• Cariss Cole

How To Dress In Layers

Updated: Apr 17

Layering 101: How to Dress in Layers


Simple touches say so much about your style. Cold weather always requires more layers, no matter where you are physically located. In reality, layering clothing adds dimension to your outfit's style and is vital beyond temperature variances. Layering clothing pieces can be tricky, but with a few tips, you will know how to dress in layers in all seasons and not look bulky! Why dress like a worker bee, when you can make your vibe scream queen?!

Northerners tend to think that if they just lived in Florida that every day would be sunny and warm. HA HA! What a myth. Although the average low temps in the winter for Tampa Bay (aka my new-ish home) is only in the 50's, you would be surprised how cool the breeze is coming off the the water, especially after the sun sets.


Floridians experience extremes in their weather too. During hotter months when it's grueling outside, air conditioning pumps icy arctic wind into almost every indoor locale that rivals northern winter temps, requiring more layers to remain comfortable indoors instead of out.

The opposite is true for the north. I lived nearly my entire life in the frigid winters of northeastern Pennsylvania. Winter in the north seems to last indefinitely. Once cabin fever sets in as the incessant low temps remain for long periods of time, it's easy to find time to experiment with dressing in layers.


During the extreme months of cold, northerners tend to like to keep inside temps at near boiling point, requiring the removal of layers just to breath indoors. Shopping during these seasons always proves challenging as sweating underneath the layers necessary to move about outdoors, stifle one's sense of comfort. Carrying these extra layers while needing hands and arms to function can be a rather comical sight, but at some point in time, most of us have been there.


Essentials for Dressing of Layers


Once you learn the basics, you will know how to dress in layers like a pro. There are three basics for layering clothing. Cold weather layering tends to have heavier outer layers than warm weather layering, but the strategy is the same. Check out my article on Fall Must Haves for some additional tips for what to wear once cooler weather kicks in.


Basic Clothing Layers


  • The base layer - the lightest of all of the layers, closest to the skin, acts as a second skin

  • The mid layer - the in-between layer, typically worn for warmth or statement

  • The outer layer - the heaviest layer, used to provide additional warmth and protection


Practicality aside, all of these items can be an essential part of a wardrobe. Their form and appearance tend to supersede their functionality, when it comes to dressing for fashion, but when combating winter, function can tend to overcome form.


1:0 The Base / The Under Layers(s)


Considered to be the essential clothing layer. No matter the season, temperature or location, the base layer acts as your second skin. It is essential when learning how to dress in layers to choose your base layer wisely so you do not appear heavy or bulky once extra layers are added. Tucking the base layer in can also help maintain a slimming effect.


Base layers are not meant for warmth, but rather protection. Sun, wind, rain, or snow can all be factors to consider when choosing this layer. Abrasive qualities of the next layers should also be contemplated in this selection.


This key piece of clothing can range greatly based off of its need for function. This layer is almost always tighter to the skin and generally looks the best with more form fitting shapes. This allows for mid and top layers to look more appealing and less sloppy.


Bare Basics In hotter weather base layers can be as simple as a decorative bralette. This is a light weight breast covering that adds style without as much restriction as a traditional bra. High necked / backed or caged bralettes can create an extra covering over skin that would be ordinarily exposed when wearing lower cut tops and tank tops. Keeping cool or adding an extra thin layer for warmth. As a bonus, they tend to help slim and smooth your abdomen.There are so many amazing options that outfit combo's are endless. I love wearing shimmery or crocheted tanks under tops of all sorts, they ensure extra coverage, but also add an more texture to my look without it being the focal point of the outfit.



The Basic Tee Shirt Graphic t's are also very hot right now, as everyone is into making a statement. They can also dress down more sophisticated looks and fabrics to truly stand apart from the crowd. With so many different fabrics, besides or in addition to cotton, you can really control the vibe you are giving off.


The Button Down This truly versatile piece can be a base or a mid layer, depending on the season and the selection chosen. Satin, chiffon, and silk are dressier versions of this look. A go-to for wearing open and also for tying around the waist are flannels made from woven materials. Denim button downs have also become a very popular wardrobe items and are super on trend for mono-chromatic looks, especially with classic blue as the Pantone color of the year for 2020. Its very important when dressing mono chromatically to mix hues, fabrics, and textures.

#2.0 The Mid-Later AKA the Over Piece


When layering clothing, the mid layer, also known as the over piece, adds a personal touch to your style. In colder weather, this tends to be jackets, sweaters and sweatshirts. For cool to warm temps, lighter weight over pieces such as kimonos, fly-away's, button downs, vests and scarves tend to do the trick. When it's steamy and hot, tee's can even fit in this category.





The Jacket The words jacket and coat can appear to be interchangeable, but in all actuality there are key differences. Jackets are a much lighter layer, shorter in length and can be great for either outer or mid-layers when dressing, depending on the season.


Jackets have endless varieties of options. They come in so many styles, colors, closures, and fabrics. according to Wiki there are over 50 styles of jackets, I'm sure this list can be elaborated, but who needs to? The true question is what do you want your jacket to say about your outfit? Depending on the jacket's style you can either dress down or play up your look.


For instance, adding a jean or leather jacket over a dress can add an edgier feel than a cardigan sweater's softer appeal. You might also find that the jean or leather jacket worn over a dress adds extra functionality due to their pockets.


A well fitting blazer, when worn with a pencil skirt, a chiffon blouse and heels screams professional. The same blazer can be paired with a button down, pair of jeans, and the same heals to add a level of sophistication to an otherwise simpler outfit. To take this look down one more step to casual, switching out the top for a graphic tee with a bold statement and a matching pair of converse and your ready to hit the streets.



The Sweater vs the Sweatshirt


Sweaters are another amazing choice when layering outfits for function tend to be sweaters. They are typically made of knitted or crocheted materials. These can be heavy or lightweight, a pull over or slip on, similar to a sweatshirt, but with a more traditional appeal. Certain materials used in sweaters tend to be itchy, like wool, and are better used with an appropriate under-layer.


Sweatshirts were originally designed as an athletic alternative to the typical sweater. They tend to causes the person wearing them to sweat, hence the name. Their popularity has grown immensely, along with their function and use. My all time favorite sweaters are dusters. They are long in length and add an extra whimsical feel and can aid the appearance of height.


3:0 The Outer Top Layers


Typically worn for warmth, the outer layer looks vastly different based off of location. In northern climates this top layer is heavy and sometimes long. The advantage of length adds extra insulation for the legs, as well as the torso. Southerners navigate towards lighter top layers, that may be sweaters and jackets, instead of coats. During rainy season, moisture reflecting materials keep everything underneath dry. Outer layers are usually removed when indoors or outdoors, depending on the temps and comfort ability of the wearer.


The Coat Outwear truly is a statement in itself. Coats are heavier and longer to block out harsher winter conditions and provide extra insulation. Most of us living in the south do not have many opportunities to dress in heavy coats, so they are worn less often.


All coats typically have a front closure of some sort to block out harsher weather, make them easier to put on and boast the opportunity to release extra heat in when traveling in and out the the indoors. Advancements in technology have made it possible to have very light weight coats that are extremely insulating without all of the bulk. They come in all styles and make excellent options for traveling and shopping because they can compress to fit in small spaces, like a purse.


How to Dress In Layers for Every Season


Your body type is extremely important to consider when learning how to dress in layers. Too many heavy layers can make your outfit look frumpy and outdated. Even worse the can make you appear heavier than you actually are, which most of us do not want.


Leaner and longer bodies tend look better with bulkier layers, placed just right to add extra shape to their figures. Pear shaped bodies should lean towards shorter and tighter fitting layers, to add more bulk to the upper body and help appear more proportionate. To learn more about your body type and how to dress to look your best, check out this complete guide from STYLECRAZE for your reference.


Dressing in layers is one of the best ways to make your outfits work for you, no matter where you are. Adding layers of jewelry, hats, scarves and purses will help to further transform your look of comfort to sophistication.


How we dress affects so many things. It begins with how we feel about ourselves. Perfectly crafted outfit selections help our confidence and comfort all the way around. When we are feeling great, we tend to be more social and can make a more significant impact on others around us, not only ourselves.

Layering is a learned experience, full of trials, errors, and growth. Fashion trends may change, but the ability to dress well and make a statement with your clothing never will. Have fun, play around. There are so many different combinations you can make. The best part is, with a few pieces you can have endless outfit possibilities.



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