Fake fur used to be for people who couldn't afford the real thing. Today it offers glamour without guilt, and the distinction between real and faux is increasingly fuzzy.

Fake fur, from look-alike ranch mink to high-fashion hot pink, has been worked into outerwear, accessories and sportswear by top designers. It's showing up in posh salons at prices that are anything but budget."There are two types of faux furs, and one is meant to look just like the real thing, be it mink, ocelot, sheared beaver or raccoon," says Lucille Klein, Dallas-based fashion director of J.C. Penney Co. Inc. "And the other kind of faux fur is really fun. It's colored, it's printed . . . and it was all over the Paris runways."

Karl Lagerfeld calls the plush fabric at Chanel "the no-fur fur," while Isaac Mizrahi talks of "chinchillene," "coyote-ette" and "beast." These faux furs and others are meant to appeal to a chic clientele that wants to appease its conscience.

Ralph Lauren and Carolina Herrera offer the quiet sophistication of Persian lamb look-alikes for collars and cuffs. Others opt for the crayon brights of plush toys. Todd Oldham, for instance, created "teddy bear" and "powder puff" coats and Mizrahi made a "snowman" coat in bright orange.

"They've mastered the art of making the fabric, the texture and the color of fake fur," says New York designer Randy Kemper, who offers faux fur cocoon coats, as well as trim on pea jackets, twin sweater sets and trench coats.

While some are hard to tell from the real thing, others are so novel they'd never pass for anything other than fake.

Coat prices range from around $159 for a three-quarter-length style in black wool and nylon with "jaguar" trim on hood and cuffs by Lorovi for J.C. Penney to $2,200 for Todd Oldham's long white "bear-hug" coat. It's available at Oldham's new boutique in New York City and the Street of Shops at the Mirage in Las Vegas.

Beyond outerwear is a snowball white minidress from Claude Montana. From Anna Sui comes a powder-puff pink suit with a fuzzy miniskirt and matching hat. Her faux includes feathers such as a purple jacket of fake ostrich feathers.

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Accessory counters are warming up to fakes, too. Look for Russian trapper hats and Davy Crockett coonskin caps; fuzzy details on gloves and high-heeled boots.

"We're offering faux embellishments on everything from micro- fiber parkas to cuffs of gloves, boots, and hat bands," says Hope Brick, fashion director of Foley's in Houston.

Randy Kemper is among designers who hope that synthetics will ultimately supplant skins.

"Fur is a glorious thing that comes from nature," he says, "and it's great that we can reproduce it and have some fun with it.

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