NOT LONG AGO, denim faded from the fashion picture and gave way to slick disco fabrics. But secretly no one really wanted to put away their soft worn-out jeans. Designer jeans -- especially those by Calvin Klein -- arrived on the scene, but they were not like the old familiar standbys. They were too tight, too restrictive -- and breaking them in was an act of courage.

This spring, denim is enjoying a revival. But the famous fabric is going beyond blue jeans to dresses, bodysuits and jackets. Designers from Paris to New York are using the fabric as the basis for a more daring day look. Donna Karan, Azzedine Alaia, Fendi and Thierry Mugler have created wild-looking denim clothes with oversize shoulders, big gold buttons and body-length zippers. Denim is the newest fabric for those who want to be avant-garde by day.

That old worn-out denim is suddenly chic as a result. And only a few key touches are needed to give old jeans a new look. Lizard-skin boots and an equally fine belt update and upgrade the worn-in look. Silk or cotton blouses have a softness that complements that same quality in the jeans. Big gold jewelry finalizes the rehabilitation.