As we stood in the supermarket express line -- behind two women in pillbox hats -- the thought occurred to us:

"Can we, we who buy day-old bread and spend most of our time in Levi's and electric fur slippers, achieve the new Republican look?"

Driving home in a 1967 Oldsmobile, we stopped for a presidential motorcade. We caught glimpses of women, err, ladies in pastel ruffles.

"No," we decided, "we can't."

We mentioned our dilemma to a friend, Nancy Donahue, a third-year law student at American University. She said she couldn't emulate the look either. "I haven't graduated into designer jeans yet."

But then we began to think, well . . . maybe.

A few days later one of us -- we both grew up believing that casual was fashionable -- replaced the front buttons on a coat that had been buttonless for three years. (We didn't go so far as to yank buttons off our coats, but if they were missing, it didn't matter.)

We decided that maybe we could swing a look close to what everybody is talking about. It might even be fun. At least novel.

Another friend, a Foreign Service officer for the Canadian Embassy, said that while she liked the easy, comfortable look of the Carter years, she also likes the more formal elegance the Reagan administration has brought. sShe does, however, draw a line. "Long, white kid gloves are for the birds."

A neighbor, who is a little closer to the new administration that we are, detests the thought that the new look might establish the feeling that there is only one correct way to dress. "I don't like the idea that clothes are everything," she says. "I would hate it if the first thing anyone thought about me was, 'God, she wears nice clothes.'"

But perhaps the most savvy friend of all, an acting student in New York City, maintains that what we're getting is an old style with a new twist.

"Women," she says "can afford to be feminine now because they have established themselves in the business and professional world. During the '60s and '70s, they gave up a lot of feminine things in order to be taken seriously. Now they can go back to frills and still maintain their identity." s

Although that friend is on a limited budget she finds she can, with careful shopping, still dress elegantly, at least now and then. "I found a John Kloss bed jacket on sale for $10," she brags. "On my budget, that would still be a lot for a bed jacket, but it was a bargain for an evening wrap."

With this sort of economy in mind we started shopping for clothes the same way we shop for bread -- looking for something current, but no more than half-price. Using the "Washington Inflation Fighters Guide" and tips from friends, we headed for the suburbs, where most of the discount stores are located.

Three days later we put together two outfits that are as close to the Reagan White House as two loyal Democrats are likely to get.

Some examples:

At Loehmann's we found a plum-colored silk Diane von Furstenberg tea dress for $13. (It is selling at several local department stores for $96.) At Shoe World, a pair of black patent leather pumps that regularly sell for $60, priced at $10.88. We completed the outfit with a black pillbox hat, found for 50 cents at a church yard sale.

At Frocks At The Docks, we grabbed a pleated wool skirt and brown lambswool sweater at their Two-for-$25 sale, and at the Shoe Stop, a pair of brown leather Charles Jourdan pumps for $20.

We found a number of other bargains, although some of them were still out of our price range, in spite of substantial reductions. We uncovered, for example, a Bill Blass pink and black ruffled evening gown regularly selling for $2,000, for $795. A cream-colored silk blouse usually priced at $60 for $15. And a $45 pair of Anne Klein slacks for $10.

After 35 hours of comparative shopping we were back home. As we fumbled for the front-door key we looked at each other -- laden down with packages, clipboards and notes -- and laughed. The newly repaired coat had lost a button. We looked more like bag ladies than the sophisticated women we had set out to become. . .

But just wait until we get that swank invitation