Festive gift wrap can easily cost as much as the present it contains. But not if you forgo upmarket paper shops and buy the same goods from wholesalers in bulk. As most retail stores order supplies well before the holidays, some wholesalers will open to the public during December to clear their inventories. Here, a few places to send you packing.
On the high end, trimmings wholesaler A Touch of Ivy (which also sells sachets and tree skirts) recommends wrapping gifts in jewel-toned fabric remnants and tying the bundle with ribbons. (It works especially well with irregular shapes like bottles and pillows.) Remnants range from $1 for a small piece to $9 for a yard. Ten-yard spools of ribbon run from $12 for sheer gold organza to $45 for wide brocades. For a spicy touch, sneak a pinch of clove potpourri under the gift wrap.
For basic supplies, the first stop is RTR Packaging. Boxes are the specialty here, with simple styles as well as corrugated and printed versions that don't need wrapping. Prices are from $1 for a leopard-printed jewelry-size box to $1.50 for a shirt box to $5 for a butterfly-print eight-inch cube. Good wrapping paper in traditional stripes, solids, and seasonal prints is a steal at $12 to $14 for 25 feet, and cheerful gift bags are $1 to $4.
For a crafty, eco-friendly look, head for art-supply shops. At Pearl Paint, fifteen feet of brown paper is $4.69, and handmade paper inlaid with straw is $4.80 for six large sheets. For glamour-pusses, Mylar's cheap and chic at $2.39 for ten feet.
Fabric ribbons sold by the yard can cost a fortune at your neighborhood gift shop. Instead, hit the flower district. B&J Florist Supplies has large spools of every imaginable fabric ribbon, as well as simple ornaments with wire ends that twist onto gifts and trees. Twenty-five yards of velvet ribbon is $3.50; 10 yards of gold mesh is $6.50; 40 yards of satin is $6. Twist-on toppers include four dozen miniature red glass balls for $12.50. Up the street, Pany Silk Flowers has twist-on paper rosebuds and violets ($5 to $7.50 a dozen). Or pick up a few stems of faux Queen Anne's lace ($3.50 to $5.50) and pansies ($1.25 to $2.75) and snip and string them together.
RTR Packaging, 27 W. 20th St., Suite 606 (620-0011); Pearl Paint, 308 Canal St. (431-7932); B&J New York Florist Supplies, 103 W. 28th St. (564-6086); Pany Silk Flowers, 146 W. 28th St. (645-9526); A Touch of Ivy, 25 E. 73rd St. (for information, call 609-252-1191).
Picks of the Week
Patrick Robinson, an up-and-coming downtown designer, crafts some of the season's most coveted casual basics in luxurious wool and alpaca. This week, Robinson's opening his SoHo showroom to style setters who can't afford the usual uptown price tags. Prices on fall styles in winter white, gray, and berry tones are more than half off retail: alpaca coats, were $1,500, now $500; wool pants and skirts, were $400-$600, now $150-$300. Women's sizes 2-14. 84 Wooster St., second floor (431-1301); checks accepted; Mon.-Fri. 10-6; 12/7-12/11.
Pixie Yates floral frocks, bright tweeds, and cute cotton twinsets are staples for flirty downtown girls. Usually selling at such sites as TG-170 and Bendel's, samples and stock are now more than half off: a blue houndstooth pleated skirt, was $150, now $50; an embroidered felt clutch, was $60, now $25. Cookies are free. Women's sizes P-L. 225 Lafayette St., Room 707 (431-3150); cash only; Wed.-Thurs. 10-7; 12/9-12/10.
Susan Lazar, one of the fashion flock's favorite rising stars, usually retails at Bendel's and Saks. Must-have staples for fall and holiday wear are less than half-price at her showroom sale: a sleeveless eight-ply cashmere funnel-neck sweater retails at $400; here it's $180. A wool-jersey dress retails at $350; now it's $159. Women's sizes 2-12. 275 W. 39th Street, third floor (302-5888); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 8-7; 12/7-12/11.
Tracywatts millinery is usually $60-$400. For the sample sale, hundreds of her funky hats, including cowgirls in all colors, fedoras, cloches, and berets, as well as knit watch caps and kerchiefs, are at least half off, from $15-$100. 305 W. 20th St., front garden (727-7349); M.C., V.; Wed.-Sat. 11-7; 12/9-12/12.
Colette Malouf designed the must-have headband that appeared on Michael Kors's runway and in his gift bags. Usually sold only at Bendel's and Saks, the delectable hair things are currently available from the source at far lower prices: butterfly bobby pins, were up to $28 a pair, now up to $10; resin hair stick, was $38, now $15; plain and beaded headbands, were $30-$60, now $15-$30. 594 Broadway, near Houston St., Suite 1216 (941-9588); M.C., V.; Wed.-Thurs. 5-7, Fri. 4-7; 12/9-12/11.
Phyllis Leibowitz's tiny warehouse space on a lonely corner of the West Side Highway is crammed with the glittery bedspreads, pillows, and wall hangings that she designs (when she's not styling fashion shoots) and has crafted from vintage textiles in India. Everything's now 30 to 50 percent off regular prices: patchwork bedspreads are $350, feather-filled sequin pillows start at $60, and teak coffee tables are $225 and up. Chelsea Mini-Storage, 224 Twelfth Ave., at 28th St., Suite 26-433 (627-1436); A.E.; Fri.-Sun. 10-6; 12/11-12/13 and by appointment.
Showroom Seven has hip, youthful European clothing lines like Ghost, Whistles, Amaya Arzuaga, and Beverly Mehl, as well as Erickson Beamon jewelry. Now all are available at more than half off usual retail. Sweater and skirt prices are $20-$200. 498 Seventh Ave., near 37th St., twenty-fourth floor (643-4810); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 10-7; 12/8-12/18.
Me & Ro chic, simple silver and ten-karat-gold jewelry is available at avant-garde places like Barneys' jewelry counter. At the studio, most styles are at least half off: earrings, were $65-$350, now $20-$90; bracelets, were $65-$400, now $20-$150. Current merchandise is 20 percent off. 270 Lafayette St., Suite 905 (431-8744); M.C., V.; Wed.-Fri. 1-7; 12/9-12/11.
Joe Boxer's underwear and nighties make cheery, inexpensive stocking stuffers for men, women, and children. Now they're on sale for up to 75 percent off: prices range from $5 for boxers to $25 for satin pajamas. 1450 Broadway, at 41st St., fourth floor (354-2727); cash only; Mon.-Thurs. 9-5; 12/7-12/10.