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December 09, 1989|Clipboard researched by Dallas M. Jackson and Janice L. Jones / Los Angeles Times, Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

Quick! It's the holiday season. There is a charity ball, the office party, a New Year's Eve affair and . . . they're all formal. What do you do?

If there isn't a tuxedo already hanging in the closet, it's easy enough to walk into the nearest shop specializing in formal wear rentals and be ready in no time for

maximum partying for minimum cash--if you're a man. Women, however, face a different problem. It would be social suicide to be seen in the same dress three times in a row, but it could be a financial fiasco to do otherwise.

Gal Affaire in Los Alamitos can be a reasonable alternative to the faux pas of repetition or the certainty of bankruptcy. The shop has more than 500 designer formals, all personally scrutinized and individually selected by owner Pat Thomas. Gal Affaire has everything from chiffons to lace, silks to sequins and lame to beads in every color under the sun, including fiery reds, elegant blacks and plenty of glittery gold and silver. Too, there is an assortment of boas, furry jackets, jewelry, shoes and hats.

"We get women who attend a lot of charity events, brides who don't have a fortune to spend or mothers looking for prom dresses for their daughters," says store manager Antwinette Guzzino. "Most of them can't see paying $1,000 for a dress to wear once and hang in the closet, so they come to us."

"Our clothing has been everywhere," Guzzino explains. "We've been to the Academy Awards, the Country Music Awards, MTV Awards and even an (presidential) Inaugural Ball."

That's a modest accounting. Women from all over the county have discovered the thriving business for their charity balls, class reunions, cruises and weddings. Even beauty pageant queens have been outfitted with gowns from Gal Affaire, including the reigning Miss Seal Beach, her first and second runners-up, and Simone Stephens, Miss California 1987-88, to name a few.

From $49 for a simple strapless cocktail dress, to $229 for a dazzling sequin gown, any woman can dress like a beauty queen for a special do. The shop carries sizes 4 to 24, and alterations are usually fairly simple and quick.

"We can tailor a fit to just about anyone since all of our alterations are done by hand and are temporary," Guzzino explained as she watched a customer admire a velvet and sequin ensemble in the mirror. "In fact, I have one dress in here I've gotten everyone into from a 4 to a 14."

Whatever the special occasion, Orange County ladies know they don't need a fairy godmother to dress them.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

Address: 3700 Katella Ave., Suite B, Los Alamitos

Telephone: (213) 596-2886

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