Folkwear patterns. $2.50 to $4.50. Available at the Museum of Natural History Gift Shop; Appalachiana, Bethesda; and Hodges Emporium, Crystal Underground, Arlington.

The three women who invented Folk-wear two years ago weren't really inventors at all, but were ingeniously capitalizing on two new social trends with historical roots: a renewed interest in ethnic heritage and a longing for the past. The 22 clothing patterns they've designed since then combine both of these elements to "spread a knowledge of ethnic clothing" as well as to focus on "historical clothes that are worth preserving." Among the 16 "ethnic" patterns Folkwear offers are a Chinese jacket, Japanese kimono, German kittel (smock) and a Gaza dress. The new "Patterns from Times Past" series includes instructions for making softly feminine Edwardian underthings (camisole, petticoat and drawers), a prairie dress (pioneer women's version of a housedress), a Missouri River boatman's shirt, a Victorian shirt, a quilted skirt and a high-neck blouse in the Gibson-girl tradition. The appeal of the patterns appears to be twofold: they're adaptable for both the beginning and the advanced stitcher; and the designs are as practical and high-fashioned now as they were to their original wearers.