Success suits by day, lace blouses for evening. That seems a workable formula for Washington women who are afraid to show a soft side at the office, but who want to wear something pretty and feminine.

Linen and old lace is a formula that's been unbeatable for years, and the combination is still fresh-looking in many of the current versions of the lace blouse. Some styles also work well to soften severe suits or to add a vintage look to modern sweaters. CAPTION: Pictures 1 through 4, The eggshell antique linen and lace high-collared blouse is at Cornelia Wickens' Liberty ($170); jewel and pearl clip-on earrings ($65) are at Neiman-Marcus. Helene Sidel lace blouse with attached tie and button front with deep V-neck is at Nikki Young ($110); the antique sterling silver and onyx broach ($95) is at Saks-Jandel. The white frilly cotton and lace blouse by Jerri Sherman ($130) is at Claire Dratch; black and rhinestone pearl drop earrings ($20) are at Neiman-Marcus. The eggshell linen blouse with double-tiered soft shawl collar in re-embroidered Hamburg lace is by Cloak of Many Colors ($152) and is available at Hecht's (Tysons Corner and Towson branches only). PHOTOGRAPHS BY RAY LUSTIG