TAKE A gift-shopping hint from the White House: George and Barbara Bush made a quick spin through the FrederickTowne Mall last week and bought several items, including a tot-size sweat suit for a grandchild. The present cost $13.
A holiday gift doesn't have to cost a fortune to make threcipient feel like a million bucks. Around the region there are many affordable and cheerful gifts priced at $15 or less.
The city's neighborhood markets have the holiday spirit and then some. Cart vendors have set up shop in Lexington Market's main atrium and outside. The accent here is African and the handiwork colorful. Sneakers in a Kente cloth pattern are $15. A tooled and woven small leather box to wear as a pendant makes a striking accessory for $8. There are earrings galore with ethnic themes starting at $2 in the bargain box. Kente weave shawls that can work as a belt are $10.
Keep moving east along Lexington Mall and you'll find a lot of dazzle for your dollar.
Think sequins, think gold, think rhinestones and faux gemstones. There's competitive pricing here so a sequined beret may run $8 in one shop and $10 in another. For shoppers of the one-gift-suits-all school, funky caps may fill the bill: caps in suede, leather, velvet; caps covered with rhinestones or studded with huge fake gems; caps for the guys with sports team logos and biker-chic studs. The caps are priced from $8, with the average around $12.
The Lexington Mall also abounds in hair accessories of every imaginable variety. Combs trimmed with glitter, festive clips with beads and bows -- there are elegant velvet bows a la Chanel and frothy creations of jewels and feathers. Prices range anywhere from $1 for the small and simple to around $8 for an extravagant creation. A bag of bows could do double duty as hair ornament or package trim.
For the women on your list who love a little frivolity, swing over t Hosiery World at 211 W. Saratoga St. They'll customize stockings with a name, zodiac sign, velvet flocking. The base price is $1.66 for the pantyhose with $2 to $5 for the designs. They're fine inexpensive gifts for the girlfriends, and show you gave it some thought.
If you're shopping for the men, consider the Oldtown-Belair Market area, which has two of the city's oldest retailers. Sam Glass and Son, at 301 N. Gay St. has been around for generations and is known by both fashion-forward and conservative dressers. There's a rack of hundreds of 100-percent, Italian silk no-name ties for $14. The designs have the retro feeling so popular now and the fabric has a quality feel. Simon Harris at 220 N. Gay is an all-sport shop with a wide selection of team hats for $15. Consider swim trunks for a mid-winter beach getaway: $6. The fingerless weight-lifting gloves, which trendies are wearing as a fashion item, are $13. Both these men's shops are open Sundays through the holiday season.
Let's talk about a family day trip. Head to York, Pa., to th Curtain Call Costume Company to shop for the little sugar plum fairies on your list. This fantasy discount outlet has theatrical outfits for all ages. A tutu with detachable sleeves, sized 4-6x, costs $8. You can make dreams come true with ballerina dresses and dance costumes in a rainbow of colors. A smart mom might buy extras for the round of birthday party presents coming up next year. Take 83 North toward York; take Exit 7, Prospect Street, east; and drive 9 miles. The outlet is on the right-hand side of road in a strip called East Prospect Factory Outlets. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (717) 252-4075.