Lyricist Alan Jay Lerner tapped designer Donald Brooks to do the costumes for Carmelina, the Lerner/Burton Lane musical which opens at the Kennedy Center March 7, "because you are the only one who knows how to do real clothes and real costumes." Lerner has recalled Brooks' success with costumes for Diahann Carroll in "No Strings" as well as a dozen or so other plays, films, as well as his three Coty awards. "No one else is doing modern clothes that can pass as costume or the other way around," Lerner told him.

Brooks pinpoints the talent as being able to exaggerate contemporary clothes so that it reads as well in the back of the orchestra or the balcony as the front row. "The silhouette is based on fact," says Brooks, "but the details are exaggerated." In "Carmelina" (where he worked with a budget of $50,000 plus) the exaggeration is in details like flounces and extra full skirts.

Carmelina is a light-hearted musical comedy about the return in the early 1960s of an army of occupation to a small Italian town for a friendly reunion. Brooks has done the peasant clothes in great sweeps of color -- shocking pinks and turquoise at one time, muted lavenders and purples another. At one point there are more than 250 striped fabrics on stage at one time.

Clothes for the principles (Georgia Brown and Cesare Siepi) are more sophisticated, more restrained.

The most difficult group to design for, says Brooks, were the Americans. "The 1960s are not all too clearly identifiable as Edwardian England or Louis XV France. It's hard to separate what we looked for in clothes within such recent memory and not confuse them with what we look for now." Brooks nods to the '60s with A-line and trapeze dresses, the suggestion of the chemise and shorter skirts.

Almost simultaneous with the costume designs, Brooks has created his new collection (with Albert Nipon as his backer) of daytime to evening clothes including suits and coats to retail from $300 to $1,300. That 100-piece collection will be shown first to buyers on April 24. (He also designs furs, glasses, lingerie for Maidenform and has built a $16-million menswer business.)

It's no easier to design costumes for the stage, where the eye appeal is most important, says Brooks, than for the individual wearer when comfort and fit are as essential as the overall look. In his new collection, there are some of the familiar Brooks details including piping, quilting, strong clear colors and prints.

But some of his ideas for "Carmelina" spill over into his forthcoming spring collection as well, particularly the flounces, which he has never done before. "I'm only one mind and one hand sketching (my left) and so naturally there are ideas that bounce back and forth," says Brooks.

Good news in the awards department. There's a new award giving recognition to the up-and-coming American designers "who are saying something new about the way woman should dress. They are not following the trends, not copying couture, not playing it safe -- they are risking commercial success by daring to be different and new." Called the Prix de Cachet, like the Coty Award, it has its commercial sponsorship (Cachet by Prince Matchabelli). Editors will make the nominations and final selections. Henri Bendel president Geraldine Stutz is the chairman of the committee.

Also in the awards department, the Hecht's Young Designer Awards, to be presented at the MS fashion luncheon on March 22, will go this year to Carole Little designer for St. Tropez West and Lynde Refsnes for Irka. The NeimanMarcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion recipients for this year will be Perry Ellis, Richard Avedon, Giorgio Armani, Mary McFadden and Count Rene de Chambrun for Baccarat.And the third annual Lord & Taylor Creative Design Award, which recognizes outstanding American designers, will be presented in May to Bill Blass.

You too can wear a Hickey-Freeman suit if you are a woman. Hickey-Freeman Co., one of the 10 oldest men's clothiers in the United States, will start tailoring for women. The prices will be about the same range as the men's ( $365- $600 for a suit), the fabrics offered virtually identical and the jackets will be shaped with an outside breast pocket but minus the important inside pocket.

Garfinckel's is testing a fashion hotline. During the month of March you can dial 638-5-SOS and place an order for whatever you need from the store and then pick up it up at a specific time there.

Washington may have one of the few mother-daughter professional modeling teams around. They are Peggy Hanes and her daughter Allison. Peggy is the taller one and has been modeling for 31 years. Allison, 19, attended Woodward High School in Bethesda.

Customers are finding it increasingly helpful to have parcels delivered across state lines to save on taxes, even if it sometimes takes several weeks for delivery. "So why tax items delivered from Bloomingdale's White Flint?" asked one angry customer. Because Bloomies' parent company, Federated, has an office in D.C. which removes the tax gain. "Believe me," said Ron Grudberg of Bloomingdale's here. "It's no advantage to us to be in the tax collecting business."

So you sometimes wear jeans, a sweater and a corduroy jacket. Well, that will peg you as a self-assured leader in a sorority and interested in women's lib. In jeans and a Vneck sweater, you signal a lack of self confidence and are unsympathetic to the women's movement. And if the jeans are belled, the jacket leather and fur trimmed, they get you marked down as not in a sorority and not from an affluent family. These are the findings of a study with 200 male and female Penn State students conducted by Dr. Rebecca Holman at that school. Students were asked to judge the same model wearing different clothes. Her conclusions, "By understanding the messages sent out when we wear clothes, the reasons behind different product choices might become clearer," says Holman. "A woman wishing to be known as a feminist might choose one style and a woman who did not wish to be seen as a feminist might choose another style in that situation."