throw on your good coat and duck into any of the above-named shops for a respite from the common Christmas shopping maul.
They are blessedly free of ho-ho-ho-ing Santas and visiting school choirs. While they carry vastly different merchandise, they have one thing in common: They're all in hotels, and they all have at least a few things that don't cause sticker shock. And if all else fails, think of how much fun you'll have pretending.
The Rittenhouse, at 210 W. Rittenhouse Square, has the splendid and intimidating NAN DUSKIN, where champagne and cake circulate on trays amid Saturday shoppers.
The still-under-construction Shops at the Bellevue, Broad and Walnut, has POLO/RALPH LAUREN and PIERRE DEUX. Both carry clothing, accessories and home furnishings.
The Warwick has CAPRICCIO, a European-style cafe and gourmet-to-go shop; AARTVARK GALLERY, specializing in contemporary art, and REPLIQUE, a costume jewelry store with expensive-looking designs and surprisingly affordable prices.
Every store has its own personality. In some cases, make that an attitude.
NAN DUSKIN. Yes, that was Mrs. Julius Erving at one of the handbag counters last Saturday.
This store has the top designer labels and customers who might drop $35,000 on clothes every season. (And that Hermes oven mitt is just the thing for the live-in help who have everything!)
Yet some real-world prices do exist in the gift shop: a silver Christmas tree ornament, $13; gold-plated candlesticks with a pretty ball-prism detail, $28-$39 each, according to size; cut glass ashtrays, $15. The Duskin name on the box is icing on the cake.
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Open one Sunday only, Christmas Eve,
from noon to 5 p.m. Phone: 735-6400.
POLO/RALPH LAUREN. Too many dark-suited security guards with crackling walkie-talkies spoil the wainscotted, rose petal-scented, English sporting-set ambience here.
This store looks like it's overrun with Secret Service agents. How nice that the $700 ski jackets aren't trussed together, but who wants to browse in a place where you're made to feel like a potential shoplifter? Lighten up, guys. We know you're needed, but be more discreet.
The sales staff is pleasant, if you linger long enough to ask for help. Men's clothes and accessories are on the first floor, women's on the second, home furnishings on the third. The best furniture is part of the displays and not for sale.
A pair of mother-of-pearl on sterling cuff links from the '50s, shaped like little bowlers, are a fun find for $65; ladies' Polo sneakers go for $38-85. Not bad, considering that you can also drop $895 for crocodile pumps.
Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday; 10 a.m.- 9 p.m. Wednesday; Noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 985-2800.
PIERRE DEUX. Positively airy compared to Polo. The soaring ceilings and breathtaking moldings may initially distract shoppers from the country-French fabrics, china and furnishings that make Pierre Deux the French version of Laura Ashley. The sales staff is positively chatty.
The charming Christmas ornaments, hung on a tall tree in the center of the store, are bereted French fellows and pigtailed French girls carrying bread, fruits and vegetables.
Other affordable items are $10 hair ornaments and blank books covered with Pierre Deux fabrics. Ask Santa - or Uncle Trump - for one of the cashmere and silk shawls in jewel colors ($195), stainless-steel bistro chairs ($700 each), or an oil painting ($5,000).
Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 985-9122.
CAPRICCIO. This busy cafe is the hotel's newsstand, apothecary and coffee shop. Keep Capriccio in mind when you run out of condoms, film, Christian Dior pantyhose, batteries, Alka-Seltzer, cigars or Sominex at 1 a.m.
The items best adapted to gift-giving are fancy boxed chocolates and cookies, fruit jams, teas, and fancy coffee beans in regular or decaf. The store carries baskets of many shapes and sizes for packing your gourmet goodies.
Our favorites: instant cappuccino powder ($12.49 for a 15-oz. can); Capriccio's house blend of coffee, prettily packaged in a silver bag with a red label, $7.25 a pound. If only the best (or best-hyped) will do, Kona beans are $10.49 a pound; Jamaica Blue Mountain is $13.49 a pound.
Hours: 7 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday-Tuesday; 7 a.m.-2 a.m., Wednesday-Saturday. Phone: 735-9797.
AARTVARK GALLERY. Paintings, ceramics, sculpture and jewelry are here, with a focus on local artists. Unless you're exceedingly generous, most works will be beyond a gift giver's budget. We did spot one pretty blown-glass vase for under $50.
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Phone:735-5600.
REPLIQUE. All that glitters isn't gold.
The stock includes classic silver hoop earrings for $16, faux pearl necklaces for $35 or $60 - depending on how real they look - and a suede belt heavily adorned with metal and semi-precious stones for $250. Lots of flashy crystals and rhinestones, too.
Hair ornaments and handbags round out the accessories. The range of prices makes this store very appealing.
Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday-Saturday; Noon-4 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 546-1170.