How to Look Great in the Cold? Layer Up!

Simply Vera Vera Wang featured on PopSugar

I love layering!  It keeps you warm, it can adjust to temperatures that go up and down, it turns something plain into an interesting creation…and age doesn’t matter.

According to designer Vera Wang, the key layering pieces for Winter are:

A leather jacket — the cropped motorcycle style is edgier than a blazer and makes a bold statement; long wrap cardigans — the fitted shape defines the body while the deep V front and cropped length show under layers; leggings — which work best when paired with long layers on top; and layered necklaces — vary the styles, materials and lengths to get lots of sparkle and texture.”

She also says to avoid the “too’s.”  “If it’s too big, too short or too much (for example, too many necklaces), it won’t look polished.  Tone it down.”

Other layering pieces that she recommends are:

  • a dress.  (It’s easy and it’s slimming since it creates a single, fluid line.  You can layer underneath with a blouse or long-sleeve tee or add something on top like a jacket or sweater.)
  • a long coat as an alternative to a suit jacket.  (Wear something with sleeves underneath; add necklaces of different lengths on top.)
  • slim pants.  (They allow you to add long layers on top while keeping a long, lean look, and a flat waistband helps those layers lie nicely.  Pants should hit just below the ankle because bunching adds bulk.)
  • an embellished t-shirt.  (It can be worn day or night.)

Layering Tips

microfleece vest
Microfleece Vest from Winter Silks

Starting with lightweight skirts and dresses, these can be layered over jeans.  This works best with skinny jeans and with skirts that aren’t too full or long (around knee-length).  For instance, take a dress or skirt that hits at the knee and add matching or toned pants, jeans or leggings.

Or start with jeans and something sleek against the skin.  Top with sexy knits, a touch of faux fur and a little leather.   Pair your sleeveless sweater with a bit of leather.

You can take a sleeveless dress and wear it with tights, put a blouse or tee under it, or cover it up with a belted cardigan.  Turtlenecks are the hottest thing to add to a sleeveless dress.  😉

Layer a skirt over a dress.  Let the hem of your dress show.

A pencil skirt is perfect for layering blouses, long vests, dusters.

For cooler days, use a great go-with-everything fitted jacket in denim, corduroy or velvet.  Adding a fitted sweater or cropped blazer can make whatever is in your closet seem new.

Start with long johns or long underwear such as Cuddl Duds.  They’re available today in so many colors and styles, you won’t want to keep them hidden.  Wear the tops under open shirts or jackets, the bottoms as leggings.

Cuddl Duds Softwear with Stretch Long Sleeve Hooded Wrap

Fleece is a natural insulator.  It acts like a heater to keep you toasty.  Try layering with a fleece jacket or vest, or look for fleece lining in other items.

If wool irritates your skin, try silk.  It’s surprisingly warm when lined or layered.

A denim jacket or vest is a great layering piece that brings structure to loose separates, which can look sloppy.

Short-sleeved, funky t-shirts may be warmed up with long-sleeved ivory (or other solid color) t-shirts underneath.  Pull out all your sheer, sleeveless tops and then layer something shorter over them.  Wear two camisoles in contrasting colors under a v-neck sweater.

Wear a top or jacket over an untucked shirt with the hem of the shirt showing.

For warmth without a puffer coat, start with a thin, not flimsy, camisole under your clothes.  Look for a flesh-colored wool, silk or cashmere cami.

Layer darker shades under lighter ones (i.e., a black tank + black pants + a cream sheer sleeveless blouse + an ivory draped cardigan).

I like the rule of three that Cassie of the blog Hi Sugarplum! wrote about (link below).  After your base outfit of a slim top and bottom, just add two more elements, such as a vest and a scarf.  You can continue to add layers, but adding at least two more creates an interesting outfit that goes beyond basic.

The Rule of Three

A Recipe for a Little Advanced Layering

First, choose base layers — such as a thin tank or tee and a pair of leggings.

Then, add a long-sleeved t-shirt or top in an interesting color or pattern.

Over that, add a button-down shirt, such as plaid or denim.

Next, add a chunky cardigan.  Shove those sleeves up to your elbow to show the layers.

You may add a blazer or fur vest.

On the bottom, you may layer shorts, a mini-skirt, a maxi-skirt, a dress, or jeans.

Finally, throw on some chunky socks and peep-toe ankle boots or flat tall boots.

Sweater Dress over a Maxi Skirt from Free People Blog

What to Consider When Layering an Outfit

Vary Shapes and Sizes

Choose pieces of clothing that are a variety of sizes and shapes:  some tighter and more fitted, others looser and stretchier.

Vary Fabrics and Textures

Also, select clothes made of different fabrics and textures:  cotton, denim, corduroy, velvet, etc.

Start at the bottom

Begin with a base such as tights (from woolly to lace-edged), leggings or skinny jeans.  Then add boots.  Try tights worn under knee-high boots.

Try layering a skirt or a long shirt, such as a tunic, over the bottom layer.  If you’re feeling daring, try some retro accessories such as legwarmers over your tights or leggings.

Kassie at the Cafe con Leche

Kassie, who works at Cafe con Leche, layered Doc Martens (Journeys) over black knee-high socks (H&M) over gray tights (Forever 21) on the bottom.  She added a floral dress (also Forever 21) over a black under layer, then added a long pendant and a casual bracelet.

Here’s a closer look at the bottom half:kassies-layers

Move on to the top half

Begin with a form-fitting camisole or t-shirt.  Other layering tops are:  a lace turtleneck, a lace pullover, a mesh top, a henley, a long-sleeved fitted tee, a thermal top, or even a body-con dress that you normally feel too self-conscious in.  After picking out the main piece,  find shirts that would match the color and fit of the main shirt.

Start with items made from thinner fabrics, such as:  a cotton tee, dress shirt or turtleneck.  Then layer them with heavier items such as:  a wool sweater, a corduroy blazer or a leather jacket.  You may add a blazer, shrug or cardigan.

For a polished, professional look, you can layer a matching shell and cardigan (a twin set).  For a fashion-forward look, mix fabrics:  put a sequinned shrug over a t-shirt, a velvet jacket over a beaded top, or a denim jacket over black jersey.  A shrug goes with anything from cute camisoles and tanks to casual t-shirts.

You can layer tighter, long-sleeved t-shirts under looser, short-sleeved ones.  Layer t-shirts under sweaters, dress shirts, polo shirts and long-sleeved shirts.  Or, wear a couple of different colored tees together.  Make sure to layer lightweight fabrics or else you will look bulky.

Throw a vest over a long-sleeved dress or thermal top.

Top off with a knotted scarf, a pin or button on your blazer lapel, or a funky hat.

Mix Patterns and Colors

As you layer your clothes, mix different textures, patterns and colors. Layer a patterned long-sleeved t-shirt under a solid short-sleeved one.  Contrast solid leggings with a top that has suede or denim details, or add a splash of unexpected glamour with an elegant bracelet, a sequinned headband, or a colorful purse.

FP cuff thermal
Outfit with thermal top from Free People

Layering Formulas

 1)  Start with a thin, fitted camisole or shaper.  2)  Add a basic, lightweight top.  Plain, neutral or striped works best.  3)  Cover up with a shirt or lightweight cardigan.  A half-turned-up collar adds style.  Do not tuck.  4)  If seriously cold, add a sweater in a plain, neutral or navy color.  5)  Add a coat.  6)  Accessorize, especially with a hat, scarf and gloves.  You might want to belt your scarf.  7)  Mix it up (colors, textures, etc.)  Vera Wang says, “Mix it up; don’t worry about different shades clashing.  Layering lends a certain nonchalance.  Each element looks better, richer and more interesting when it’s put with something else, so clothes don’t look so serious.”

1)  Start with an undershirt + long johns or warm leggings.  2)  Add a denim shirt.  3)  Add a sarong over the shirt.  4)  Add a colorful vest.  5)  Add warm socks and a beret.

1)  Start with a white tee.  2)  Button or wrap a lightweight cardigan and tuck it into a skirt.  3)  Belt it.  4)  Add a vest.  5)  Add a beret, gloves and boots.

1)  Start with a denim shirt.  An embellished collar makes it even better.  2)  Try adding a denim jacket under a lightweight parka.  3)  Add warm pants, such as flannel-lined silk.  4)  Add gloves and shoe boots.

1)  Choose a jacket with elasticized cuffs and waist to keep the wind out.  2)  Wear a turtleneck and slim pants under it.  3)  Add a scarf and gloves.

 1)  A sweatshirt blazer (or you may substitute a woven blazer in an all-season wool, cotton or linen blend) open over any jeans + leather or ponte pants, or a jean skirt.  2)  Add an ivory tunic tee or a graphic tee or a comfy fitted tee.  If long, wear the tee over leggings, or front tuck into jeans.  3)  Add trendy footwear (i.e., booties, slip-ons, slipper flats, loafers or gladiator sandals).  4)  Finish with a tote, cross-body, mini backpack, bucket bag or bowling bag.  5)  You may add a scarf or belt.  6)  Add jewelry, eye wear, and belt as desired.

1) Black pants (i.e., black leather, snakeskin leggings, moto leggings, ponte knit) + a striped top + a jean jacket.  2)  Add trendy, casual footwear (slip-on espadrilles, cut-out booties, loafers, oxfords, cage sandals or Converse sneakers).  3)  Add a large tote in black or a light neutral, a satchel or a backpack.  4)  Finish off with jewelry, watch and eye wear as desired.

1)  Boot-cut jeans + a classic top (a white shirt, a striped pullover, a long-sleeved fitted tee, a turtleneck, or a graphic tee) + a trench coat.  2)  Add fashionable ankle boots or Converse sneakers.  3)  Add a modern handbag.  4)  You may add a scarf.  5)  Add jewelry, eye wear, and watch as desired.

1)  A long-sleeved or short-sleeved tee or tank long enough to show, under a plaid shirt + any jeans or ponte pants + a cropped leather jacket.  2)  Add a fairly large statement scarf, untied and loose + casual boots (mid-calf, knee-high or ankle boots) or loafers + an oversize tote or a satchel.  3)  Finish off with jewelry, watch and eye wear as desired.  4)  If cold, you may add a huge wool coat, gloves, hat.

1)  Start with a slim tank + biker shorts or a short slim skirt + tights. 2)  Add a sheer blouse in a longer length + a loose-fitting top/tunic/sweater over it.  3)  If it’s chilly, add a jacket.  4)  Add a scarf.  You may wrap it around a couple of times to add more layers. 5)  Finish with a great pair of ankle boots.

1)  A tank top + 2) bike shorts or a short slim skirt or a short half-slip + 3) a light and flowing skirt + 4) a sheer blouse or a slip + 5) a shorter loose-fitting top + 6) a loose-fitting jacket + 7) a comfy scarf wrapped around a couple of times + 8) ankle boots + 9) over-the-knee socks.  — OR —use a body-con dress as a foundation layer.

1)  Any t-shirt that is roomy and long enough to be worn untucked and exposed.  2)  Add a denim or chambray shirt or a plaid shirt.  Wear it loose and unbuttoned to showcase the t-shirt.  3)  Add black jeans, Ponte pants or stretchy cigarette pants.  You can wear blue jeans if you like the denim on denim trend, or even white jeans for a more crisp effect.  In fact, wear any color denim on the bottom in a straight-leg, skinny or boot-cut style.  4)  Add any cropped leather jacket.  5)  Add a statement scarf.  It must be fairly large in order to drape in front.  Wear it untied and loose like a fourth layer of clothing.  Choose a pattern that works with the palette of the outfit.  6)  Add casual boots, like booties, mid-calf or knee-high boots.  If the weather is mild, wear slipper flats, fashionable sneakers or loafers.  Choose footwear that matches your outfit.  7)  A casual, oversize tote is ideal, but a satchel that can be held by its handles is another way to go.  8)  Top with a huge wool coat or puffer, gloves and a hat if you need extra layers for very cold weather.

1)  A long-sleeved lace top + 2)  harem pants, joggers, skinny sweatpants, or slim lounge pants + 3)  a heeled boot or clog for a lengthening effect + 4)  a poncho.  5)  You may add a leather tassel pendant, a long coin necklace, a fedora.


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Layered up


Layered Outfit Combinations

Following are ways to layer outfits during the transition to Fall, through to the coldest days of Winter, and on through to the beginning of Spring when there are still cold snaps.

  1. A long-sleeved tee or thin turtleneck under a sleeveless dress.
  2. A soft and cozy sweater over an airy summer dress.  Add a long necklace, bangles, ankle boots, rings.
  3. A short black dress + a black leather jacket.  Add boots and jewelry.  You may also add a beanie.
  4. A sleeveless black dress + a black leather jacket.  Add black tights + tall black boots + sunglasses if sunny.
  5. A summer dress + leggings + a cardigan.  Add a thick leather belt + ballet flats + a scarf.
  6. A dress + a plaid or flannel shirt open over it + a soft, thick, drapey cardigan.  Add boots.
  7. A dress + a cardigan + a jacket or blazer.
  8. A dress + a blazer.  Add a big necklace + a chunky scarf or a pashmina.
  9. A t-shirt dress + a chunky sweater + tights + funky boots.
  10. A leather jacket open over a jean jacket open over a dress.  Add boots and jewelry.
  11. An embroidered henley + a matching vest (sheer or not) + blue jeans.  Add a couple of necklaces.
  12. A tank + a thermal top + a sweater + a jacket + slim bottoms.
  13. A camisole + jeans + an unbuttoned shirt + a cardigan.  Add a necklace, like a chain + a bracelet.  Roll back the shirt and cardi sleeves together.
  14. Any sleeveless top + jeans + a shirt + a vest unbuttoned over it. Add a necklace or two, a bracelet, a watch, a ring, or any other accessory you like.
  15. A cardi + a henley or split-neck or deep-v top + a cami + a skirt.  Add a necklace, boots, over-the-knee socks.
  16. A long-sleeved sweater + a blouse (sheer, short-sleeved, 3/4 sleeve, long-sleeved, etc.) + a vest (fleece or any kind) + skirt or pants.  You may add a necklace or a bracelet around the sweater cuff.
  17. A blazer + a vest + a shirt + slim bottoms.
  18. A short structured jacket over a long top over a skinny pant.  Add a structured bag + a ballet flat.
  19. Leggings + a long tank top + a not-too-long shirt/top + any sweater.  May add a scarf, hat, gloves, boots.
  20. A t-shirt + any slim bottoms + a thick sweater.  Add a scarf + a cozy coat.
  21. A long-sleeved fleece top + a plaid flannel shirt + skinny jeans or leggings.  Add ankle boots + simple stud earrings + a matching pendant necklace.
  22. A white graphic tee + skinny jeans or leggings + a beige blazer.  Add beige boots + pearl studs + mixed gold bangles.
  23. A long camisole under a low-cut sweater that also peeks out below the sweater hem.
  24. A camisole or t-shirt under a cardigan.  You may button the cardigan, add a narrow belt.
  25. A long-sleeved t-shirt + a blazer.  If the tee is plain, add a colorful patterned scarf.
  26. A cotton or silk camisole + a hooded jacket.
  27. A white or colored or graphic t-shirt + a hooded jacket.
  28. A long-sleeved or short-sleeved t-shirt + a long button-down vest + a blazer in a contrasting color.
  29. A camisole + a sheer blouse + a cardigan or blazer.
  30. A thin, soft t-shirt + a hoodie + a soft blazer or jacket, preferably in corduroy, crushed velvet or cotton.
  31.  A long-sleeved soft t-shirt + a fitted short-sleeved tee + a fitted jacket or hoodie.
  32. A long soft tank top + a short-sleeved or long-sleeved t-shirt + a fitted jacket or hoodie or a loose, open vest.
  33. A vest + a blouse or turtleneck + a blazer.  Wind a scarf around your neck.
  34. A long cardigan + a shorter jacket or vest.
  35. A short skirt + leggings or jeggings + boots.
  36. A long fitted camisole under a t-shirt.
  37. A quilted or flannel pencil skirt + a long-sleeve top.  Add a colored belt + edgy ankle boots.  Add a velvet blazer + a chunky, colorful necklace.  Top with a peacoat and a fringed scarf.
  38. A slim turtleneck under a classic oxford shirt.  Add a boxy knit sweater over it.  Add a faux-fur vest cinched with a canvas belt.  Add oxfords + leather gloves + a satchel.
  39. A camisole + a mini-skirt + a thermal top + a sweater + a slouchy boyfriend jacket or a sweater jacket + thigh highs or tights + boots.  Show the thermal cuffs.  Add a pendant + rings.  You might also want to add a beanie.
  40. Wrap a long, thick scarf around your hips to make an instant skirt!  Belt at the waist and wear with coordinating tights and boots.
  41. Even for shoveling snow:  A fitted tank top + a t-shirt (fitted or at least not baggy) + a sweater + leggings or tights under your jeans.  You may then add a coat, scarf, gloves, a beanie, thick knit socks and boots.
Sleeveless blazer and leather jacket from Wendy’s Lookbook blog

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One thought on “How to Look Great in the Cold? Layer Up!

  1. It’s been super fun to experiment with all kinds of layering. Especially getting ideas from other bloggers like Wendy above. I would have never thought to layer a vest over a jacket before blogging, but it’s one of my favorite things now!!

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