Yesterday afternoon Saks Fifth Avenue fashion director April Riccio had a phone call from an African ambassador's wife. Would there be a place to check her headdress at last night's party in the store if she wanted to?

There were lots of headwraps (none of them checked) plus colorful robes, djellabas and caftans at last night's benefit for the Museum of African Art. dThe invitation to the $50-a-ticket affair called for black tie or traditional dress. Most guests opted for a variation on the latter.

Even Warren Robbins, founder and director of the museum, arrived with an African robe and hat in a plastic shopping bag. He was authorized to wear these clothes when he was made a member of the Kom royal family while on a trip to the Cameroons, where he had gone to bring back a sacred statue for the museum.

He put on the robe and hat to greet the 500 or more guests who had come to meet designer Mary McFadden and to watch a formal presentation of her couture designs.

McFadden, a collector of African art, is on the board of the museum -- but not a good board member, she confessed. "I haven't gotten to one meeting yet."

Guests were served drinks over the lingerie and cosmetics counters and found Irish coffee in the handbag department. Small pastries were upstairs near the Saint Laurent boutique. Mary McFadden's windrift patterned sheets were used to disguise other counters and were made into banners that hung from pillars.

After the showing of McFadden's new Spanish-inspired collection, guests went upstairs to dance in the fur department.