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Garden Variety

Tired of bland backyard-party-wear? These grown-up rompers will get you through clambake season without making you look like a stuffed (oxford) shirt.

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It's the rare summer barbecue at which the male uniform isn't khakis and a blue shirt. But those who adhere to casual-Friday dress codes on weekends should know that few people like their date's wardrobe to match their waiter's (especially bad since the waiter's probably cuter). Instead, keep your place amongst the ruling class and set yourself apart from those blue-collared bores by tweaking your wardrobe with these downtown duds.

Tony Melillo, nominated for best new menswear designer at the upcoming CFDA awards, sells his affordable casual basics at Nova. The flattering cotton judo pants ($75) and shorts ($66), superskinny button-front shirts ($70), and zip-front sweatshirts ($75) are easiest to carry off paired with more traditional items.

At Wearmart, you'll find easy drawstring pants ($68), striped long-sleeve T-shirts ($25), and light cotton hoodies you can live in ($35). The sweatshirts are great with khakis, and the ultracasual pants with a breezy short-sleeve shirt.

Friday favorite A|X Armani Exchange also has plenty of weekend stuff, like short-sleeve terry-cloth sweatshirts ($68) and short-sleeve linen shirts in luscious colors, like a must-have mango ($68).

For evenings on the beach, pick up these rugged playclothes, at prices that won't make you cringe when you splash your ketchup, at Old Navy: distressed cargo cutoffs ($24.50), surfer-style nylon shorts ($17.50), and a bunch of light-blue T-shirts ($8.50).

Give your toes a breath of fresh air with a pair of sandals (no longer just for girls, kids, and Eurotrash). At Bloomingdale's, Birki's plastic sandals and clogs come in neutral colors as well as eye-catching stripes ($59.95).

Nova USA, 100 Stanton St. (228-6844); Wearmart, 229 Elizabeth St. (625-1019); A|X Armani Exchange, 645 Fifth Ave., at 51st St. (980-3037); Old Navy, 610 Sixth Ave., at 18th St. (645-0663).

Picks of the Week

Amsale's gowns are standard Oscarwear, seen on stars like Lynn Redgrave and Kim Basinger. At the bridal sale, samples are 50-70 percent off: from $450 for a simple, lightly worn sheath to $1,450 for a beaded lace gown. Mostly sizes 8-10. 353 W. 39th St., Suite 401 (971-0170); A.E., checks; Sat. 9-4; 6/5.

CWL Designs' cheerful cotton home linens are sold at stores like Laytner's Linen & Home. At the sample sale, loads of pieces are more than half off: from $10 for shams, $20 for shower curtains, and $99 for queen duvet covers. No More Eggs, 312 E. 9th St. (777-0393); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Sat. 11-7, Thurs. till 8, Sun. till 6; 5/31-6/30.

Ercole's glass mosaic homewares are sold at places like ABC Carpet & Home. At the showroom sale, samples and overstock are 50 to 70 percent off, from $12 for votive candle holders to $50 for hurricane lamps to $750 for 36-inch mosaic tables. Irregular items are $25 and under. 116 Franklin St. (941-6098); A.E., M.C., V.; Wed.-Sat. noon-7; 6/2-6/5.

Burberry's of London, whose signature plaid's a new favorite of those among us who've cleared all thrift shops of vintage Gucci accessories, is marking down its spring collection by 30-40 percent, from $49 for must-have umbrellas, $269 for classic trenchcoats, and $209 for pleated plaid skirts. 9 E. 57th St. (371-5010); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 9:30-7, Sat. till 6, Sun. noon-6; 5/31-6/13.

ALWAYS A DEAL
Golden Tickets

Most adults consider theater tickets a luxury, so it's not surprising that few teens' allowances cover much more than a movie. The folks at High 5 Tickets to the Arts are determined to change this. Check out this summer deal: 13- to 18-year-olds can buy tickets to events like jazz concerts at Carnegie Hall, ballet at Lincoln Center, and plays at the New York Theater Workshop for $5 each. Jealous? Befriend a teenager -- on weekdays, tickets are two for $5, and older dates are permitted. Ticket vouchers must be purchased by teens with valid I.D.'s at Ticketmaster locations, including HMV, Tower Records, and the Wiz. Call HI5-TKTS or log on to www.high5tix.org for a free catalog.


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