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Straight Talk

Not a lot of hot air: Six bucks for a blow-drying? We combed Chinatown for out-of-the-way salons where you can indulge without blowing your budget.

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Weekly blowouts are now standard among a certain New York set. Some women pay up to $50 a pop for the luxury, but fashion insiders count on freebies, $200 hair irons -- or help from secret low-glamour sources. The narrow streets west of Bowery and south of Canal are dotted with neighborhood salons where "sets" in rollers are the main business, but blowouts can be had for as little as $6.

Pell Street is packed with these places. Pell Allison Salon, with lots of eighties-style frosted glass and black wood, is a favorite; Miss China came here. Blowouts start at $8 ($15 for long hair); color is from $35. If it's too crowded? Tang's Beauty Salon has similar prices.

Bayard Street is even cheaper: Sun Hong Lay Salon has a few stylists who speak okay English, and charges as little as $7 for blowouts. And then there's the Fabulous Salon, with very unfabulous seventies décor. I followed my friend Karina, a publicist for J.Crew, here last week. Prices are posted, but vary with hair length and the clerk's whims. After asking for a shampoo and blow dry ($8 for my medium-length, wavy hair) and refusing a ginseng treatment ($35), I sat in the barber chair for the first of two hair washes (water and shampoo came out of squeeze bottles), and moved to the sink for the second (with scalp massage throughout). Then, without any irons, bristle brushes, or even goops, and after I fended off an attempted oil-dousing, the stylist got my hair remarkably straight, if not Cher-like -- you need gizmos for that. Karina, meanwhile, became a very happy brunette, proving that $35 color isn't necessarily scary (she once paid $140 in midtown and has come here ever since).

To round off the afternoon, we crossed the street to Lucky China Lui Bakery for coffee and pastries ($2.48 for two). The total cost: about $60 for both of us -- including tips and train fare.

Pell Allison Salon, 22 Pell St. (212-233-6789); Tang's Beauty Salon, 14 Pell St. (212-766-9152); Sun Hong Lay Salon, 70 Bayard St. (212-334-1195); Fabulous Salon, 50 Bayard St. (212-693-3388); Lucky China Lui Bakery, 47 Bayard St. (212-791-9365).

Picks of the Week

Yeohlee's stark, sleek, trendproof city basics (at stores like Bendel's) are more than half off, from $50 for a blouse to $500 for a coat. Sizes 4-14. 530 Seventh Ave., at 39th St., fifth floor (212-704-9600); cash only; Thurs. 8-7; 10/12.

Pine Tree Lodge is taking about 60 percent off floor samples of simple, country-style pine furniture, including bookshelves ($250), armoires ($795), and chunky dining tables ($395- $695). 326 E. 35th St. (212-481-5490); A.E., M.C., V., checks; Tues.-Sun. noon-10; 10/10-10/15.

Lin-Weinberg Gallery is clearing vintage modernist furniture and accessories by designers like Eames, Nelson, and Wormley for 25-70 percent off. Prices are from $135 for a teak planter to $12,000 for a huge Dunbar sofa. 84 Wooster St. (212-219-3022); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Sat. noon-7, Sun. till 6; 10/12-10/29.

Trussardi's luxe, jet-setty Euro clothes are more than half off at the sale: Handbags are from $95, velvet pants are $180, and python-trimmed dresses are $1,200. Women's sizes 2-12. A smattering of men's samples, too (size 34). 20 W. 57th St., sixth floor (212-246-9860); A.E., M.C., V.; Thurs. 9-7, Fri. till 6; 10/12-10/13.

Check out New York Shops, our guide to the city's best stores, including a five-month roundup of "Sales & Bargains." On sale at newsstands now. To order a copy, call 800-496-7833 ($4.99 plus $2 shipping and handling).


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