nce gray and faded with no decoration except a "PHYS. ED." stamp or college insignia--have come out of the locker room.

Baggy sweat pants and shapeless tops have turned into minis, crop pants, cheerleader skirts, blousons, tunics, harem pants and shorts. Gray is still around but often striped with bold primary colors or mixed with brights. Even basic black for evening has been translated into sweats.

New York designer Norma Kamali started it all last year after she noticed joggers weren't wearing gray anymore, but wondered what had happened to sweat shirts. She took favorite ideas from her "regular" collection--padded shoulders, nipped-in waists and bodysuits--and turned them into sporty, but-not-for-the-gym clothes made out of sweat cloth. And best of all: Nothing costs more than $100.

A kind of mini madness resulted: Bloomingdale's in New York had to close its Kamali boutique for a spell last summer to wait for re-orders; Saks Fifth Avenue sold out its entire stock in one day; even Kamali herself had to close down her New York boutique for a day after word got out to her sweat fans that a new shipment had arrived. They had literally lined up outside her door.

While Washingtonians have not worked up the same lather as New Yorkers (and some Europeans), sweat shirting has definitely arrived. Kamali's original ideas have spun off in a dozen directions with a healthy variety of styles and prices. Sketched here (from left) are some samples of what area stores are offering in sweat shirting:

Lloyd Allen's turquoise and white cap-sleeve crop top ($35) with white knee pant ($32) at Saks-Jandel; hot pink mini ($16) from The Gap, Montgomery Mall; Norma Kamali's wrap jacket with removable shoulder pads ($80), in black at Wacky Wear, and a dressed-up blouson with tucked front and back ($40) from Paraphernalia, Georgetown Park.

Sweat-Shirt Care

Sweat-shirt garb has become more colorful, more fashionable and, inevitably, a bit harder to take care of. Some ways to keep street-wise sweats from looking like old-fashioned gym clothes:

* Bear in mind that sweat shirting is a knit and treat it like a favorite, not-too-delicate sweater.

* Look for combinations like 50 percent cotton, 50 percent acrylic for minimum shrinkage and maximum durability.

* For machine-washings, use warm or cold water on a delicate cycle. Remember that colors may bleed, so don't throw in your red rah-rah skirt with a load of whites.

* Avoid the dryer, even after machine washing. Lay tops flat on a towel, as you would a sweater. Pants and skirts may be hung, but only after a spin in the rinse cycle or a very good ringing out. (If too wet, they'll bag.)

* Dry-clean any style cut on the bias to avoid puckering at the seams.

* Remove shoulder pads before washing.

For do-it-yourselfers, G Street Remnants, among others, has the latest patterns and sweat-shirt material. G Street's is 50 percent cotton, 50 percent acrylic, in 5 basic colors, $4.98 to $6.98 per yard. Barbara Mahaney of the store tells customers to wash the material first: Any fabric, she says, with at least 50 percent cotton will shrink some. She advises caution in cutting out the pattern, using a ball point needle. Expect some curling at the seams.