A few days after mounting his Emporio extravaganza in London, Giorgio Armani showed that he hadn't exhausted his bag of staging tricks. Approximately halfway through his signature line's presentation this afternoon, the lights dramatically dimmed and the white catwalk was covered by a glossy black one. But beneath the showmanship, there was a focused attention to detail here. What came before the scene change was Armani by day. Flowing pajama pants and narrow tea-length skirts in silk (the bottoms weren't really the point) were topped by one great-looking jacket after another. Some were fitted and single-breasted, others asymmetrical and cut away at the sides, and still more came slouchy and almost oversize. Scarves knotted restrictively across the upper arms almost obscured their lines, though nothing could detract from the freshest of his new toppers, which were cropped and boxy and had just a hint of the volume that's been seen on other runways.

The accessories, as is their wont on Armani's runway, threatened to get in the way of his eveningwear. But he quickly showed why he's still the go-to designer for after-dark elegance. The field may be more crowded now than when he began dressing the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jodie Foster two decades ago, but the pioneer of the Milano-movieland connection remains a fount of persuasive options, from a pale pastel column suspended from a contrasting ribbon around the neck to a pair of strapless boned styles with minimalist bows. Saving the best for last, he closed with an allover-silver beaded gown. Sublimely simple in front, it came with a graphic, cutout back that will show off toned celebrity skin to the best advantage. Leonardo DiCaprio, sitting front-row, should rush to have it reserved for his Oscar date next March.