Getting things off your chest by emblazoning them across your chest is the latter-day phase of T-shirt fashions, the final fling as the T-shirt returns to what it was originally, the basic, bottom layer of clothing - underwear.

The current crop of bumper sticker styles range from personal to political messages, many, like folk art, are created for and by the individuals. A large number are commercially produced.

Among those currently turning heads in Washington:

"I'm a virgin, (This is an old T-shirt.)"

Better the dog should go to the country."

"It takes a virile man to love a liberated woman."

"Bebe" (a maternity T-shirt with an arrow pointing to the midsection of the wearer.

Some astonishing phrases are modified on the back of the T-shirt, for those who catch the wearer coming and going. "My body belongs to me," notes one T-shirt on the front, with the qualification on the back, "But I share it."

Occassionally one T-shirt answers or completes the message of another. "Squeeze a fruit for Anita Bryant" is mocked by "Anita Bryant's husband is a homo sapien."

A far more commercially popular style says "I'm with stupid" and has an arrow pointing to the right, often to a wearer of a T-shirt saying, "I'm stupid."

T-shirt became the medium for the message in the early '60s when surf board companies in California hustled their wares in messages of cotton knit.

By the mid-60s, the anti-establishment message of the hippie generaltion was expressed explicity by the Mickey Mouse T-shirt when jeans uniform, soon co-opted by adults wishing to express understanding of the hippie stance, in spite of how foolish most of them looked in this grab.

By the end of the '60s, the fashion industry took over the T-shirt as its own, adding colors, trimming the shape, decorating with paint and sequins. Only the fashion industry could take the lowly T-shirt and turn it into a fashion item with status initials and names and inflated price tags, a business which is cooling, but is hardly finished.

Now that many people own just about all the T-shirt they can use, the fashion business is phasing out the look in favor of camp shirts, La Coste style, and apparel in general that fits more loosely in keeping with the '50s mood of clothes.

But that's not going to convince millions to give up one of the most comfortable fashions to cover their backs in years - even if they have to wear it as they did originally, as an undershirt.