Discount stores often offer bargains, but check quality

Discount dressing is fast making inroads in the fashion world. These are stores that handle many of the same kinds of merchandise found in specialty shops and department stores at savings up to 60 percent of the regular price. This merchandise, depending on the type of store, might be designers' returns, manufacturers' odd lots or overruns, or irregulars, so a knowledge of quality is imperative.

Better department stores generally have a customer-is-always-right policy. At discount stores you surrender your rights in favor of lower prices.

At discount stores you sometimes have to check your coat at the door. (This is not because they don't trust you, they'll say, but because your coat might get mixed up with others and be sold.)

You'll forfeit a comfortable private fitting room for a large room shared with 10 to 20 other customers and no privacy whatever.

All sales are final, ''as is,'' and no credit cards can be used. In short, at discount stores all the frills are eliminated, and it's buyer who must be wary. But you may find cashmere sweaters, designer dresses, Ultrasuede suits, and much more at tremendous savings.

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