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Computer generates fashions that fit mix-and-match figures

All men may be created equal, but women aren't _ at least when it comes to clothing sizes.

Nature has more of a sense of humor than the garment industry and thinks nothing of putting a size 10 bust on size 12 hips _ or the reverse. Some try to beat the fitting game _ and save on the budget _ by sewing their own clothes. But even paper patterns used to measure and cut fabric generally need to be altered.

Now comes Dress Shop from a California company named Livingsoft. The $99.95 computer program generates patterns tailored just for you.

Dress Shop works on just about any IBM PC or compatible with at least one floppy drive and 512,000 characters of memory. If you're a "larger" size, the manual says you should have 640,000 characters of memory. Avoid the embarrassment of having a machine call you Tubbo and use Dress Shop only with 640K. That way you can tell yourself without fear of contradiction that a skinny 512K would have worked.

Installation means copying the files onto a blank disc or a hard drive. The program comes with 3.5-inch and 5.25-inch disks. There's a setup program that lets you tell the machine what kind of monitor and printer you have.

The printer part is important, since the patterns you select will be produced on a dot-matrix printer running continuous-form paper. Dress Shop supports Diablo, Epson, IBM, Panasonic, Star Micronics and Tandy printers. If you don't have one of those, make certain your printer will emulate either an Epson or an IBM. Many do.

The key to making an accurate pattern is a tape measure, a trusted friend and brutal honesty. Thirteen measurements are required, and the software prompts you by highlighting the appropriate areas on a mannequin figure. The manual says that taking your own measurements is "difficult, if not impossible."

It was both difficult and impossible to convince wife or daughter to volunteer measurements for national distribution, so I volunteered my own 46 regular.

The program without even a smirk obligingly generated a pattern on 46-38-39 measurements to make a mid-knee sheath in a self-selected Lycra Spandex fabric.

So okay, Bill Blass doesn't have to worry, but the process was quick and painless.

The number of sizes on file is limited only by disk space, and the program offers 38 pattern variations for dresses, skirts, pants, blouses, coat and blazers and accessories. Dress Shop assumes you already know from sewing, but the manual nicely illustrates terms. I now know a Peter Pan collar is not a Puritan collar, nor even a Mandarin, ruff, funnel, wing or Chelsea collar, not to mention a shawl, convertible, tie or Jabot collar.

For information: Livingsoft Inc., 524 W Dolphin St., Ridgecrest, Calif. 93555. Phone (800) 626- 1262.