One of the strongest points T-shirts have in their favor is the comfort of cotton knit. That's why cotton knit as a fabric is so sought out-for loose-fitting tops, dresses and even bathing suits like the old tank suits worn by kids for camp.

Among the cotton knits this summer, from left:

Albert Nipon shapes multicolor striped cotton knit with tucks at the waistline and full, elasticized sleeves. At Lord & Taylor ($152).

Bare and loose-fitting T-shirt top by Calvin Klein in chamois color has a matching skirt with elasticized waist. At Garfinckel's (shirt, $32; skirt $58).

Red-and-white strapless cotton knit dress from France is from Diana Parker in Annapolis ($32).

Sears decorates the sleeve of a cream-colored cotton T-shirt (top-right) with crochet and matches it up to a shoulder pouch ($13 for both)

The cotton knit low-back bathing suit (at bottom left), is from Ferrer y Sentis in Spain and is available at the Design Store ($18).

Castelbajac applies the practicality of his sportswear to his swimwear in a red cotton knit suit (bottom right) with front pocket and luggage strap shoulder treatment. From Saks Fifth Avenue ($65).

It seems only fair that now that top designers have had their chance to interpret ethnic clothing-witness Yves Saint Laurent's Russian peasant costumes-home sewers should have the chance as well. Folkwear Patterns in California has developed patterns for traditional Mediterranean folk costumes, including the classic dress of the Gaza desert, a French cheesemaker's smock, a Rumanian blouse, Syrian dress, Turkish coat and Egyptian shirt. Like most ethnic clothing, these designs, with their simple shape and square cut, are not tricky to make. Several offer suggestions and instructions for authentic handwork techniques to embellish the garments. The series, which includes a range of designs of infants through age 4 as well, is at the gift shop at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History.

No one in New York is wasting energy ironing clothes this summer. The look is rumpled, worn fresh from the washer and dryer by both men and women. So far the rumpled look has been less quickly adopted in Washington, though the Calvin Klein linens have sold well. (A few stores ironed those linens, afraid their customers would not understand the unpressed look.)

Other strong New York looks headed our way are sandals, both flat and high heels worn with anklets, antique printed skirts worn with under-shirt tops, pants for men and women always soft and baggy, and tops always loose fitting. (By the way, men are into socks and sandal, too.)

At private beaches there is more and more toplessness to get an even tan.

It's all very low-key and no one is making much of a fuss about it.

At the public beaches the bathing suit uniform is the unlined maillot that fits like second skin. (An interesting new swim suit for men is the seersucker boxer trunks, from Madonna, totally unlined with a seersucker bikini worn underneath.

Gold and silver shoes are worn for day, and, according to Michael Borden, a top New York stylist, gold is what you use to make your eyes shine at night. For day, makeup is minimal with hair often pulled to one side in a ponytail that springs from the top of the head or is frizzed. One way to get the frizzy effect, says Borden, is to set your hair when wet with tiny braids from the top. When dry, brush it into the frizziest look possible.