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The little black dress is back -- day and night. It's a versatile background for scarves and jewelry

THE little black dress is back stronger than ever for fall. It's showing up for day and evening both in New York collections and abroad. And why not? Look at its advantages: It's versatile. When designed in a simple style, it can be worn from the office to the opera, as the saying goes. It's slimming, and black makes a perfect background for accessories -- jewelry, belts, and scarves.

The daytime versions of the little black dress are done in various silhouettes -- sweater dresses to chemises.

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For professional women, the sweater dress is a lifesaver because it goes from the office to out on the town.

At 5 p.m., off comes the simple scarf or understated gold chain and on goes the oversized paisley shawl, the ropes of pearls, or replicas of the maharajah's jewels. Sunsets dictate no bounds for the sweater dress -- with a quick change in accessories and eye makeup.

Travelers can also appreciate the adaptability of the black sweater dress. It's packable and can go through a complete metamorphosis with a switch in shawls and belts.

Like the sweater dress, the black chemise is fast becoming a best-selling silhouette. Several designers of ready-to-wear have included it in their collections and priced it around the $120 mark. When worn for daytime, the chemise looks chic just covering the kneecap. The evening chemises are often midcalf.

Now let's consider the black evening dress, which is anything but basic.

It's designed mostly in figure-forming styles that feature side-drapes, V-backs, and high-rise fronts. Fabrics for these after-six creations include silk crepe, velvet, angora blends, and wool jersey.

Many black evening dresses already come with accessories such as wide belts, sequined pins, and rhinestone cuff bracelets.

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If you're anxious to wear black but believe it's not becoming to your skin tone, use a few fashion and beauty tricks. Black can look ``hard'' with certain coloring, so a low-cut neckline can help solve the problem. It moves the black farther from the face, allowing jewelry or scarves of flattering shades to be the focus.

Makeup, however, is what really works wonders. Advice from Est'ee Lauder is to couple black with bold, pink makeup that brightens the face. Pink lips, pink cheeks, and pink nail polish.

``Since black is a neutral, you can wear almost any color makeup with it -- but not too pale,'' says Gloria Pflanz, national training director for Revlon. The accent shades for eyes, lips, and cheeks should be bright and clear. The clean, vibrant reds, berries, purples, blues, and teals are ideal accents for fashion's dramatic return to black.

``Women with pink undertones can wear their usual shade of foundation with black,'' she says. ``But those with yellow or tan skin tones should choose a shade one step pinker than usual.''

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