Style Tips: How to Dress in Layers

Thursday, 30 April 2009 | Tags:

Dressing in layers isn't anything new, but dressing stylishly takes a little bit of practice. We talked to an expert to find out the secret to keeping warm (or cool) with layers and looking great.

The Basics

Layering of clothing has been used for centuries as a way to deal with changing weather. On cooler mornings, you put on a few layers. In warmer afternoons, you remove one or two layers to cool down. As the evening cools down, you put your layers back on.

There is a technique to layering, however. To find out how to avoid looking like a multi-stacked marshmallow, we talk to expert stylist Anthony Crosfield and got the inside line on layering:

Think thin

The under-layer is the most important. Make sure it is thinnest, and smoothest. You don’t want it to be textured or grippy because it will grab at the over-layers and make things ride up as you move around.

Mix complementary textures and colours

Choose colours that are within the same hue range, but try to stay away from starkly contrasting shades. Add interest with texture, e.g. a lacy under piece topped with jersey and in turn topped by a knit or sheer piece.

Make sure layers are visible. 

This is key to avoiding creating a look that adds bulk to your frame rather than interest.

Casual and dressy: Remember that you can layer effectively both for a casual look and a more dressy look. It’s all about the pieces you choose and the accessories you pair with it.

Layer for your Body Shape

Our expert Anthony Crosfield also says that it’s important to pay attention to your body shape when choosing pieces so that you can flatter your figure rather than box it up or cut it into blocks. For example:


If you have a body shape like Kristina, with long legs and a short waist (a shorter than average distance between the bottom of your rib cage and your hip bones),

  • The aim is to bring your waistline down visually. Wear top layers that are longer and hit you below your waist and hips. Choose longer necklaces and open v-necks to elongate your upper half.

  • Avoid crop jackets or top layers that stop above the hip bone. This will make your torso look even shorter.

Long torso

If you have a body shape like Anna, with shorter legs and a long torso (a longer than average distance between the bottom of your rib cage and your hip bones), you want to elongate your legs and shorten your torso.

  • Try to bring attention up to your decolletage with shorter necklaces that land 2-3 inches above where your cleavage starts, and choose top hemlines that bring your waistline up visually. Wear leg-lengthening styles, like heels, crop vests or top layers, and knee-high boots.

  • Avoid long jewelry and v-necks, which add length to the torso. Also avoid short boots or long shirts, which cut off your legs and make them appear shorter.

Classic pear shape

If you have a classic pear shape, your hip area is typically wider than your chest and shoulder area, you want to style yourself to bring visual attention to your upper half.

  • Try to lengthen your upper body and blend a balanced silhouette into your body shape. Draw the eye up to your decolletage with a cowl neck top or other detail. A long jacket or trench coat that hits mid-thigh is perfect for providing balance by giving you more shape and volume on top while balancing and camouflaging your hips.

  • Avoid drawing attention to your bottom half and choose top lengths carefully so as to avoid any hems hitting you at your widest part.

Petite figure

Layering can be tricky for small frames because you can get lost in the fabric.

  • Try to add length, draw eyes to her legs, and create a sleeker silhouette. Choose very thin layers, and thin accessories (thin belts, dainty jewelry) so as not to overpower your frame.

  • Avoid adding too many layers because it will just appear bulky. Avoid wide belts, which will just look like they chop you in half. 

Other Guidelines

  • Length: the longer the item, the closer to the body. (This doesn’t necessarily apply to jackets and coats, however.)

  • Thickness: keep thinner layers close to the body, and thicker layers on the outside. Wear only one chunky piece per outfit.

  • Colours: in general, lighter colours look better underneath darker, but feel free to experiment. Avoid mixing colours that clash.

  • Use scarves, vests, tank tops, sweaters, unbuttoned blouses, and short and long tops. Even consider trying to scarves at once, or two sweaters at once, as long as they are thin.

  • Jewelry works for layering too. Try wear two or three necklaces of the same type (e.g. beads, or chains with pendants). Same goes for bracelets.

All in all, our expert Anthony Crosfield says just experiment and have fun. Keep layers light, mix things up, and aim to create a balanced silhouette.


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