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Is my wide-brimmed hat appropriate for spring?

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The question

I just purchased a grey, felt, wide-brimmed floppy hat. I have seen them in stores but haven't seen anyone sporting one. Is it appropriate to wear in winter? Or is it a spring/fall accessory?

The answer

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Again with the "appropriate." I suppose it is true that there are still certain parts of Western society – subcultures, you could call them – in which rules for dressing apply.

I'm not talking about formal uniforms here, like those for the police, but about dress codes that are stated or unstated. Some churches enforce strict uniformity of dress simply through tradition, for example (hats, gloves, floral dresses). Courthouses are not places for halter tops; the crowds at football stadiums will smirk at a lady in a long gown.

But these are extreme and clear cases. Most of the time, women's fashion is blissfully free of the kinds of secret rules that govern men's outfits (never do up the bottom button of your jacket; lace your shoes in parallel lines, not crisscross) and keep them constrained and sober. Women are actually given style points for being playful and unconventional. So let's stop worrying about the appropriate, particularly if it makes us worry about beautiful and feminine items.

Women are generally too afraid of brimmed hats in Canada, but they are almost always flattering. Your hat sounds lovely. I would much prefer to see it than fuzzy knitwear on a cold day.

Russell Smith's latest novel is Girl Crazy. Have a fashion question? E-mail style@globeandmail.com.

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