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Crisp linen. Breezy seersucker. Long-wearing cotton. Cool comfort is what designers are striving for in their '86 sportswear collections.

THE mood for outdoor living this spring and summer is white, casual, and whimsical -- but not wild. Sportswear is being called ``classic sportswear,'' with linen, cotton, and sun-washed seersucker at the top of the list, in shorts, trousers, or easy dresses that breathe and flow in the summer breeze. Blue and white, black and white with a dotted or a zebra-stripe motif, and plain sparkling white are the designers' choices for the outdoors.

``It's a kind of sportswear that could last you a lifetime, because it's cool and wearable, and most of all, it's timeless,'' says Theresa Mantenfel, a Seventh Avenue fashion director. ``Good taste, simple lines, natural fabrics, and balanced colors inevitably win the day.''

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Bathing suits, too, have sprung up in classic lines, with hints of the '20s and some surprising evening-wear touches, such as bows and ribbons. But there seem to be as many styles as there are tastes to wear them -- all the way from the risqu'e variety, which very few women would actually wear to a beach, to the more standard tank top, which crops up each season. -- H. N.

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