Here's an idea for a break in the tedium of the workplace: Dress-up Friday.

Once a week, just for the fun of it, and on the day when nobody is concentrating on work anyway, workers could dress up in the style of the job each purports to be doing.

Doctors and ice cream vendors would wear white coats. Teachers and poets would wear tweed jackets. Business people and high-priced escorts would wear pinstriped suits, the latter with nipped-in waistlines. Farmers, house painters and artistic painters would wear overalls. Waiters, musicians and people with opera tickets or dinner invitations would wear evening clothes.

Nobody who wasn't in the military would wear all or parts of a military uniform. All the people wearing workout or sports clothes would be working out or playing sports. People who were lewdly dressed could safely be presumed to be in lewd lines of work.

Tourists and journalists would dress in the style of the places and occasions they wished to observe, whether or not they felt aloof from the people involved.

Everybody attending a funeral would be dressed in black. Nobody attending a wedding would be dressed in black, other than gentlemen in formal clothing. Children would not dress as adults, and adults would not dress as children.

Furthermore--here comes the zinger--underwear would be worn under outer clothing, rather than instead.

Miss Manners has something in mind with this proposal, other than being vilified for attacking our most basic freedom--our constitutional right to look like fools for the creative purpose of offending our fellow citizens. Without quarreling with the principle of choice in fashion, lest someone try to resurrect the whalebone corset (thus endangering whales and ladies alike) she would like a small respite from the current confusion.

There is the aesthetic confusion. Nothing matches. People engaged in the same activity seem to be costumed for a chaotic variety of different lives. Whereas people were once embarrassed if they had misunderstood the dress code of an occasion, they do it purposely now because they believe there shouldn't be any. Even couples emerge unmatched from the same home to attend the same event--more often now, the gentleman more formally dressed than the lady.

Then there is the symbolic confusion. Who's in charge here? Who's even employed here? And who is serious enough about the job to assume its identity during working hours, rather than fighting it? It would be useful to have these questions instantly answered, which is why the system of professional dress codes developed in the first place.

But Miss Manners realizes that this was before creative dressing became the national pastime. She is only suggesting it, now that all the creative dressers are dressed for all occasions in the same jeans and khakis, as a novelty.

Dear Miss Manners:

I am planning a surprise retirement party for my husband. To avoid a lot of presents, I am planning on having a "money hat" so that a purchase of new golf clubs will be his gift from all.

How can I let guests know my intention? Is it permissible to put this on the invitation, and how should it be worded? Or should I just wait and tell guests when they call to RSVP?

If you want to avoid presents, you can give your guests a pleasant surprise by inviting them to the party without telling them the nature of the occasion. That way, they can all say, "I wish I'd known, I would have brought a present," without having to do so.

This should make you happy--unless, of course, your real question was not how to avoid presents but how to give your guests an unpleasant surprise by telling them to pay for the present you want to give your husband. Miss Manners is afraid there is no polite time or way to do that.