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The question

What is the difference between "winter white" and the regular kind of white that you're not supposed to wear after Labour Day?

The answer

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The simplest answer: fabric. All those gauzy caftans, linen shirts and mesh dresses look out of sync after September. So-called "winter whites" often have warmer undertones: Think cashmere sweaters the colour of cappuccino foam or fleecy sheepskin lining. Less popular, but more nuanced, is a shade of white-grey that evokes an overcast day.

Pair any of these options with black and you've got a high-contrast, graphic look that's both classic and right on trend. Charcoal, navy and camel are other compatible partners. Avoid red for obvious Santa associations. White jeans only work on a certain personality type – call it the high-style preppie – so proceed with caution. But white can be a beautiful point of differentiation in a holiday party sea of black – like a black sheep in reverse.

Amy Verner is The Globe and Mail's Paris-based style reporter. Have a fashion question? E-mail style@globeandmail.com.

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