57th Street; 212-826-2600), Gianni Versace (647 Fifth Avenue, near 51st Street; 212-317-0224), Moschino (803 Madison Avenue, near 67th Street; 212-639-9600), and Dolce & Gabbana (825 Madison Avenue, near 68th Street; 212-249-4100) to check out what these edgy designers are into.Head south for dorky-cool Hugh Grant-ish looks at Paul Smith (108 Fifth Avenue, at 16th Street; 212-627-9770). Smith is into military, too, but it's very British-army, not American.In SoHo, pop into Helmut Lang's (80 Greene Street; 212-925-7214) emporium.And it's Nova USA (100 Stanton Street; 212-228-6844) for rather sexy, downtown-boy basics. Tony Melillo is responsible for the cut of these casual clothes. Here, color is the story: baby blues, army greens, violet.

Made For Walkin'
Q: Boots seem to be this season's must-have. What looks are cool?

A: Anyone checking out boots this fall has some maddening choices. Should they be flats or killer stilettos, ankle- or knee-highs, leather or pony, red or tried-and-true black? Here are some of my picks: Ralph Lauren red felt knee-highs are as flat and svelte as a fencer's. Also flat and red are Banana Republic leather Chrystie boots, while the Hogan red pony-skins have chunky rubber soles. On the stiletto front, I'd happily settle (if I could walk in them) for Jimmy Choo olivey-green tall boots, or Sigerson Morrison black leather beauties. Even ankle boots offer no simple solutions; there's Miu Miu's take on Gibson-girly lace-ups, Narciso Rodriguez's revamped sixties nude leather etched in black, and Mark Schwartz's camel-hair pony, which is so this moment.

Pawn Shops
Q: So many of my friends are into chess and other games. I wanted to give them chess sets or absorbing puzzles for Christmas. What stores carry good selections?

A: Chess is the champion of games, but you can find many ways to challenge adults.

Village Chess Shop (230 Thompson Street; 212-475-9580) should be of interest to anyone with even a passing interest in chess. George and Julia Frohlinde's 27-year-old establishment is dusty, smoky, and as much a chess club as a store (players can pick up a game for $1 an hour). Half the shop is lined with tables where numerous heads are intently bent over chessboards -- all rather appealingly old-world. A hundred or so chess pieces jam the outside windows; hundreds more fill glass cabinets and tables inside. It's a mind-numbing collection of historical figures (Napoléon, the Crusaders), literary giants (Shakespeare and Lord Byron), and kids' favorites (dinosaurs, Alice in Wonderland, the Simpsons).The Compleat Strategist (11 East 33rd Street; 212-685-3880) is for dedicated gamers. This 25-year-old company has a game for every battle ever fought. There's Conquest of Gaul, Napoleon at Bay, Gettysburg, Lodz 1914, Campaign to Stalingrad, the Sinai Crisis. Some of these games of strategy can go on for 100 hours with more than 400 pieces in play. But don't be put off. The owners also carry what they call beer-and-pretzel games (ones that even novices can play in less than an hour).

OR TRY: Chess Forum (219 Thompson Street; 212-475-2369) has attempted to clone Village Chess, with hundreds of figural sets in every imaginable material and every price range."Uptown they're into trendy, like Taboo and Guesstures," says Joel Schneider of Game Show (1240 Lexington Avenue, near 84th Street, 212-472-8011; and 474 Sixth Avenue, near 12th Street, 212-633-6328). "Downtown, it's games of strategy, Quarto and Quoridor." Schneider and his partner, Ed Martinedes, carry these along with the city's largest selection of jigsaw puzzles.


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