640 Fifth Ave., at 51st St. 212-489-0390 vs.
4 Union Sq. S., nr. 14th St. 212-228-0598 The Shopping Experience Long, disorganized lines for the fitting rooms and the checkout. Jamming dance music helps lower the frustration level. A calmer environment. But scarcity of smaller sizes can necessitate stripping a mannequin. The Prizes H&M’s prices can reach into the hundreds. New items usually go on sale after about a month. Prices stay comfortably low. Markdowns are less common than at H&M, but when a coat costs $60, who needs sales? The Style The current collection favors graphic colors and moddish cuts. H&M can’t be beat for its reliable black cocktail dresses. In March, a collaboration with Madonna will draw swarms. Forever 21 also favors cute and colorful designs. Clothes are especially youthful and trendy (H&M has more for cautious dressers). But bags and jewelry don’t conceal their cheapness and should be avoided. the find This seventies floral-print cap-sleeve dress, $49.90, has a flattering easy-breezy cut. The lined wool pinafore, a mere $27.80, can be worn casually or dressed up. Photo: David + Starr