Former representative Charles A. Vanik, a House Ways and Means committee senior member when he retired in 1981, has decided to go back to work and has joined the Washington office of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. The former Cleveland congressman is often remembered as the man in the black suit. He decided in college that it would eliminate color coordination and other clothing decisions by wearing only black suits, white shirts and black bow ties. And Vanik said yesterday, at 71, the black-suit-only rule still applies, even though he modernizes occasionally with a touch of color in the bow tie . . .

World War II German war hero Gen. Johannes Steinhoff, who was with President Reagan, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Gen. Matthew Ridgway at the Bitburg cemetery ceremonies, has been in town this week working on a major book publishing deal. Steinhoff was one of Germany's top pilots, with 176 confirmed kills to his credit. He is here meeting with the law firm of Zuckerman, Spaeder, Moore, Taylor & Kolker, which is working as his agent on his proposed history of World War II. The Steinhoff book is expected to sell in the six-or-more-figures category . . .

Back in 1962, when Shirley Povich was sports editor of The Washington Post, he was surprised to learn that he had been included in "Who's Who of American Women." He was listed right along with women of accomplishment such as Marilyn Monroe and Eleanor Roosevelt. While Shirley might be considered an odd name for a man, Povich said it was a common name for a boy back home in Maine. "Who's Who of American Women" quickly corrected its error the following year and had ignored the retired sports editor until last week. Povich received a letter from the publishers of "Who's Who of American Women" asking for his biography so he could be included. Since he was given the choice this time, Povich passed . . .

There's another new magazine in town. This one is Quarante, aimed at the 40-plus woman. The first issue has a cover story on Rose Narva, the city's best-known hotel manager . . .

The controversial film "Je Vous Salue Marie (Hail Mary)" by French director Jean-Luc Godard, which includes scenes depicting the Virgin Mary nude, caused riots at its premiere in Madrid this week . . .

It's going to be a Wisconsin party of bratwurst and beer flown in for the occasion in the Kensington back yard of former senator Gaylord Nelson Sunday. The party is a fundraiser for Wisconsin Gov. Tony Earl, who is trying to decide whether he will seek reelection or go after the senate seat of Robert W. Kasten, the man who coincidentally defeated Nelson in 1980 . . .

Rep. Gerry Sikorski showed up at a press conference yesterday and when asked how he got such a prominent gash on his nose, quipped, "I asked Bob Dornan for directions" . . .