All spring fashion is divided in two parts. The clothes that are modern and clean-cut or the clothes that reflect the regroup what has been done before. No surprise, our vote goes for new order. We'd rather look ahead than look back.

This no-frills approach has been developing for several seasons, influenced by Japanese designs and in reaction to an overdose of detail. Cut is what counts now, and while the effect is still strong and graphic, the fresh emphasis is on the softer fabrics that make the clothes more mellow and easier to wear.

The message is as clear as black and white -- in fact, it is often in black and white. Clothes appear to be straight and narrow -- but never so narrow as to hamper the wearer. American women will not easily give up comfort in clothes.

Cutouts are an interesting as the cuts themselves. Shoulders are bared, as well as backs and occasionally midriffs.

The mix and tumble of prints has changed. With the new spring clothes, patterns are so subtly mixed that you have to look hard to figure out what makes the two patterns different. And the prints themselves are remarkably simple. Sometimes dots line up down the back or over the shoulder of a dress, or those dots are often big buttons that are functional as well as part of the pattern style.

An old order has been restored to clothes. Women who once slipped comforably from daytime to evening in the same mode of clothes now search for a special way to dress for evening. The sweater or tunic worn to dinner is a cut apart from the one for day. The short dinner dress and the night sweater have no place in the office. In just one season, the silk blouse, once a glamorous way to look for dinner, seems just fine for going to lunch, but not more.

In menswear, the choices are far more subtle. Classic silhouettes are updated with colors that have not been offered before. Conservative fabrics, like seersucker, are done with a new twist, and age-old styles of clothing have been regrouped in new ways.

Those who prefer to look back rather than ahead, can choose their decade: the '30s, '40s, '50s or '60s. The '50s is a particular pet of many of the designers. But if you are old enough to have worn these clothes before, you are probably too old to wear them again. CAPTION: Picture 1, White organdy three-tiered-collar shirt, inspired by the Japanese kamishimo jacket, by Tadomi at Saks-Jandel; Mark Spirito crushed-crystal earrings at Saks-Jandel.

White handkerchief-linen Dobby bib-front formal shirt by Pinky & Dianne for Private Label at The Designers; Picture 2, Red and black silk jacquard "butterfly" dress wraps and ties to the front or back, by Betsy Gonzales at Lord & Taylor.

Black linen tuxedo and white linen broadcloth shirt by Perry Ellis Men, Ltd. at Neiman-Marcus and Garfinckel's; Alan Flusser striped bow tie at Britches of Georgetowne; black leather shoes at Hahn's; Picture 3, Geoffrey Beene black linen picot-edged top with a black and white dot, silk-organza skirt with lace-hemmed organza petticoat at Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue; Berkshire black sheer panty hose with dots at Woodward & Lothrop; Geoffrey Beene black flats with patent leather and grosgrain toes at Saks Fifth Avenue; crystal and jet drop earrings by Isaac Manevitz for Ben-Amun at Bloomingdale's.

Jhane Barnes white linen uncostructed jacket and black linen pants, both at The Designers; Picture 4, All the comfort and ease of an oversized shirt shows up in dresses for warm weather, worn easily belted or not. Nicole Miller white linen pea-sleeve dress at La Strega; Joan & David white flats with open pale dots at Bloomingdale's; Mark Spirito faceted-crystal drop earrings at Saks-Jandel; white dot panty hose by Geoffrey Beene for Bonnie Doon at Klein's 4 Seasons; Alexis Kirk white leather belt with white metal calsp at Nikki Young's.

Chetta B gray and white striped linen cowl-neck dress at Garfinckel's, Claire Dratch and Woodward & Lothrop; Joan & David gray-and-white-dot wedge-heel shoes at Ann Taylor; silver square earrings with frosted pink off-center stone by Tulla Booth at Lord & Taylor; DIM white lacy panty hose at Hecht's; Picture 5, Adele Simpson navy and white polka dot silk and acetate strapless long dress with a generous scarf (not shown), soon at Woodward & Lothrop, black patent leather, high-heel pump by Risque at Hecht's; Stephen Dweck ebony and sterling silver earrings at Saks-Jandel; Berkshire sheer black-dotted panty hose at Woodward & Lothrop; Picture 6, Narcissa Irish linen striped blouse with natural linen ankle-length pants at Saks Fifth Avenue; frosted leater wide belt by Colony at Harriet Kassman.

Natural linen long-sleeve shirt by Pinky & Dianne for Private Label at The Designers; Basco beige linen pants at Cedar Post; shoes by Sperry Topsider at Raleighs.

Tamotsu black and beige linen striped shirt-jacket with natural linen ankle pants at Ann Taylor; sheer panty hose by Givenchy at Hecht's; Mark Spirito silver medallion earrings at Saks-Jandel; Picture 7, Natural Moygashel linen jacket and matching slim pants by Yeohlee at Cachet 4 Seasons; Evan Picone panty hose at Bloomingdale's; Joan & David linen and pantent leather flats at Ann Taylor; ebony and jasper drop earrings by Stephen Dweck at Saks-Jandel.

Jhane Barnes pastel silk, wool, linen and cotton tweed jacket at Jackie Chalkley; peach tuck-front shirt and black linen pants, also by Jhane Barnes at The Designers; Picture 8, White cotton damask topper, cotton tank top with lacy edge and linen skirt by Blassport at Woodward & Lothrop; Geoffrey Beene for Bonnie Doon bride's-lace white panty hose at Klein's 4 Seasons; pumps by Joan & David at Ann Taylor; Mark Spirito medallion earrings and silver cuff with geometric cutouts, both at Saks-Jandel.

Pink oxford-cloth, button-down shirt at Brooks Brothers; Perry Ellis gray and white harbor-ticking suit and striped bow tie at Bloomingdale's; white bucks by Ralph Lauren at Bloomingdale's; Picture 9, Red cotton-sheeting drop-waist dress with asymmetrical collar by Shamask at Saks-Jandel; DIM rouge panty hose at Hecht's; red wood earrings by Cathy and Marsha, for Catherine Stein at Lord & Taylor.

Unisex cotton jersey crew-neck sweater, black cotton vest, gray heavy cotton pants, by Plantation, available through Bloomingdale's; Picture 10, The wedge-shaped linen coat dress, in abstract multicolor design by Miya & Company at Cachet 4 Seasons and Saks Fifth Avenue; Maud Frizon pumps at Neiman-Marcus and Garfinckel's; panty hose by Magninique at I. Magnin; Stephen Dweck drop earrings at Saks-Jandel; white matte-finish cuff by Alexis Kirk at Nikki Young's; Picture 11, Mary Ann Restivo natural linen blouse with big sunburst collar and black silk pants at Hecht's, black lizard belt with gold arrowhead buckle by Alexis Kirk at Harriet Kassman; Round the Clock black sheer panty hose, black leather flats, both at Hecht's.