Of course it was the occasion for a splendid new dress and actress Cher ordered a gown from Paris designer Jacqueline de Ribes to wear Wednesday night at the benefit for the Lab School of Washington at the Hecht Co. Midnight-blue satin with black velvet inserts on the sleeves -- just the thing for receiving an award at a gala that also celebrated the store's opening night.

De Ribes even sent along a second choice, in black velvet and see-through black lace with cape sleeves.

So then why did Cher, who is wearing braces these days, end up wearing this? She had on a black sequined sweat shirt by Zoran under a black tail coat with huge buttons by Yohji Yamamoto, over shiny black Wonder Woman tights and black satin over the knee boots, a glittery ankle bracelet over one boot. Her spiky black wig looked like it was borrowed from the costume trunk for "Cats."

The De Ribes outfits were dispatched from Paris by Concorde to New York and then to Washington, where they were put in Cher's room at the Hotel Bristol by 1 p.m.

"I was really going to look quite wonderful," Cher confided to a guest before the awards ceremony at Hecht's. Explaining why she chose an alternative: "It came so late I didn't have time to have it pressed."

Certainly what she wore didn't need pressing.