How to Be a Pro at Layering Clothes

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This is a collaborative post.

Layering refers to the practice of putting on different articles of clothing (among other items) on top of each other. People layer their clothes for various reasons, including bundling up for cold weather or adding some flair to an otherwise drab attire. However, not many people practice intentional layering. Most of the time, people put on clothes with no thought to how each piece fits into the ensemble. That, in itself, is fine, but if you wish to level up your outfits and bring some elegance to the table, you need to master the art of layering clothes.

After all, the art of layering is far more complex than what its simple definition suggests. It is about exploring unique cuts, textures, and colors. It is experimenting with different silhouettes and choosing items purposefully. Artful layering is tricky to pull off, but there are some easy and effective tips you can follow to get used to the process. To start, consider the pointers below.

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Thin Inside, Thick Outside

One of the downsides of layering clothes is that it makes you look bulky–or so people think. In reality, that is not always the case. When you practice layering right, your outfit will still highlight your shape and remain classy to the eye. The key to this is to always consider the thickness of the fabrics.

The general rule of thumb when layering is to wear lighter garments first before you put on the thick outer clothes. This will prevent the ensemble from looking voluminous and help achieve the silhouette you were going for. For example, if you like wearing cotton leggings everyday, pairing them with different kinds of bottoms is a great way to keep warm during cold days and help you keep the shape you’re going for without adding too much bulk.

Complementary But Distinct

The last thing you want when wearing multiple layers is to create a vague, mish-mash of styles. To create an illusion of depth in your ensemble, you need to choose garments that go well together but still stand out. Playing with contrast is one effective way to achieve this. You can sport lighter tops against dark-colored bottoms and vice-versa. You can also apply this styling technique to make your inner clothes more distinctive against the outer layers.

Pro tip: Before you try on clothes, place two garments next to each other first to determine if they have a nice contrast or if their patterns don’t clash. It saves you time and serves as good practice when matching articles of clothing.

Vary Textures in Monochrome Outfits

Monochrome outfits refer to ensembles that typically feature only one color (e.g. an all-black outfit). When layered, these outfits can be tough to execute confidently because they either exude chicness or wash you out. Taking into account the previous point, the trick to pulling off a monochromatic ensemble is to play with textures. Wooly, feathered, sleek, rough, shiny, glimmery–these are only some of the textures you can explore. If you like monochrome outfits, make sure to stock up your wardrobe with apparel and accessories that sport different kinds of textures.

Experiment with Coats and Jackets

For the average person, jackets, blazers, and hoodies typically end up as outerwear. If you layer them, however, they can also work as inside garments. For example, you can wear an overcoat of a contrasting color over your leather jacket. You can also try wearing a patterned sweater under a blazer and put on a waterfall coat to bring everything together. In short, you don’t need to limit yourself to wearing only one outer garment. Bundle yourself up and mix and match different kinds of outerwear to play with styles and find complementing apparel that may surprisingly become your go-to items.

Add Patterns to Your Ensemble

Patterns and layering can seem like a bad match, especially when pairing multiple patterned clothes. That said, this doesn’t mean you need to let go of patterns entirely, especially if you like wearing them. Because they significantly stand out, adding one patterned garment can bring some level of interest to an otherwise minimalist attire and highlight the depths of the layering. On the other hand, patterned clothes that are subtle and neutrally colored (e.g. a dark navy blue polka-dotted turtleneck) are easy to match and should give you no problems in layering.

Use Oversized Scarves

Oversized scarves in layering are like crowns in princess costumes. You don’t necessarily need to wear them, but they do complete the look. They also make your layered outfit look smaller, which is a big plus if you’re worried about looking bulky.

There are many ways to layer with oversized scarves. You can wrap them around your neck and let one end drape down. You can also spread it out on one shoulder like a single-sided cape. Indeed, there are several ways you can style an oversized scarf for layering. Like any other garment, remember to take into account color, contrast, and patterns. Make sure also that they pair nicely with your outermost coat.

Play with Sleeves

For many individuals, sleeves are just an afterthought when choosing clothes. However, they can become points of interest when you layer them right. Slightly folding or bunching them at different points of your arms allows the sleeves of your inside garments to share some of the spotlight.

For example, folding back the sleeves of your overcoat allows the ends of a light-colored inner cardigan to peek through. Again, this creates an illusion of depth. Moreover, it creates a sense of balance because different colors and layers of various garments are present throughout the ensemble.

Accentuate the Waistline

As mentioned earlier, people worry about looking bulky when wearing multiple layers of clothing. Now, bulkiness is all about silhouette, and there are multiple ways to address that. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is to accentuate your waistline. Wearing a belt is the first thing that comes to mind, but you can also sport high-waisted pants or skirts. The latter has the bonus of making your legs look longer aside from highlighting your waist.

Explore Your Old Wardrobe

A big perk in layering clothes is that you don’t need to constantly shop for new apparel. You can mix and match different articles of clothing you already own and find new combinations which look fresh yet still uniquely you. In this manner, you can stay fashion-forward but also practice sustainable consumer habits, which saves you money and also helps the environment. Thus, make sure to look into your old wardrobe for some forgotten gems which may breathe a new life into your current outfits.

When in Doubt, Start with a White Shirt

Assembling a layered outfit can feel daunting if you don’t have practice, so start small. The most neutral garment in any wardrobe is the white shirt, so use it as your starting point when pairing clothes. Once you become more used to it, you can try other kinds of more novel tops, like patterned sweaters, textured jackets, and different colored turtlenecks.

Conclusion: Layering is Fun and Practical

In the end, layering is a skill, and like any other skill, you need to practice it consistently to get better. While becoming a pro at layering takes time, it is an effort that pays off in the long run. Once you master it, you can wear clothes and accessories repeatedly without looking tiresome, and you get to look chic and classy at the same time.

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