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Last-gasp summer buys ease us into fall

It happens every year: the sad realization that summer's coming to an end and I haven't even donned my bikini yet.

'Carpe diem, already,' I say to myself, and from that moment on I am hell-bent on wringing what's left out of the season even if the only light I'm basking in is the glow of my computer screen.

Here are a few things that smack of summer, not to mention a little bit of fall. It helps take the edge off the fact that I didn't make it to the south of France with a boy named Serge (again) this year.

• Flip-flops are shaping up to be the shoe of the millennium, so you might as well get it right. The famous Jack Rogers Navajo sandals are the epitome of preppy glamour, as alluring with cutoffs as they are with a little black dress. The whip-stitched classic comes in a zillion colors, but the smart money's on the gold metallic which adds funky flair to any basic or the turquoise-and-white combo for a look that's very Ethel Kennedy-cuts-loose. Get them online at www.jildorshoes.com for $75.

• If you've got it, flaunt it. Little skirts are the big hemline statement for fall. Get a leg up on the trend with Banana Republic's cropped cargo skirt for $68, available in black or vine green. Wear it now as a polished alternative to shorts, and later with opaque tights and flats two other big trends for fall. A short skirt is also the best way to showcase those knee-high boots you went into debt for last winter.

• Update your standard-issue tresses with long, eyelash-skimming bangs. Your eyes will look bigger, your face will look softer and you'll be tapping into the season's mod statement. Who can argue with all of that?

• The bright side of global warming: I can pretty much wear my jean jacket all year long. And why not? The tomboy's staple looks as saucy over a dress as it does with low-rise cords. I'll update my jean jacket collection this year with a banded collar version of the classic. Very Steve McQueen's girlfriend. Both J. Crew and Gap have the look in corduroy and denim, for $68 and $88 respectively.

• Part military swagger, part retro chic, aviator sunglasses are the optimal optometry statement right now fresh after seasons of heavy, plastic wraparound styles. Decades later, Ray•Ban still makes the best, available at Lenscrafters stores.

• Belts were a key accessory in the fall designer shows; the narrow belts that gave shape to winter coats looked especially fresh. Find your signature cincher now at Avalon, one of Portland's best vintage apparel stores, at 410 S.W. Oak St. The best belts have tooled or studded detail.

• Because I subscribe to the 'form follows function' school of thought, I am thrilled by Kiehl's new tinted lip glosses that do double duty as a lip color and moisturizer. No. 58B is especially good: a sheer blackberry that looks good on everybody and will segue effortlessly into fall. Pick it up at the new Kiehl's store at 712 N.W. 23rd Ave. A cheap thrill at $7.50.

• Exercise your right to bare arms: If you buy one sweater to wear now and into fall, make it a sleeveless turtleneck. Wear it with white jeans and sandals now, a lace skirt and slingbacks later, as Teutonic supermodel Heidi Klum did on her recent visit to P-town. Nordstrom has the Roman ideal in their Collectors department: Todd & Duncan's cashmere number comes in lozenge pink, turquoise and best-bet black ($225). But that's not to say you won't be able to find it for much less elsewhere.

• Sheer T-shirts in baby-soft fabrics are summer's sexiest top, one that layers beautifully into fall. Keep it legal by layering a long-sleeve T over a skinny tank, or under a short-sleeve version of the same fabric. James Perse and Theory make the best ones, available at Mimi & Lena at 823 N.W. 23rd Ave. and Mercantile at 735 S.W. Park Ave.

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