MATURE but romantic, this season's elegant, long gowns have a subtle femininity that most women will appreciate. With black predominating, there is little contrast of colour but textures are mixed and matched for contrast with dresses primarily heavy and tight-fitting to the hips and skirts flowing and diaphanous. Velvet in all its different forms, is the season's fabric for bodies and jackets, although crepes are also in demand. Skirts are made of delicate silks and chiffons and are often see-through. ''The stress is on the silhouette so the fabric is very important,'' said Seibu fashion buyer Winnie Kwan Siu-ling. ''Many designers are using velvet because it's so fluid. For skirts, the trend is towards the flowing looks of the '70s and medieval times when lots of velvets were used.'' Aurora Corpus, a Christian Dior assistant, said: ''The look is subtle and elegant. Bodies are not too tight, just a touch of slim.'' Although the ''look'' is predominantly black, some designers are using ivories and flame-reds. The look is captured with customary elegance by Chanel, which is offering simple, exquisite velvet and silk gowns and separates. Most characteristic of the season is the long gown; velvet to the hip and completed with a silken skirt. Chanel also offers stunning ivory gowns with black trim and bodice. At Joyce boutiques, Thierry Mugler also combines velvet and silk, Karl Lagerfeld mixed wool lame jackets, complete with elaborate beading, with diaphanous skirts. Here, the elegance of the season is modified by blatant exhibitionism. Lagerfeld, along with Donna Karen and Genny, also uses black lace for a wonderfully seductive look, while Jil Sanders decorates her jackets and gowns with theatrical ostrich feathers. In addition to a line of simple velvet gowns, Escada at Lane Crawford offers a range of short dresses with the season's ''tutu'' skirt. Strictly for the slim and leggy, these dresses are layered with gauze skirts for a full look reminiscent of the '60s. Escada has also taken the theme of Scottish tartan, this year's hot fabric for men, and created a line of stunning jackets and gowns patterned with lines of multi-coloured sequins to create an impression of tartan. At Seibu, party-goers will find a line of short, tutu-like dresses by London designer Jenny Packham. Fabrics include rich satins, organzas and silks, decorated with beading and big bows. Body-hugging dresses, bodices and skirts in stretch materials are the work of United States-based designer Tadashi. French designer Capucine Puerari, uses stretch fabrics to create slip dresses with bra tops to fit close to the body.