Things certainly have settled down a bit since Ronald Reagan and the Republicans swooped down upon this city with panache and a flair for partying unrivaled since the Camelot days of John F. Kennedy.

None of the "group"--those California insiders who carted chauffeurs, emeralds, and miles of taffeta to the Reagan inaugural two years ago was in sight at the third anniversary gala last night. Sensible cloth coats instead of minks cluttered the racks. And though there were 1,200 guests, there were no knots of limousines tying up traffic outside.

This ball was for hundreds of young Republicans who noisily jammed into the marble corridors of the Organization of American States to celebrate the anniversary of the Reagan-Bush inaugural.

Ronald Reagan and George Bush couldn't make it. But they sent their greetings via mimeographed letters available at the door. Many who did make it had worked in the 1980 campaign and have been absorbed by the administration or Washington's network of blue chip law firms.

They are ecstatic that Washington is still theirs.

"We just never see each other anymore," explained Mary Widner, chairman and inventor of the ball. "It's just a party for a really attractive group of people."

It was, of course, black tie, just like its prototype. And even last night's frigid winds couldn't budge some of the precision hairdos. Only a handful of administration officials and White House aides were on hand--Interior Secretary James Watt, Energy Secretary Donald P. Hodel, presidential counselor Edwin Meese, Action Director Tom Pauken and presidential assistants Lee Atwater and John F.W. Rogers. Naturally, they all said the last two years have gone swimmingly.

"After two years everything is going fine," said Meese. "Unemployment is a tough situation and we're looking to improve it . . . Unemployment and balancing the budget--that's our main concentration in the next two years."

"Super-exclamation point," said Hodel.

But what about unemployment?

"Well, unemployment is unacceptably high," he said. "Let the other guys talk about the weaknesses, we're only going to talk about the positive things."

"We're doing extremely well at the Interior," said Watt. Watt, however, didn't have much to say about the fact that chairman of the Wilderness Society Gaylord Nelson called him bonkers earlier this week. "We try to live on a higher plane than that," said Watt.

There was no fancy veal at this party. Just extraordinarily large bowls of Wheat Chex bridge mix at every bar. This is a concoction of Wheat Chex, Rice Chex, pretzels, and peanuts--the sort of thing more likely to show up at a beer bash than an inaugural anniversary.

Tickets for the party went for $30 a person. For this, guests got an open bar, the Peter Duchin band, and all the Wheat Chex they could eat. Proceeds are going to the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth and Reading Is Fundamental. They are among Nancy Reagan's favorite charities.

Dancing, which got off to a slow start, was interrupted at 9:30 so that Meese could read the mimeographed letter from the president and Watt could read the letter from the vice president out loud. Both letters thanked the guests for their support.

The most visible Democrat amid the sea of silks and cummerbunds was Duchin.

"I'm really flattered they chose me to play for them," said Duchin. "It's fairly well known I'm a Democrat, with W. Averell Harriman as my godfather . . . We play all over the country and I have seen the pain of people who are unemployed. I think they're trying to do their best . . . but there are problems. The president and his people have a particular point of view that I happen to disagree with. It'll be interesting to see what happens in the next two years."