“How to layer clothes in winter without looking bulky?”
“Is it even possible to look stylish in winter?”
Have you been thinking this too?
The answer is yes, and I’ll show you how.
Effective layering should achieve two things:
1. Each layer should add warmth.
2. Your overall style should remain polished even as layers come off.
If both of the above are missing, you’re simply a walking pile of clothes!
Layering does pose some risks of looking sloppy, but when you have your essentials right and understand the basics of how to layer, you’ll look no less than effortlessly put-together and feel comfortable and warm, no matter the temperature.
THE BASICS OF LAYERING CLOTHES IN THE WINTER
When it comes to layering clothes for optimum warmth and style, the order in which you layer your clothes and the overall silhouette of your final outfit is the key to looking effortlessly put-together.
1. LAYER FROM THINNEST TO THICKEST
To avoid looking sloppy, it is important to layer your clothes in the right order. Pretty self-explanatory. Start with the thinnest layer of clothing as your base layer, then progressively increase the thickness of your pieces. Depending on the number of layers, work up the thickness to your last layer.
Thinnest -> Thin -> Thick -> Thickest
In extreme temperatures, turn your attention to your base layers rather than trying to layer endlessly outward with chunky knitwear and enormous jackets to avoid looking bulky.
2. BALANCE THE PROPORTION
Proportion is the key to achieving that effortlessly put-together look. Your top and bottom should have a natural balance that feels aesthetically pleasing to the eye. No one wants to look frumpy in those cosy oversized chunky knits, but it’s very easy to get it wrong.
The strategy to get it right is to pair loose with tight.
Putting this in practice, if you’re wearing a loose-fitting top, wear a slim-fitting trouser; chunky knits with skinny jeans; loose-fitting jumpers with pencil skirts and so on.
There are a few more ways to balance your silhouette, and I talk about these proportions in detail with 20+ outfit combinations that you can start wearing right away in my Style Tricks. You can download it here.
There’s no arguing that the foundation of any solid wardrobe is the few core pieces that effectively make the rest of the wardrobe functional. Same applies to layering. You only need a few essential pieces to create your basic formula for layering. And then it’s just a matter of swapping one or two elements to refresh the look every day. It’s that simple!
Following is a list of the essential pieces with a recommendation on their fabric, so you feel warm and comfortable throughout the day. For simplicity, I’ve selected classic styles in neutral colours. I highly recommend keeping a cohesive colour palette as it will bring the much-desired polish to your outfit and make you look put-together as the layers come off.
- Base layer:
- Mid Layer
- Outer layer
- Winter Coat in wool, cashmere or a blend
These are the items I have used to create complete outfits in this post and are for your winter style inspiration.
Core items such as gloves, beanies and scarves form part of your winter outfit that you can add as and when required. Of course, socks and shoes are an integral part of your outfit. I also recommend wearing tights (or leggings) under trousers or jeans to keep your legs warm and adding wool insoles to your shoes to keep your toes from freezing.
4 EASY OUTFIT LAYERING FORMULAS
1. WHEN WINTER HAS JUST STARTED AND YOU CAN STILL DO BARE LEGS
Two Layers: Shirt + Coat
As long as your coat is wool or cashmere (or blend), you’ll be warm enough when the temperatures hit around 12-15 degree Celsius and you can still afford to go bare legged (if you please). The basic two layers should suffice for any time spent outdoors.
With a silk blouse as your base layer, you can be sure that you’ll look polished when the coat comes off. To take it to the next level, swap the coat with the wool blazer when you’re at work. This will keep your body warm and allow you to go bare-legged. You can comfortably wear skirts or dresses without the need for thick warm tights just yet all the while maintaining your overall style.
2. WHEN THE TEMPERATURE HITS SINGLE DIGITS
Three Layers: Shirt + Jumper + Coat
Adding a jumper as a mid-layer should generally keep you warm and comfortable when the temperatures fluctuate between 6 to 12 degrees Celsius. A pair of merino blend tights with dresses or skirts will keep your legs warm, and a pair of woollen socks will prevent those toes from freezing.
3. SINGLE DIGITS BUT IT “FEELS LIKE” -3 DEGREES PLUS THE WIND CHILL
Four Layers: Shirt + Jumper + Puffer + Coat
Anyone who has experienced winter in London understands that although -3 degrees Celsius might not sound that cold, add the crazy winds and 90% humidity, it sure as hell feels bloody cold.
This is where you may feel like bundling up in all the warm layers that you own, all at once. But you don’t have to.
A puffer down jacket is a great way to add a layer of insulation without adding the bulk. Of course, a puffer jacket can be used as outerwear, and it mostly is, but by wearing it as a mid-layer on those freezing days, you’ll be surprised how warm and comfortable you’ll feel.
This is also the time when I would also add warm tights under trousers or jeans.
4. WHEN IT’S FREEZING
Five Layers: Heattech + Shirt + Jumper + Puffer + Coat
I’m talking about those days when you feel like the only way you can keep warm is by wrapping yourself up in a quilt.
This is when adding a heat-retaining innerwear to your layering strategy is perfect. It keeps you warm and cosy from the inside, and you don’t have to compromise on your style.
Adding a base layer of heattech innerwear, and your essential winter accessories should have you covered when it comes to those freezing days in winter.
HOW TO UP YOUR LAYERING GAME & LOOK STYLISH IN WINTER
If you think that only certain people are born with the layering gene and you don’t have the ingenuity to put together a perfectly layered outfit, here are some styling tricks that will make dressing stylishly in winter much easier. Get ready to look through your wardrobe and pull out those accent pieces that you thought you couldn’t wear in winter.
1. DOUBLING ON OUTERWEAR
Not only wearing two layers of outerwear keeps you warm, but it also makes your outfit look more considered and your layers intentional.
A couple of things to keep in mind, so you don’t end up doing a Joe Tribbiani wearing all your clothes at once.
- Stick to a slim-fit inner layer
- Top layer should ideally be the same length or longer than the inner layer
- Keep the colour palette cohesive.
2. MIXING TEXTURES
When it comes to creating a stylish outfit that doesn’t look like you’re trying too hard, it really pays to mix different types of materials. By combining different fabrics and textures, you can wear a monochromatic look and still look interesting without the need for colourful accessories.
Here are a few combos to get you started:
- Wool + Leather
- Silk + Velvet + Wool
- Silk + Leather + Fur
- Lace + Leather + Wool
- Knit + Denim + Wool
The possibilities are endless! Look inside your wardrobe and pull out all the different textures you can see. You’ll be surprised at how easily you can create a stylish outfit with what you already have.
3. LAYERING SIMILAR PRINTS OR PATTERNS
Great way to freshen up your look mid-winter when everyone around is wearing dark winter shades. To add dimension and cohesion to your look, layer pieces with a similar weight of prints or patterns. For example, pick all small prints, or all large prints, or same size patterns. This will make your look more thought through and not look weighed down.
4. GOING MONOCHROMATIC
Stick to one monochromatic colour family to make your layers seem less bulky. Monochromatic doesn’t necessarily mean wearing one solid colour top to bottom but wearing similar shades of that colour for an overall tonal look.
There are a few key things to remember when it comes monochromatic dressing. It is important to mix textures to add visual interest to your outfit as textures add depth and dimension to your look. Secondly, remember balance when combining pieces as you don’t want the one colour to overwhelm you, so play around with proportions of the silhouettes. When selecting different shades for tops and bottoms, here’s something to help you decide- dark colours conceal and light colour accentuate. So, use the colours wisely to highlight what you want the focal point to be.
So, there you are. Looking stylish in winter while wearing layers of clothes doesn’t have to be complicated! Here’s a quick recap:
Layering should achieve two things:
- Each layer should add warmth.
- Your overall style should remain polished even as layers come off.
The basics of layering:
- Layer from thinnest to thickest
- Balance the proportion: Pair loose with tight
And 4 ways to add that stylish edge:
- Doubling on outerwear
- Mixing textures
- Layering similar prints or patterns
- Going monochromatic
Layer up and keep warm!
What are your go-to layering combos? Let me know in the comments below.