Yes, there is an alternative to black tie. It may be that with so many women wearing tuxedoes this winter, particularly in New York, men have been looking for worthy alternatives to the classic black dinner jacket.

The possibilities are endless. In place of a jacket, the black cashmere sweater, either as a cardigan or pullover, is a favorite choice of designer Zoran and others. (Zoran occasionally substitutes cashmere knit trousers for tuxedo pants.) Lloyd Herman, director of the Renwick Gallery, likes to wear a vest, handcrafted by Maria da Conceicao Sao, that incorporates a favorite souvenir, a piece of a banner with the face of Mao Tse-tung, acquired on a trip to China. And Robert McCooey, owner of 1789 Restaurant in Georgetown, occassionally wears a tweed jacket with black silk lapels from Britches. Other options are a silk shirt with covered buttons made like a Brooks Brothers button-down. Julian Tomchim, Bloomingdale's vice president, wears them; Missoni sweater vests and other sweaters may be worn under or in place of a tuxedo jacket.

She had worked out a simple formula for travel -- three tops and three skirts to be worn interchangeably. But when the time came to implement her wardrobe scheme, interior designer Jeanne Faulkner felt "something was missing to tie the pieces together." Faulkner saw a friend in an unusual vest and realized that such an item tied in well with her interest in and access to unusual fabrics, filling her clothing gap.

She had intended to make vests with interior design fabrics, but quickly found such materials too expensive for the vest she had in mind, even though each vest uses only a half yard of fabric. So Faulkner began to dig into her closet for things acquired on trips but never worn or worn out, then checked out her mother-in-law's attic, and began to put things together.

The result is an interesting collection of vests and belts, now at The China Coast Gallery, Cornelia Wickens' Liberty in Georgetown and a Madison Avenue boutique in New York. They've been so successful that Faulkner is cutting back her interior design schedule to design and decorate vests for part of the week.

We love lists -- and now for our list of this year's biggest chutzpah artists. No winners, because all are equal contenders in this competition.

Consider the woman who won a big-money door prize at a store. The first item she bought was an appliance. The next day she was back in the store asking for a $20 credit because a store nearby was selling the appliance for $20 less.

Or the man who demanded credit for the suit he bought for his wife because she perspired in the blouse. He wanted a blouse in exchange that would guarantee she would not sweat.

All of the merchandising smarts that have marketed Giorgio Armani into the hottest name in Europe, with his high-priced clothes for men and women and the Emporio Armani shops with lower ticket items, are about to take on the United States.

According to a news release, Armani will start selling here a line of women's clothes 40 percent below current Armani prices. This new line will take on the original Giorgio Armani label. The more expensive line will have a new label, probably Giorgio Armani, Milano.

The handsomest fashion photography book came across my desk this week. It is a soft-cover collection of black-and-white photographs of clothes by Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo for Commes des Garc,ons. It appears to be published and printed by the Comme des Garcons company in Japan but it is hard to tell because all credits, except names of photographers, who all seem to be Japanese, are in Japanese. The book includes Kawakubo's designs from 1975 to 1982 shown on top models from Europe and the United States, plus one Japanese model. The book, reminiscent of the extraordinary volume of photography "East Meets West" with the clothes of Issey Miyake, is a gem to be appreciated and studied by those who care about fashion, photography or modeling. (We haven't a clue as to how one get's a copy, but when we find out we'll let you know.)

Films have often inspired fashion designers--and there is no better example than a recent one, "Chariots of Fire." The Annie dress is another spinoff.

But now there is a collection of film-inspired clothes that were actually produced and sent to stores before the film got to local theaters. The clothes are based on "The Dark Crystal," by Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets. Henson commissioned the Hampstead Studio in London, the original design team from the film, to create a collection of clothes and jewelry that reflect the style and colors of the film.

The 40-piece collection includes silk and satin lingerie, wool dresses and evening gowns.

President Reagan wanted electric trains this Christmas; Giorgio Armani wanted racing cars. We don't know for sure if the president got his trains, but Armani guaranteed getting his cars by buying them for himself. Right this moment, in fact, Armani and his partner, Sergio Galleotti, are probably in Forte dei Marmi playing with the racing cars on tracks set up on the living room floor. The set cost Armani $15,000, and we'll bet that, before long, Armani will redesign the cars and put his signature on them to sell in his Emporio Armani.