They are thoroughly modern minis, far from the cardboard-stiff, skimpy styles of the late 1960s. They've already caught on in Paris and Milan, and this week got their strongest endorsement from an American designer. James Galanos, this country's only couture-quality clothes designer, sent models down the runway in dresses, often bloused and caught in elastic over the hips and cut off at least three inches above the knee.

"I think short skirts are the coming feeling," Galanos said from New York. The short lengths were exaggerated in his show to make the point, "and if a woman doesn't want to wear something as short as we advocate, we leave an allowance for wearing it longer," he added. The elasticized shaping of the dress makes it easy to adjust for a longer look.

"One should use discretion about wearing the shorter length," warns Galanos, who suggests that a woman should consider the proportion of her legs. "Some people just have better looking legs than others." About the likelihood that his customer Nancy Reagan will wear his short length, Galanos had no comment.

The first minis have arrived in Washington and are being snapped up by young girls who have never worn them before. Among the best of the new arrivals are the Kenzo ruffled minis from La Boutique Francaise.

Will the spectacularly costumed "Brideshead Revisited" bring back the dressing gown? Not very likely in this town where men prefer the anonymity of black tie, even when women dress for a dinner at home.

But there is little question that designers, as well as fashion conscious men and women, are feasting on the wonderful costumes by Jane Robinson in the television series. No doubt the impeccably detailed costumes will encourage a wider range of the English country clothes that a few designers already have in their lines.

As in "Chariots of Fire," the women's clothes are interesting but the men's clothes have had the stronger influence, perhaps because of the focus of the two productions and the more easily adaptable men's styles.

Designer Alan Flusser, whose own clothes have been custom-made in England since he was 17, finds the loose fit of the styles particularly appealing, especially the cut of the pants with fullness in the thigh. "People are getting used to pale colors," he added. "Properly cut clothes can be any color. It is the silhouette, not the color, that gives them longevity."

Robinson effectively shows the span of 20 years of the series wth clothes. "When Jeremy [Irons] was playing the younger Charles, I put him in jackets that were slightly too small for him, because it made him seem younger," Robinson told the Daily News Record. "I put stiff collars on the men, too, for a schoolboyish look, and the soft colors were also a help -- the white and pale cream in which Sebastian and Julia are first dressed indicated their age."

Just when we thought the jeans business was slowing down to a simple basic style, because of designer overdose and a growing need to be more dressed up on the job, a new jean has surfaced. It's Levi's black-dyed denim button-fly jean, a variation on the five-pocket straight leg style (also known as the "501"). It's Levi's assist to thse customers who have been dyeing jeans themselves, particularly in San Francisco, New York and Washington.

They are just being delivered to Commander Salamander (Georgetown), Counts Western Wear, Curly's M&B Clothing (Vienna), Suplus (Arlington) and Leather Rack.

A gallon of water can be just as good for you as a gallon of lotion, says Prevention magazine, which suggests internal lubrication (with water) as an antidote to dry skin and even chapped lips. The magazine quotes dermatology professor Dr. Bernard A. Kirshbaum as pegging dry winter skin to the fact that we drink less water in winter since we are less thirsty when the weather is cold.

Where do all the markdowns go after the Washington's Birthday sales? Some stores continue to slash prices to find an eventual buyer, others bundle them up to consolidate in their main store, often New York, and give customers wider selection. And a few stores will bring in a jobber to buy up the remains at a small price on the dollar and "dump" the leftovers in outlets such as Filene's (Boston) basement.

Shoe designer and manufacturer Joe Famolare has won the "Ms. Liberty Award" from Women Against Pornography, a group that also gave "Zap" awards for sexist advertising to Texas Brand Boots, Calvin Klein jeans, Jordache jeans and the Jamaica Tourist Board.

Famolare, who created the wavy sole shoe, is now featured in a photograph by Richard Avedon in a campaign created by Jane Trahey.

Eileen Mason Abato, who was a sportswear buyer at Miller Brothers and prior to that fashion director at Hutzler's Baltimore, has joined Woodward & Lothrop as corporate fashion director. At one time Abato owned her own store in Baltimore.