"Sensual and languid—but strong," declared Giorgio Armani of the second couture collection he has shown in Paris. What he chiefly brings to the grand old party—which is certainly grateful for fresh blood these days—is handmade eveningwear, floated off from the ideas he has developed for years in his ready-to-wear collections.

He added daywear this time: tightly fitted, pagoda-shoulder peplum jackets, velvet pants, and minks woven in animal patterns. And there were a lot of couture details in his bias cuts, pieced pinstripes, and satin rosette buttons. Still, the real money is on what he does for evening. When that began to appear, the line was a familiar, but softened, evolution of last season's stiff mermaid silhouette.

Ultraluxe materials and surface effects are the essence of couture, but Armani is at his most modern when he tames the temptations of showy fabrics and the dressmaker's arts with his innate sense of minimalism. He did so beautifully when he showed a simple black velvet halter wrapped to a minimal bustle and fastened with a large jewel in the small of the back. And again with a crushed-plissé-silk Empire gown and two starkly cut-out bib-front dresses tethered to bare backs with narrow filaments of silk.

It's not difficult to imagine exactly who will want to step into these high-impact, low-fuss dresses. Cate Blanchett and Charlize Theron have already selected pieces from his first Privé collection, and there are many others who appreciate Armani's knack for doing more with less. Working that angle looks like a good way to go; cutting down on his evening ready-to-wear will only underline the distinction of his couture.