One never connects Helga Orfila and flashy jewelry. Orfila was the first to wear the Zoran designs in this town and Zoran's pared down, simply cut designs call for little jewelry.

Just the same, Orfila is going in the jewelry business. "Life is so complicated, women would prefer to wear costume jewelry rather than the real thing," says Orfila. She has scouted the top costume jewelry and belt designers in New York, tracked down a number of the import lines, and landed a location in Chevy Chase. She's hoping to open the doors by early March. Toning Down the Glitz - Some of the traditionally glitziest parties in Washington have gotten a dressing down this season. Not that there has been a blackout of sequins and sparkle. Far from it. And gold has been laced through many fabrics and slipped like molten metal over the figure of many partygoers.

But the unexpected hit of the season, even at black tie dances, has been the long sweater, touched with glitter and worn with a lean skirt or trousers. Bill Blass did a designer version of this dress, but many women have done it well on their own.

The holiday dance of the Medico-Chirurgical Society of the District of Columbia, held as usual in the Shoreham Hotel last weekend, was a good example. There were more black dresses than any other, mostly black brightened with silver sequins or threads, plus black lace and a few women in black tuxedos. But the surprise was the number of women in sequin-trimmed sweaters and lean skirts or pants.

"It is more casual but also more comfortable than a long ballgown," said Alma Brown, assistant to deputy mayor Curtis McClinton Jr.She was wearing an Adrienne Vittadini sweater and long black skirt. Lillian Williams, a retired teacher, also wore a sequin-detailed sweater with a black velvet skirt and Carmen Amos, a customer support representative for IBM, was in a white jeweled sweater and satin pants.

The doctors were precisely tailored and terribly traditional at the dance, many wearing wing collars in place of the usual tuxedo shirts. Red bow ties and cummerbunds were abundant, perhaps because of the holiday season, and at least one doctor, Martin Dukes, wore a plaid cummerbund and tie. Nancy Reagan's --New Year's Dress -- Not everyone is dressing down for New Year's . . . Nancy Reagan has been saving a black dress James Galanos made for her that was included in the Neiman-Marcus show. The top is crushed velvet trimmed with rhinestones, the Dolman sleeves partially black satin, the slim skirt black wool crepe and the hip belt crushed velvet with a jeweled buckle. Buchwald's Bonanza -- Art Buchwald was a last-minute shopper and had the last laugh of the shopping season. He had gone to Saks Jandel and selected a soft fur jacket for his wife Ann for her daily walks. Then came the discussion of price. Buchwald was given a price by Jules Randelman , manager of the fur salon, and then pushed harder. "So what's the best price?" Randelman was firm: "You already have the best price."

Buchwald turned suddenly and disappeared out the front door of the shop, carrying the coat. "I have an insurance agent waiting outside. I want to see what he says it is worth."

In an instant, Buchwald was back. "The insurance agent says it ain't worth the price," Buchwald reported with a grin. Randelman countered: "I'll tell you what. I'll give it to you for nothing if you will write my eulogy."

Buchwald laughed. "That's easy, I already wrote it," he said and disappeared, for good, out the door with the jacket under his arm. Something Old, -------Something New ------- Add these to your list of New Year's resolutions:

*Break the big-name designer habit. The next time you shop, seek out and try on some of the less familiar designer labels. And make a particular effort to see the designs of Danny Noble, Anne Pinkerton , Joan Vass USA (a new division), Alke Boker , Andrew Fezza and Matsuda. There are plenty more to discover on your own.

*Check the back of your closet or attic for things you haven't worn in a while. The oversized V-neck sweater you wouldn't dream of wearing might be appreciated by a young woman to wear . . . even backwards. The old sweater dress might look great over trousers as a tunic. Try things on with the addition of shoulderpads, belts and other accessories, and if it still doesn't look right, clear it out of your closet to that of a friend, or as a donation to the thrift shop.

*Read Details. It's an outspoken, literally nonslick monthly publication covering the fashion and art scene, mostly New York's way downtown, but not entirely. Printed on a high-grade newsprint in black and white, the ads alone are worth the attention of models and photographers who want some sense of what's going on in fashion, hair, design, etc.

Although there is hardly any coverage of uptown designers, the Seventh Avenue designers so admire what Details editor and publisher Annie Flanders has done that they are giving her an award this month at the Council of Fashion Designers gala benefit dinner. A Fur Cry ------------ When Julia Hunter Galdo and Blanca Zayas Fleming were classmates at Trinity College, class of '69, you never saw them wearing furs. "Only older women wore furs," says Galdo. "And now we're older women." But they not only wear furs these days, they have become importers of fur jackets and coats from Argentina.

Their business started with the needlepoint rugs both women admired and Galdo had seen made by Portuguese in Brazil. Once they owned them, all their friends wanted them, too, and so they decided to import them.

The fur story is almost the same. Both wanted fur jackets and bought them in South America. Then friends and relatives saw them and wanted similar ones. "I had one, then my mother wanted one, then Blanca's mother wanted one, then my mother-in-law wanted one," said Galdo. Suddenly, they were in business selling nutria jackets and coats starting at $600. They work through a leading furrier in Buenos Aires who designs and makes everything for their business, Fleming Imports in Bethesda, where everything is made to order.