DESPITE all the convolutions and revolutions of fashion, perhaps the one staple of cocktail and dinner wear is the little black dress - its simplicity and sophistication lasts from one season to the next and carries its wearer through the years without looking dated. Black is just about all one can see in the shop windows of some of Paris' swankiest boutiques, sometimes plain and a little on the austere side, while at other times there is heavy embroidery and cutwork involved, giving the traditional little black dress an almost ethnic look. Either way, black is clearly what sells: it is a colour that can be worn by a woman of just about any skin tone or hair colour, and when dressed up or down scores top marks for versatility. For a somewhat more luxurious evening look, boa feathers seemed the ideal touch - a hem here, a collar there, a whisper of a feather-lined chiffon cape. To break the all-black effect, accessories such as evening bags are cut in unusual rhombus shapes with a strong gilt, curved handle. Lurex fabrics - particularly in gold - are worn with black skirts, jackets, and dresses, although the gold threads have been toned down. At Jaeger, simply cut black suits have embroidered lurex trim and feature the long skirt. For a more festive look, bronze organza jackets are worn loose and belted over flared black pants, while for New Year's Eve balls, there is the option of a full swirling skirt, again in a bronze or copper shade, worn with a neat black jacket and white blouse featuring starched cuffs. Throughout the festive evening, looks veer more towards the simple than the fussy with emphasis on glitz being on the accessories. Some boutiques on the fashionable Rue Faubourg St Honore offer wide-cuffed suede gloves with large coloured rhinestones or even some in gold lame. But, worn wrongly, they would be the ultimate in bad taste. Fashion maestro Karl Largerfeld has designed a range of long crepe dresses for his autumn/winter evening wear collection: gilt embroidery is used all down the neck and front or as large pockets on jackets. Shoes are impossibly high in black suede. Virtually stiletto heeled and almost tapered in towards the end of the heel, they are not exactly practical for a night out dancing. Lanvin designer Dominique Morlotti is strictly no-fuss in his collection of skinny chiffon trousers in deep blue worn with sheer black top and jacket. For his Him for Her range, he uses a straight black tuxedo-style suit, simple blouse and dull-gold butterfly clip at the collar. Slip on a pair of flat patent leather shoes, and the ensemble will take you from season to season with ease. The designers at Trussardi are using light woollen knits for their winter evening wear, again in black but offset with gold-cord edging. Chinese-style jackets are paired with flared pants and a cream satin shirt with a stand-up collar. At least there is a burst of colour at Louis Feraud in heavy multi-coloured embroidered jackets: purple with pink and turquoise, an ethnic blend of orange and black or a delightful beaded jacket featuring red roses in full bloom. The colourful theme continues at Leonard, whose expertise with floral prints has won him continued praise: these are now used on slightly shiny fabrics and fashioned into a sleek cheongsam style. A more opulent number is available in bronze-gold with an orange and yellow floral pattern made into a long narrow skirt with fitted waist and billowing top. Yves Saint Laurent, the king of colour, uses eye-catching dull gold snake-print designs in combinations of red and orange, turquoise and amethyst purple. It is back to black with Byblos, again with a black crepe jacket and a chiffon layered skirt with bead trim. Sonia Rykiel sticks to cigarette-pants in deep black velvet or a simply tailored suit using flared pants, belted jacket and tank-top. Italian designer Gianni Versace - a firm favourite in Hong Kong - has attracted numerous adoring glances with his full-length black velvet number with strong diagonal pleats falling softly off the shoulders. More raunchy is his chiffon-and-lace concoction worn with velvet and lace tights and knee-high, tie-up leather boots in a grunge-meets-Cinderella number. Japanese designer Jun Ashida has a lovely collection of cream raw silk jackets with delicate cutwork and beading on sleeves and pockets, worn with a horizontally pleated straight black knee-length skirt. At Givenchy - who opens his first boutique in Hong Kong at the end of the year - conservative tastes can be catered for with his simple black dress with bow at the waist and diamante buttons, or his long tunic-style jacket with pants. At Iceberg, which is very popular among the younger set in Hong Kong, the window proudly displays fun black pullovers with the endearing animal designs. - this time in gold lurex - for which the company has become famous. And, on the subject of animals, furs are back in fashion in Europe, making their appearance in many store windows and on the backs of women. The designers at Lecoanet Hemant at least have a viable option: beautiful silk padded jackets in soft pale pink or apricot which are perfect for evening (blending beautifully with black) yet which will still keep the winter evening chills - and the anti-fur contingent - at bay.