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Jewish World Review Dec. 4, 2003 / 9 Kislev, 5764

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

How to spend a lot of
money and look really bad | NEW YORK The clothes are stacked in the kind of kennel cages usually reserved for dogs on Death Row. Ropes dangle. Music pounds. A pile of broken bricks looms in the corner.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Christmas in SoHo, that is - proudly intimidating shoppers since sometime around 1982. While certain cheery chain stores like J. Crew and Old Navy are elbowing in, it's nice to know that there are still enough rank, raw, really expensive stores to let you know you are not shopping at Wal-Mart.

So how can you tell if you're savoring a truly SoHo store? Look for pipes along the ceiling. Stiff neck? Look at the floor. If it's concrete, you're in.

Now, check out the displays. Are the $135 jeans stacked in a Dumpster? Good. Are the poorly stitched shirts that go with them perched on a pile of rocks? Way to go!

It's also a positive sign if the mannequins are repulsive. For instance, the Prada store's mannequins are crowded into a wire crate. Their broken limbs have been reattached with tape. Once, in the Soviet era, I visited a Bulgarian department store. The mannequins were all chipped. Many had bald patches. Prada's look worse.

That's good.

True, a pair of Prada boots can set you back $5,800. But isn't it worth it, knowing they came from a store that understands the ick/chic connection so perfectly?

In fact, that's exactly the connection you must learn if you are going to look as hip as the shops. You see, SoHo has chic down to a science: What's ugly is beautiful. What's beautiful is ugly, or at least old-fashioned.

Hey - same equation for most modern art!

What's that? You don't understand how a coat that looks like a Salvation Army sergeant's (but less sexy) can make you look cooler than Carson on "Queer Eye"?

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It's so simple! Just remind yourself that it cost heaps of cash and looks absolutely horrid. Do the same when you buy those pointy shoes covered with orange yarn at Miu Miu, a store so ahead of the curve it wouldn't let this reporter take notes. Heaven forbid I should steal their great idea of selling slips seemingly straight from the nursing home hamper at $825 apiece!

At Club Monaco, the fashion is no less forward. All the rage, apparently, is a hunting cap tied 'round your neck by its straps. "What a difference it makes to a simple turtleneck!" crowed the clerk, recommending the cap for formal wear.

Yeah, with a strait little jacket that ties in the back.

So, yes, SoHo's chicest stores are ready for the holidays and you can be, too. Just remember: If the item looks good, the mannequin looks good or you look good - run.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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