Lessons in Layering: Winter Styling Hacks

Jules B AW23
Jules B AW23

Layering is a game of experimentation. There’s no right or wrong exactly, since the initial goal is functionality – a means of matching the temperature shifts. You can pile them on and remove as needed. In that sense, anybody is capable of putting together multiple garments. But the real lesson in layering lies with the styling side of things. An eye for detail means you can play with patterns, colours, fabrics and textures, mastering the creation of striking outfits.

Often, it’s in the details… a collar here, a cuff there, or an unexpected hemline falling below an outer layer. So, while there’s no hard and fast rule, there are a few basic teachings you can follow to help you build outfits with intrigue while keeping yourself free from the bitter cold. Here’s how to formulate the layered look this season. 

Begin With the Basics

The first step in any layering system is the base. It forms the foundation of what is to come, ensuring the final fit works as a whole. Most layering enthusiasts favour something fitted, like a close-fitting top or a tailored shirt. This helps to mould your silhouette before moving onto chunkier, bulkier pieces.

The ability to layer well doesn’t depend on a collection of fancy items. Instead, it calls for the core essentials – vests, tees and long-sleeves. In winter, thermals technically make the perfect base, serving as a second skin that traps in the heat and sets your layering system up for success. However, they tend to be hidden and therefore don’t contribute to your final look. 

With base layers, it’s best to give yourself options. Select your staples in colours that go with just about everything. Think dark shades (blacks, browns, navy) and lighter ones like crisp whites and grey melange. And while you might play it safe with the colour palette, your basics don’t have to be boring. If you value sturdy staples, this is your chance to experiment with fabrics. From polyester to merino wool, a comfortable base will ensure a layering success. After all, these are the pieces touching your skin.

Follow the Rule of 3

One way to break into the layering game is to stick with three pieces of clothing. The rule of three is an easy formula to follow as you get more familiar with the art of dressing for the cold. It also ensures you transform a potentially soulless outfit into a powerful one. So, here’s how to tri-layer.

Make it a habit to match up a base, mid and top layer. For example, a polo neck beneath a shirt, followed by an oversized jumper. This simple but planned look is a winner because it’s chic and comfy – the whole point of layering. But remember, it only works if the layers are all visible. A crew neck, for instance, might get lost under a button-up shirt. The warmth will be there, but nobody will see your style-savviness.

Always consider necklines and whether or not your chosen garments work together. The same applies to sleeves, as too much bulk can ruin the look you’re going for. You can de-bulk by opting for one sleeveless layer (a knitted sweater vest or tank) or experimenting with different fabrics (a fine-knit turtleneck followed up with something chunkier). If three pieces feels a bit much or doesn’t quite compliment the weather, consider your outer piece as layer number three. Think a shirt, jumper and an oversized coat. That way, you’ve considered the rule without overheating. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Mix Things Up

While layering mastery requires thought and care, let’s not forget how much fun it can be. It’s a chance to combine a variety of vibes, which can be particularly fun when matching an outfit to your mood. You can mix feminine with sporty, preppy with street style, and so on. Picture a pretty lace blouse paired with a mannish V-neck vest. It’s often the unexpected details that make an outfit pop, like a crisp collar poking out from a slouchy sweater. So, if you’re not feeling a polished fit for the office, throw on your comfiest jumper over a tailored shirt and finish with a roomy coat

Combine Different Seasons

The arrival of autumn/winter doesn’t mean your best summer bits are off limits. Just as you can mix styles, you can also play around with seasons. This is a brilliant way to start refining your capsule wardrobe, too. So before you pack away your summer wardrobe, pull out the pieces that can be layered up to create new cold-appropriate looks.

Dresses are a good place to start. Interestingly, the beach-perfect maxi you wore on holiday can convert into an autumn-ready ensemble when paired with a chunky cardigan and thigh-high boots. Accessories are another way to move seamlessly between seasons, so don’t forget to add a beanie or a scarf to finish. There’s infinite options when you get familiar with what works and what doesn’t, and of course, it’s up to you how creative you want to be.

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