As parades go, it wasn't much for the military attaches, nothing major in the materiel department and the biggest eye-catchers were a statuesque blond paratroop officer and two dazzling women students from the elite Polytechnique School.

But even without new weapons and old favorites -- the slow marching white-kepied Foreign Legionnaires were relegated to armored cars -- the first socialist Bastille Day was still an occasion to remember.

After all, it's hard to spoil a parade down an Avenue des Champs Elysees seemingly made to order for armies to march along its majestic length from the Arch of Truimph, with a giant tricolor flag waving over the unknown soldier's tomb, to the perfect symmetry of the Place de la Concorde.

A now standard enigmatic smile on his face, properly sober in dark business suit as he stood in an Army command car, Socialist President Francois Mitterrand inspected the massed troops, armor and other vehicles before they paraded before him at the Concorde reviewing stand.

As part of the decentralization that the Socialists plan to carry out in this most centralized of Western democracies, this year a half dozen military paradws took place in major provincial cities.

To highlight what Mitterrand called "the meeting of the nation and its Army," two-thirds of the 6,600 troopers on parade were draftees brought in from the provinces.

In the past few years, attention centered on the elite, professional troops of the overseas intervention force or France's nuclear strike force.

Mitterand was said to have shocked some Army traditionalists by addressing the presidential Bastille Day message to "draftees and regulars" rather than the other way round, as is customary.

The foot soldiers opened the line of march, rather than closing it as usual. Every seemingly possible unit of the armed forces was represented from St. Cyr Army cadets with plumed headdresses to Garde Republicaine cavalry resplendent with breastplates and swords. Their band -- drummers, tuba players and trumpeters -- never missed a note.

The subsequent garden party reception at the Elysee Palace appeared more representative of a cross section of French society than had been true during the seven years of Mitterand's predecessor, conservative Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

The large lawn was covered with bemedalled World War II resistance fighters in threadbare suits, new Socialist deputies recognizable by their beards, new suits or tieless corduroy jackets and Air flight crews in flying suits, who were part of a long military contingent drawn from unit that had participated in the parade.

Waiters served champagne on trays. The thirsty served themselves at wooden casks of red and white wine and ate smoked salmon and foie gras from a seemingly endless buffet.

Mitterrand was applauded when he entered the garden and mobbed by well-wishers, especially women of various ages intent on kissing him.

Aside from former prime minister Maurice Couve de Murville, Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac and a few former ministers, the conservatives and Gaullists who ruled France for 23 years were absent. Much in evidence were government ministers, including the four Communists in a relaxed and glad-handing mood.

"The 16th arrondissement," reputedly the wealthiest district in Paris, "isn't here today," said one delighted guest feigning horror as he watched a woman make off with a rose, the Socialist symbol, from a table.

Nor did the 16th and other bourgeouis neighborhoods such as the 6th and the 7th even bother to put on dances, which have been part of Bastille Day since the Third Republic Parliament decided to celebrate the fall of the Bastille in 1789.

In general, the well-to-do -- in the past fervent fans of the Army and the parade -- seemed to have given the whole holiday the slip and gone out of town for the long weekend.

The best balls were in the less fancy 12th, 13th, 18th and 20th arrondissements and sponsored by either the Communist Party or the firemen.

Indeed the only innovation in the dancing department was the homosexuals' ball along the Left Bank quays, which celebrated the Socialists' promise to stop all officials discrimination against them.