Some consider red lucky because it drives away demons, yet the devil wears red. Some get married in red, yet red is the color associated with fallen women.

Red was a popular color for women's clothes in the 1860s worn as Balmoral petticoats and Garibaldi shirts. But red became acceptable for men much later, after the prince of Wales began to wear it.

In the 19th century red was a popular color for rugs and parlors -- "which is no doubt why no one spent much time in the parlor," says Stella Blum, curator of costume for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Yet a red room is often the most popular room in the house, certainly in the Reagan White House.

Red is hot again, a strong, bold accent on favorite, familiar clothes, and an attention-getting statement for warm weather.

And it is the First Lady's favorite color.

Nancy Reagan doesn't recall a time she didn't like red. "It makes me feel good," she says. "I don't tend to wear it more when I am blue. But red certainly makes a dreary day more cheerful."

There are many reds spinning off from pure red toward blue-red and yellow-red. The range is wide for this season as well, but with concentration on the spectrum that includes what we've come to call flag red or fire engine red -- red reds.

The shift to dressing up more in this town has been coming for some time. It reflects the need of young people to dress like the boss, to get a job and hold it. It says clothes are more important and the ones to invest in are those that look important. There is a need to lift the spirits, to dress splendidly for special occasions. Dressing well and caring about how you look is endorsed by those in the White House.

Although the color of the clothes is eyecatching, shape has become more subdued. Cued by the classics, their inventiveness is as much in improvement of the product with fabric and workmanship as in creation of new designs. This season the tunic, the cardigan jacket, ruffles and many shapes of pants are being redefined. There is lots of room for accessories to add fresh dimensions to what is familiar.

Red isn't the only color for this spring. Black is a natural with red and who can think of red without mentioning soothing blue? Nonetheless, we're with the new traffic rule: right on red. CAPTION: Cover Photo, The silk organza blouse with double Pierrot collar is worn with white silk organza pants so wide they look like a shirt. From Bill Blass Collection III at Woodward & Lothrop. Her pear-shaped gold diamond drop earrings by M & J Savitt are available at Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's. Picture 1, Innocent reds and whites for spring. The red pin-stripped cotton cord dress with white collar and cuffs, from Frank Masandrea will be available soon at Garfinckel's. It's worn with a wide-brimmed straw hat by Marsha Akins for Makins, from Neiman-Marcus. The oyster white linen sailor dress by Narcissa is at Liberty and Saks Fifth Avenue; the hat is by Patricia Underwood and available at Bloomingdale's.; Picture 2, Charming silk and linen dress with white embroidered collar and cuffs by Morton Myles and patent tuxedo pumps, all from Garfinckel's; lace gloves from La Crasia at Bloomingdale's, wide-brimmed straw by Makins at Neimna-Marcus.; Picture 3, The red and white, awning-striped linen shorts playsuit with big blazer is by Ralph Lauren and Lord & Taylor and the Polo-Ralph Lauren Shop; the man's cotton sweater and white silk trousers are by Giorgio Armani at Bloomingdale's and I. Magnin; the Narcissa white linen jumpsuit is from Saks Fifth Avenue; the cotton shoes from China and the striped bangles are both from Bloomingdale's.; Picture 4, RED LIGHTS -- Flag these red: white and navy separates by Pinky and Diane for Private Label; his silk canvas fatigue pants and flag shirt in silk crepe de chine are at Neiman-Marcus and The Designers; belt from Bloomingdale's; silk crepe de chine short sleeve top is paried with white silk poplin fatigue pants from Claire Dratch; wrap ankle flats from Bloomingdale's; and silk canvas pants and silk striped top are from Saks-Jandel.; Picture 5, REDRESSING THE TUNIC -- A long stretch of silk crepe tunic over a pleated skirt by Bill Blass, Neiman-Marcus; gloves by La Crasia, Bloomingdale's; Makins hat, Neiman-Marcus; Enzo of Roma pumps, Garfinckel's; Judith Leiber bag and M & J Savitt earrings to order, Saks Fifth Avenue.; Picture 6, RED LETTER KNITS -- The open-stitch cotton knit from Gloria Sachs shapes up in a three-piece costume with camisole, jacket with extended shoulders and slim skirt, all from Lord & Taylor. Pancaldi black and white shoes from Saks Fifth Avenue. Hanes whitened pantyhose Available at Hecht's and Garfinckel's.; Picture 7, RED-EYE SPECIAL -- Day-to-evening suit in rayon and silk has pants with side pleats.the blouse is a silk print, from Ron Leal At Saks Fifth Avenue and Marie Claire; Judith Leiber jeweled bag from Neiman-Marcus; Charles Jourdan shoes from Garfinckel's. His Giorgio Armani silk and wool plaid jacket and black linen trousers are from The Designers. (Shirt and tie also by Armani.); Picture 8, Mylesport's silk shantung jacket with extended shoulder, white pleated organdy camisole with bow and silk pants all at Hecht's; ruffle-edged gloves from La Crasia at Bloomingdale's; Jeffrey Banks white silk dinner jacket and black tuxedo trousers are a renewed option for spring in Washington, to order from Neiman-Marcus; madras cummerbund and baby bow tie from Vicky Davis at Bloomingdale's.; Picture 9, RED CARPET DRESSING -- Red tiers for evening: Tracy Mills' one-shoulder red chiffon petal gown with matching stole, at Elizabeth Arden and Neiman-Marcus; jeweled combs from The Body Scenter; his Alexander Julian pin dot jacket and black trousers worn with bright red accessories could be traditionally teamed with black. Alexander Julian collection at Britches; red baby bow and cummerbund by Vicki Davis, red socks from Bloomingdale's.; Picture 10, Grand occasion dressing: Frank Masandrea's sailor collar dress in organza will be at Woodward & Lothrop shortly; La Crasia Lace gloves are from Bloomingdale's. The red satin-ribbon-edged silk organza gown by Tracy Mills is at Elizabeth Arden. His tuxedo worn with a wing collar shirt and black tie (or why not a red tie?) is from Britches. (Not seen, his black patent grosgrain bow pumps available at Brooks Brothers.); Picture 11, A red sweatshirt dress for non-stop comfort, this one with shaped sleeves by Harriet Winter from Frankie Welch, worn with Diane Von Furstenberg pantyhose from Bloomingdale's and Charles Jourdan ankle wrap flats that can be found at Garfinckel's.; Picture 12, For comfort and style, here is Adolfo's crocheted silk and wool suit with pleated skirt and silk bowed blouse, available at Saks Fifth Avenue. The red pantyhose are by Givenchy and available from Woodward & Lothrop; the patent tuxedo pumps are available from Garfinckel's.; Picture 13, RED BUTTONS -- Dotted with dash: a black dotted red silk three-piece suit by David Hayes is available at Saks-Jandel; the straw hat is from Saks Fifth Avenue; the red pumps are from Garfinckel's; the red dotted silk dress is from Bill Blass' Collection III, available at Lord & Taylor. The Charles Jourdan red patent shoes are from Bloomingdale's.; Picture 14, Shore cuts in red: Calvin Klein's cap sleeve top and apron pantskirt, also in parchment and hazel crepe de chine, later at Saks Fifth Avenue, worn with Bernardo sandals from Bloomingdale's; at right, Ralph Lauren's red crepe de chine shorts and camp shirt with epaulets, available later at Bloomingdale's, Charles Jourdan sandals from Garfinckel's.; Picture 15, RED PEPPERS -- Rich reds: expensive accents. Clockwise from left, lacquered straw hat, Saks Fifth Avenue ($49); Barbara Bolan baku straw bag, Neiman-Marcus ($185); Charles Jourdan flats, Garfinckel's ($105); men's nylon/wool socks by Ralph Lauren, Bloomingdale's ($12); man's straw hat by Makins, Saks Fifth Avenue ($38); shimmery pantyhose by Diane Von Furstenberg, Bloomingdale's ($4.50); ruby and diamond drop earrings and bracelet by M & j Savitt, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomies (earrings $900, necklace $2,675.); minaudiere by Judith Leiber, Neiman-Marcus ($1,960); combs, The Body Scenter ($20); belt, Lord & Taylor ($31).; Picture 16, RED PEPPERS -- Radical reds: affordable accessories. Clockwise from top left: straw bag, Bloomies ($15); wrap belt ($20), leather clutch ($24), Lord & Taylor, silk pocket square ($12) and baby bow tie ($10) by Vicky Davis, Bloomies; silk eyeglass case, Garfinckel's ($10); man's belt by Polo, Bloomies ($20); ruffled glove from La Crasia, Bloomies ($10); bugle-beaded earrings, Elanne in Annapolis ($22); barretts, The Body Scenter ($7); anklets, Bloomingdale's ($2.50); piped canvas flats, Design International ($20); raffia earrings ($6), bracelets ($9), canvas flats, Bloomies ($18); headband, Body Scenter ($3). PHOTOGRAPHED BY BARBARA BERSELL; Photographed at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, Norwalk, Ct. Styled by Michael Borden/Kristine Karam; make-up by Patricia Bowden; Hair by Pat Carroll