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How can I make my winter wardrobe more interesting?

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The question

Winter clothes can be so drab. What can I add to my casual work attire that will up my style factor without making me look too dressed up?

The answer

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A scarf. But not a warm, woolly one strictly designed to keep out the wind, not a cute, fuzzy hand-knitted one and not a staid grey cashmere. And no more plain solids from your dad's Main Street men's shop either.

Try, instead, something modern, with a little pizzazz, perhaps a little colour, in silk or even rayon.

After all, the scarf is the modern substitute for a tie: It adds personality to grey and navy masculine uniforms. It can be worn indoors, as long as it's not too heavy, with a blazer or even a sweater. Its job is to make you look dashing and sensitive.

It will make you stand out. A silk print scarf can be tucked inside a V-neck or even a shirt collar. A rayon scarf – particularly the currently trendy wrinkly ones – can be loosely wrapped and knotted as both indoor and outdoor wear. It's here that you can show off polka dots, stripes or paisley.

For cold weather, the key to originality is not so much fabric as shape: You're going to need wool, but you don't have to tread the well-worn path of medium-length rectangles. I have about half as many scarves as I have ties and in the fall I start to pick them as the focal point of an outfit. I wear a very long, narrow, almost tubular knitted wool Michael Kors scarf that's plain black, both with a leather motorcycle jacket and a cashmere overcoat: It's long enough to be looped, which makes it look dramatic. I also have a large, square women's fine-wool scarf in a black and burgundy print from Liberty of London that I fold over into a rectangle:

It looks grand and so just a little more luxurious than a men's scarf typically would.

I have a multicoloured Italian knit wool scarf that also brightens up a charcoal overcoat, and I have a thin cotton scarf, navy with fine white dots, for sports jackets or raincoats. All of them are uplifting when daylight is in such short supply.

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Russell Smith is a novelist. His recent memoir, Blindsided, is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a fashion question? E-mail

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