Women are stalking the stores these days, despite the near-record temperatures, looking for some of the new styles for fall. And among the early favorites are animal prints and fake furs.

"Animal prints are so weird," says Patricia Pastor, who designs for Perry Ellis. "In a way they are as classic as gray flannel." Pastor mixes jaguar spotted prints -- on silk, crepe de Chine and velvet -- into her fall collection. "We were working in black cashmere and camel theme, and the jaguar spots looked great," she says.

Designer Cathy Hardwick thinks an animal print, like the thin leopard print fur she uses, works particularly well with short lengths. "I thought a tight little skirt in leopard would be wonderfully sassy and sexy. And it looks so good with a dark leg. Somehow, a long leopard skirt just wouldn't be right. I can't see it." Hardwick first made a short one for herself over a year ago, and liked it so much she tracked down a leopard fabric maker and ordered enough for her fall collection.

It used to be that stores brought in winter clothes earlier -- in June -- for people to put on lay-away and take home when the weather turned cold. Now the full onslaught of fall clothes does not hit until late July and August. By this time some women are anxious to find the new looks they've been seeing for months in magazines, newspapers and on television. There is so much exposure to new styles these days that women want to try them out right away.

"I wonder if we haven't come too late," said Bill Blass of his visit this week to Neiman-Marcus, where he showed his fall collection. "Women seem eager to buy new styles the moment they're introduced."