A look at summer '81 actionwear

Warm-weather sports call for clothing that is flattering to the figure, comfortable to wear, and easy to maintain. But what about the athlete who wants expensive, sophisticated-looking garb? A look at active wear for 1981 shows that it's all there.

Start with swimwear.

It's the season to show your stripes. And if you are in a patriotic mood, combine red, white, and blue for a nautical feeling. Choose a one-piece suit -- it is very figure-flattering.

This season, many suits are shown with soft surplice wrap-fronts and lots of shirring. When the actual design of the suit doesn't soften the body, often the optical design of the print does.This is the year of the asymmetrical pattern. Up the side.Down the front. Across the middle.

Colors tend to dark backgrounds that show off hot prints and stripes. Influences from Africa abound, with jungle prints and batiks still popular. The strongest fashion colors are tones of gray, from pewter to pearl, glittering with metallics.

Fabrics take on new textures. Cotton gets more exposure mixed with Lycra for comfortable stretch. Look for chenilles and terrys that go into the water, and the return of that old '50s favorite, shin satin.

Cover-ups take on sarong shapes to be tied across the shoulders for a quick cape or at the waist for any easy skirt. Bikini lovers will find blousoned big-tops in poodle cloth and velour. And a few designers, stuck on Western wear , have fringed everything.

Suit construction continues to favor the body beautiful, but a closer look shows increasing use of the underwire bra and other figure helpers, built in. The thigh-high leg cut styling seems to be moderating slightly, but the straight-across leg and the little-boy short still looks like yesterday.

Summer '81 offers the ultimate in action wear. Tennis wear has gone "straight." No more pseudo-tennis clothing that can be worn to lunch, roller-skating, or grocery shopping. The description is "authentic."

Look for cotton piques, woven poplins, and Italian knits. One designer described his collection as a cross between Star Trek and European racing clothes. There are many pro endorsements. You'll have to decide whether you are a "Borg" or an "Austin."

The key word is stretch. Very little fabrication will be without it. Even cotton knit shirting has been given a spandex stretch content. This type of shirt offers a close-to-the-body fit with plenty of comfort and give.

Colorations for tennis in 1981 look especially crisp in black and white for both men and women. There is a smattering of color. But for both tennis and golf, "preppie" influences rule out pastels.

When it comes to "no sweat" dressing, everyone's favorite is velour. For warmer weather, however, lighter-weight knits are in order.

This season men and women can cross over from their respective fashion departments and buy these items strictly for fit and price. And warm-ups aren't just for grown-ups anymore. They come in a wide range of sizes for the whole family.

No matter what kind of a sport you are, warm-weather dressing can be fun.And fashion favors practical clothing for the athletes as we ll as the fans.

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