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Snake Charmers

Pretty in python: You don't need magic to conjure up this season's hottest skin. For under $300, here's what you might slither into.

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Flipping through fashion spreads of models in head-to-toe designer logos and ultra-expensive exotic leathers, one starts to feel as if most of us are going to have to sit out this fashion season. But while it takes a very charmed life to indulge in real python skin (like the $5,130 coat Gwyneth recently wore to the Calvin Klein fashion show), look-alikes will usually do the trick -- and at a fraction of the price.

Embossed leather is the richest alternative to thick, crusty real python. The Gap, fresh from its overwhelming success with those black leather jeans, is now busy whipping up a very convincing faux-python jean jacket (pictured, $298) and boot-cut jeans ($298); both will arrive at select Gap stores by the end of March (be there -- they'll sell out fast). In the meantime, printed vinyl is even less expensive and makes just as big a splash: Check out Express's sleek, natural-toned pencil skirt (pictured, $50 at Express stores), jean jacket ($60), and A-line minis ($40, also in red). For a splurge, try the company's embossed-suede hip-length trench coat ($229).

Want something a little slinkier? A sexy, disco-style one-shouldered nylon tank top from Necessary Objects comes in red, fuchsia, or bright blue (pictured, $38 at Bloomingdale's); a pair of skinny, beige-and-black cotton jeans from Guess fits like a second skin (pictured, $78 at Bloomingdale's).

Few of us can pull off head-to-toe snake prints, but slipping some scales on your feet will instantly update last season's favorite clothes. We love Via Spiga's olive-tinted pumps (pictured, $145 at Bloomingdale's; also in natural tint at Macy's and Via Spiga), and for hot summer parties, Enzo Angiolini's strappy, low-heeled sandals in gray or blue (pictured, $75 at Bloomingdale's and Enzo Angiolini stores).

Picks of the Week

Focus Paris's stylish French handbags (everything from classic day bags to teeny beaded totes) are half off at the sample sale, from $50 to $110. 17 E. 37th St. (212-545-1535); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 9-6, Sat. 10-5; 2/28-3/4.

Terra Plana's chic, exquisitely made shoes for men and women are up to 60 percent off at the sale. Prices are from $89 for a classic suede oxford style to $175 for a lace-up ankle boot. 260 Elizabeth St. (212-274-9000); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Sat. noon-7, Sun. till 6; 2/28-3/19.

RK Bridal is clearing formal, full-skirted wedding gowns for as little as $200 each (shoes and bridesmaids' dresses are from $25). 2276 Broadway, at 82nd St. (212-362-9512); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 10:30-6:15, Sat. 10-3:45; 2/28-3/11.

Thundersley Village, a showroom full of antique-y, English home accessories, is taking between 50 and 75 percent off throw pillows ($35-$100) and footstools ($200- $350) and 30 percent off custom window treatments. Selected furniture is on sale, too. 29 E. 31st St. (212-889-1917); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 9-6; 2/28-3/13.

Ruth Caplan is putting all overstock of her high-end home-decorating fabrics on sale for 50 to 80 percent off. Trims, pillows, and throws are on sale, too. 232 E. 59th St., fourth floor (212-826-3756); cash only; Mon.-Fri. 9-1; 2/28-3/3.


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