BY NINA HYDE; Nina Hyde is fashion editor of The Washington Post

Designers have returned classics to shelves for the season ahead. Instead they show renewed respect for old ways, but add spirit with colors and treatments that make these clothes different from their origins.

Familiarity breeds comfort --bigger shapes, longer lengths and rich fabrics. It's not that serious clothes have been left behind, only that the increasing cost of clothes hardly justifies buying repeats of those already hanging in the closet.

This fall's clothes have Old World charm done new ways. The charm is not only in the look but in the luxury of fabric. If the clothes are familiar in design--even familiar paisleys, foulards, Icelandics, herringbone tweeds, wallpaper prints and the like--they are refreshingly different in color and detail. The patterns at least have new proportions.

There have been shawls before, and full skirts and tweed jackets and duffels, fur trims and cloaks, as seen on the following pages. But this is not a retreat to the ethnic looks of the 1960s --these are refinements.

So many young people have sought out the clothes of past eras in second- hand and vintage clothing shops it's not surprising that many designers have chosen this as their theme. With clothes costing in many instances 30 percent more than last year, experimentation is not the goal. Instead, designers say they want pretty, comfortable clothes.

Ethnic details such as embroidery, pattern mixes and color contrasts bring animation. The styles are easy and adaptable, overscale for comfort, but often pulled tight to the waistline to show off a figure.

Though not the only way to dress for fall, these clothes have a handsome point of view that offer many options. For some women it can be only the addition of a shawl, a soft paisley skirt, a bolder earring, a fancier blouse. For men it may be a textured muffler, an exceptional hat, a pattern or texture mix, a tweed jacket. Others will go for the whole dose.

There is a comfort and confidence that comes from Old World charm. It has worked before. It is only better now.