ON MONDAY NIGHT some of the celebrants leaving inaugural balls found themselves in a situation that got closer to anarchy than Republicans like to get. There was a crush of people at the coat rooms shortly after midnight as they tried to collect the furs and fabrics they had worn in, some of which cost as much as new cars.

The attendants were unable to keep up with the demand. Some people got tired of waiting and bypassed the attendants, securing their wraps themselves. Some coats seem to have gotten into the wrong hands.

One of those present at the Washington Convention Center told The Post's reporter, Karlyn Barker, that the crowd was orderly until three police officers climbed on tables and began handing out coats to the impatient throng: "They were passing these furs and coats overhead and they were disappearing into the crowd to who knows where. That's what really panicked people."

The problem, as Deputy Policy Chief Max Krupo put it, was that "a lot of mink stoles look the same. The normal person couldn't tell the difference."

That's a problem that other people who wear uniform clothing -- gas station attendants, waitresses, plumber's helpers -- have encountered. They've solved it by having their first name embroidered over the breast pocket. This keeps things on a cheerful, informal basis and also leaves no question about what belongs to whom. It's worth considering for the next inauguration in an effort to avoid similar disturbances. No one's going to walk off with the wrong $10,000 mink stole when it has "Edna" stitched on the front in a nice, white, inch-high script. It's not often that a festering social problem is so easily solved.