THE REVIVAL OF THE MINI-skirt may well have been the catalyst.
Since consumers accepted the idea of hiking their hemlines a year or so ago, an avalanche of '60s-inspired fashions has been let loose.
Ethnic earrings were followed by shift dresses, stirrup pants, wide stretch headbands, op art prints, fishnet stockings and retro color combinations such as orange with fuchsia and lime with purple.
And now, the baby doll.
Remember Twiggy, all big-eyed and bowlegged in sweet little dresses trimmed with white collars and cuffs?
The baby-doll garments arriving in the stores this season are rarely precise duplicates from the '60s, but the general influence is evident in the many A-line and empire silhouettes.
The dresses are showing up in a variety of price ranges -- from trendy, inexpensive versions in the junior areas of department stores to elegant interpretations in luxurious designer boutiques such as Ruth Shaw.
"I just love the look," says Ray Mitchener, manager of Ruth Shaw. "But it's so new that I don't think the ladies are quite used to it yet."
He predicts, however, that the idea will have caught on by the time his shipment of chiffon A-lines from designer John Scher arrives for the holiday season.
"They're triple layers of chiffon, with little fitted sleeves, and we'regetting them in orange, yellow, fuchsia and navy," he says.
Mr. Scher, a Baltimore native currently considered one of fashion's brightest young lights, has been experimenting with tent shapes, baby-doll and empire lines for about five years.
"When I was working for Chetta B. a few years ago, we put them out and a few fashion forward stores picked them up, but now I do a lot of them.
"I love the shape and anyone can wear it. A young girl can shorten it and make it very '60s with ribbed tights and flat shoes, and an older lady might wear hose and pumps and be conservative and very chic."
While his dresses may be evocative of another decade, the cut takes into account the '90s woman.
"The '60s body was different," he says. "Women didn't work out; they were skinny and had no chest. Now girls work out and have muscles and a body, so the cut is different -- it's not as constricted and the armholes are deeper."
At Le Chateau in the Owings Mills Mall, manager Matt Scroggins, says short swing and A-line dresses have been selling through the summer, and arriving soon are empire waists in sheer fabrics and panne velvet.
Bruce Binder, vice president and fashion director of Macy's Northeast says, baby-doll dresses are "biggest right now in juniors, in floral and sheers. It's worn a lot with bright leggings."
The baby-doll dress is only one of the new '60s items at Macy's. Designers are covering the whole spectrum of the decade, says Mr. Binder, from hot pants to the embellished denim of the hippie era.
"The No. 1 accessory is the wide headband. And [the '60s influence] is going to start happening in makeup too, with heavy, Cleopatra eyes and pale lips. The magazines are promoting it already."
Other items carried by Macy's include "the Pucci-inspired leggings, some of the little '60s chemises, and all of the bright pop art of the '60s is very important. DKNY [the Donna Karan casual line] in Owings Mills will have a color palette in November that's very Warhol inspired -- reds and royal and chrome yellow," Mr. Binder says.
At Ruth Shaw, the '60s influence is strongest in "color and silhouette," Mr. Mitchener says.
"We have the minis, the Courrege geometric takeoffs, the simple easy shapes, the stretch pants, bra tops, unitards, Pop prints and big florals," he says. "And in jewelry, orange and fuchsia and turquoise combinations and lime green and orange."
The best accessories, he says, are "a little more sleek than they were in the '60s and almost indefinite as to what time they are. Donna Karan, for instance, she did sterling silver balls on a snake chain instead of the hot pink and lime polka dots you might have seen in the '60s."
Mr. Scroggins of Le Chateau credits the musical scene for creating the new fascination with the '60s and now the early '70s.
Just about the same time that there was a resurgence of interest in the '60s singing sensation, the Supremes, (with the debut of the musical "Dreamgirls"), the miniskirt re-emerged.
Shortly after the Grateful Dead experienced a tremendous revival a couple of years ago, tie-dye T-shirts became the rage.
Now that music from the late '60s and early '70s is becoming the hottest trend in the dance clubs, there are predictions that xTC disco-era fashions are only a few years away.
While young band members may enjoy frolicking on stage in fur-trimmed vests, wide lapels and elephant bells, it may seem a trifle early yet for those over-30 to begin feeling nostalgic about the '70s.
1. Wide headbands
3. Op art prints
4. Wigs, hairpieces and false eyelashes
5. Fuchsia with orange and lime with purple
6. Platform shoes
7. Macrame and crochet
8. Panne velvet
9. Stylized daisy prints
10. White ruffle-necked poet blouses
11. Sideburns for men
12. Long, straight, center-parted hair
13. Back to nature, ecological themes