Sweaters for fall reach star status as super wardrobe extenders. The excitement generated by knits, for women and men, starts with a group of commanding cardigans (much longer and often shawl-collared) and a whole new look for sweater sets, sleeveless types, for instance, over matching long-sleeved pullovers.

Also new are tunic-length sweaters: a fun range that includes many novelty designs in imaginative stitches and colors. Two examples are Ron Chereskin's jigsaw puzzle pattern and Jeffrey Banks's doggie design - specifically, Scottish terriers scattered over front and back.

So, unlike any other year or season when a classic pullover was the way to go , 1984 sweaters offer a wealth of cashmere-to-cotton options.

Furthermore, many swing easily from cold to warm weather. So the sweater you wear in snow country can be packed if you head for the Sunbelt.

And the mileage doesn't stop there. Designer Lee Wright says: ''I believe this season's sweaters should be wearable with last season's shirts and next season's slacks. This is the very essence of wardrobe building.''

Cardigans, not around in any depth for several years (except as Perry Como reruns on the golf course), are staging a strong comeback in a great variety of weaves, colors, and styles.

Among the newest is one that falls below the hips and is worn over crew or turtle- or cowl-neck pullovers. But expect to see new shorties as well, such as a crop-ped knit vest topping a longer sweater.

Other duos double up in big, bold block checks, splashy stripes, argyles, sophisticated Jacquard weaves, or patterns with spaced motifs, such as a school crest design.

Hand-knits abound, so even the whimsies have an aura of luxury. Watch for a phalanx of intarsias (inlay effects) and rugbys, both in bulky and superfine knits. Andrew Fezza adds leather trims to some of his hand-knits, part of a sturdy outdoor group.

Crossover sweater vests, double-buttoned at the waist, are popular with both men and women.

Although some sweaters appear neutral, even dark and subdued in color, a close check reveals that many weaves actually feature an interesting interplay of colors. Among them are plum, rust, laguna blue, magenta, and forest or olive green.

Pure cashmere and mohair are highlighted, along with blends of both. Others are made of angora, Shetland wool, superfine lambswool, and cottons that look like wool.

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