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Pony Express

Your furry friend: This season's bags don't all come at hair-raising prices -- head for these stores at full gallop.

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Pony-skin anything is a must this fall (and no, Cruella didn't raid the Hampton Classic -- "pony skin" is really just hairy leather). The Concorde-to-the-collections set is on waiting lists for that Fendi patchwork coat, those Manolo Blahnik mink-trimmed mules, and that Lambertson Truex handbag. But if you can't fork over thousands for something small and furry with a big designer label, ride out this trend with a stand-in.

For evening, pick bags with short shoulder straps that fit only the bare essentials (that's lipstick, keys, wallet, and cell phone). Splurge on Adrienne Vittadini's zebra-print calf-hair number with sharp red leather trim ($95 at Bloomingdale's). Or double your options with Nine West's black-nylon-backed cow- or leopard-print styles ($59 at Lord & Taylor).

By day, try XOXO's amazingly convincing synthetic-calf-hair shoulder bag. We like the version in black-and-white cow with a vinyl strap ($38 at Macy's and Lord & Taylor). Or sling on the Gap's flat cow-print calf-hair bag, which sits on the hip. The limited-edition sack will arrive at a handful of Manhattan Gap stores in the third week of November -- get one fast, these'll sell out ($125). To pack a serious load, pick up Guess?'s huge plush zebra bag ($60 at Macy's). When you're over the animal-print thing, recycle it as a gym tote.

Bloomingdale's, Lexington Ave. at 59th St. (212-705-2000); Lord & Taylor, Fifth Avenue at 38th St. (212-391-3344); Macy's Herald Square (212-695-4400); Gap, 680 Fifth Ave., at 54th St. (call 800-gap-style for additional stores).

Picks of the Week

The Bridal Garden donates profits from all sales to the Sheltering Arms Childrens Service. Through October, the shop is clearing a stash of gowns by Ulla Maija at 50-75 percent off retail. Prices are from $795-$2,295. Sizes 4-8. 122 E. 29th St. (212-252-0661); M.C., V.; Mon.-Sat. by appointment only; 9/20-10/31.

Hélène's alligator, ostrich, and crocodile handbags and accessories sell at boutiques for up to $4,500. At the sample sale, they're all about 70 percent off: from $250 for small leather goods to $2,000 for a large alligator bag. Surrey Hotel, 20 E. 76th St. (for information, call 561-995-8898); A.E., M.C., V., checks; Tues.-Thurs. 10-6; 9/28-9/30.

Gianfranco Ferré is taking 60 to 75 percent off a ton of women's clothes, shoes, bags and accessories from the "Boutique" line (plus lots of men's stuff and furnishings). Parsons School of Design, 560 Seventh Ave., at 40th St.; A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Wed. 9-6:30; 9/27-9/29.

Bliss's switch project is bliss for potion lovers: Trade in your old skin or body-care ointments for a 20 percent discount on the equivalent product from Bliss (lines include Decleor, Remède, Guinot, Z. Bigatti, La Mer, and MD Formulations, as well as Bliss's own). The rules: You can only trade in similar goops (e.g., an eye cream for an eye cream), and you can't unload Bliss products. 568 Broadway, near Prince St., second floor (212-219-8970); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 9:30-8:30, Sat. till 6:30; 10/2-10/9.

Tiecrafters is where many neighborhood cleaners send your cravats and silk scarves (as do stores like Saks and Hermès). Prices here are now about 20 percent off: $20.80 to clean four ties, $33.60 to alter or repair four; silk scarves are $12.80 apiece for cleaning (four-tie minimum; none for scarves). Pickup and delivery available. 252 W. 29th St. (212-629-5800); checks accepted; Mon.-Fri. 8:30-5, Sat. 9-2; 9/27-10/8.


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