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Mules rule: Flippy, bright sandals are an essential part of this summer's flirty, feminine look -- and won't leave you strapped for cash.

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There's nothing like a sunny spring day to inspire one to play hooky and go shoe shopping. This season, don't even think about investing in anything clunky or basic: The best new sandals have snappy prints, sweet floral appliques, lots of colorful beadwork or -- at the very least -- come in a splashy color. They're attention-grabbing enough to make an outfit, and you'll find they liven up even the simplest of summer sundresses.

The bright florals you see in just about every covetable spring fashion collection are just as lovely on barely-there sandals (and there's no better way to showcase that pedicure). As you'd expect, the new Lilly Pulitzer shoe collection is a top choice for sweet Palm Beachy styles. Try a girlish thong sandal with multicolored daisies in white, pale blue, fuschia, or lime (pictured; $125 at Bloomingdale's). Get in a tropical mood with Adrienne Vittadini's cream-colored mule; it's got a high, stacked wooden heel and sultry leather flowers ($135 at Saks Fifth Avenue). Or, if you prefer a little less detail, check out one of the season's best bargains: a pair of dusty pink thongs with a low heel and a big fat camellia detail from Sam & Libby ($45 at Lord & Taylor).

The thought of flowers on your feet makes you sneeze? There are also plenty of sleek prints, textures, and colors on offer. A pair of beaded open-toed mules from Chinese Laundry come in shades of red, black, and turquoise ($59 at Bloomingdale's). Or try Nine West's Pucci-esque thongs with a sharp molded-resin heel ($49 at Nine West stores). Pale shades of faux reptile -- a huge hit on spring runways -- are a great way to set off tanned legs. We'd take a pink pair with skinny, stacked heels from ISAAC ($134 at Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue). For serious color, try bright patent-leathers from Enzo Angiolini. Our favorite: the strappy, kitten-heeled sandals in lime green ($60 at Enzo Angiolini stores).

Picks of the Week

Erik Stewart's simple, classic spring sweaters (cotton tank tops, cardigans, and V-necks in pastel colors and brights) are half off at the sample sale. Prices are from $20-$100. Sizes S-XL. 1441 Broadway, near 41st St., 34th floor (212-944-9096); M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 9-5:30; 5/1-5/5.

Gail Grossman Designs' delicate, Estate-inspired jewelry and hair accessories -- mostly silver- or gold-toned with colorful crystal accents -- are now 60 to 70 percent off. Prices are from $20 for flower bud earrings to $78 for beaded wire necklaces with pendants (all good gifts for Mother's Day or graduation). 390 Fifth Ave., at 36th St., Suite 706 (212-629-0097); M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 11-5; 5/1-5/5.

Nan Swid Design is clearing a ton of dinnerware and gifty things from Swid's own collection and the one she designs for a certain home collection we're not allowed to name. Prices are all 75 percent off; most pieces are under $50. 55 W. 13th St., second floor (212-633-6699); M.C., V.; Wed. 8:30-6, Thurs. noon-7, Fri. 10-3; 5/3-5/5.

IDS Design Center, a furniture shop that carries the kind of high-end designer chairs, beds, and couches you see in design mags, is taking 20 to 40 percent off floor samples (50 to pick from, from $275 for cube-style ottomans to $4,975 for a big leather bed frame) and half off all fabric orders. Custom work and window treatments are 15 percent off, too. 50 E. Houston St. (212-925-6171); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 9-6, Thurs. till 8, Sat. 11-6; 5/3-5/24.


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