There’s a definite chill in the air this week. I think the season of flip-flops may finally be over. Sad isn’t it? To console myself about the annual decommissioning of all things light and floaty, I usually attempt to prolong the life of some of my favourite summer items by layering them up with other, warmer garments.
Layering is a much used and beloved term of fashion writers everywhere, but in the real world, it is really hard to pull this look off successfully.
From a practical perspective it makes great sense to put a range of clothing together that collectively make one outfit for an entire day. At this time of year you might wake up to a light frost and then be faced with glorious sunshine by 3pm.
Layering is what we should all be doing, but there is a definite finesse to it. The idea is not to wear all your clothes at once, in the style of a small child on their way to a bonfire.
So, for what they are worth, here are my rules for successfully getting the look right without ending up resembling a sack of spuds.
First a few important things to keep in mind:
- For most body types. Adding layer upon layer to your top half can make you look and feel bulky, so, if you are already big on top, maybe this just isn’t a good style for you.
- The finished look may be amazing, but if the weather does warm up during the day you might need to peel off the layers. Each item must work well as a stand alone piece.
- Layering colours willy-nilly can result in drawing attention to the wrong part of your body.
Rules for different body shapes
If you are pear-shaped you are lucky here. Extra layers on top will balance out your figure. Use soft textures and print in your layering to bring it up to date and add interest. Make sure that you aren’t drawing attention to your hips. Ensure that the hemline of each of your layers is at a narrow part of your body. Never wear a lighter colour over your problem areas. It’s like highlighting your worst bits with a florescent pen.
For evenly-balanced figures (the same dress size top and bottom) tread carefully or you will look top heavy (see rules below).
Top heavy figure types (dress size bigger on top – or big boobs and large tummy) you risk making yourself look even more top heavy if you get layering wrong. Never wear bulky, textured clothes on your top half, instead choose flat blocks of colour which will have a more streamlined effect. Stick to lighter colours below the waist to draw attention down. Be careful with scarves as they can add extra bulk on top of your clothes.
- If you have soft colouring (your skin-tone, eyes and hair are softly contrasting) stick to tone on tone colours for your layers.
- If your hair is much darker than your skin-tone and your eyes are bright you will look fabulous in highly contrasting colours layered together. Think black and white or any dark tone next to a much lighter tone.
- Around now, when you are dressing for three seasons in one day, you need to be able to wear each layer alone.
Keep your body shape in mind when you choose your base layer. If you are very slim you may look fabulous in just a camisole on your top half but for the vast majority of us, this is as good as underwear and not something we want to be seen in outside the bedroom.
Instead, how about a silky vest top that isn’t clingy. Think floaty and flattering.
If you aren’t confident about showing your arms, go for a long-sleeved, good quality, t-shirt or a simple shirt that you can wear unbuttoned with a pencil skirt and bare legs. If the temperature rises while you are out for your lunch break you won’t have to go back to the office red and sweating.
Over your camisole or vest top you could wear something more fitted like a jacket or cardigan. Depending on your figure type, it could be nipped in to show off your waist, or have straight seams, such as a boyfriend jacket, if you are not naturally blessed with a defined waist. You want something comfortable enough to keep on all day, so don’t opt for a stiff fabric. There are lots of cardigan type jackets around this season, or those made out of sweatshirt material. The cut of a jacket in a softer fabric is a great solution if you want to wear it all day, and they look smart without being too corporate.
This can be a colourful or textured scarf which you can take on and off as the temperature changes. It’s amazing how much just adding a scarf around your neck can bring a whole lot of cosy warmth to your entire body!
Alternatively, under a jacket, you might fit a cardigan which could be the second layer with the jacket being the third.
Obviously your coat is a layer too. At this time of year you may not be wearing a coat every day but by the end of October it will be essential (sob!). If you prefer to have just one coat that serves every purpose, buy one in a neutral colour that is ¾ length. This will work over skirts and dresses or trousers and jeans – look out for my upcoming blog on choosing your perfect winter coat!
In the winter, layering becomes so much easier. You know you won’t ever need to wear the base layer on its own so camisoles are really handy. They add a pop of colour to your outfit if you wear them with an open neckline. (Remember to check whether you are best with tone on tone colours or contrasting ones next to your face.)
If it is really cold, replace the camisole with a vest, yes, I said it, a vest! Vests have come a long way over the years aren’t as ugly as you might expect. If you haven’t bought one for a few years start looking!
I like the Uniqlo vests, which are made from a fabric called Heattech. Their vests are incredibly thin, but this fabric takes body heat and stores it in air pockets within the fibres. They really do keep you toasty warm. Wear a top over the vest that loves you back by choosing a cut, colour, texture and shape which highlight your best bits. Carry on as before layering up a cardigan or jacket and then a coat or scarf.
Layering is very tricky but following my rules you should be able to pull it off with no problem. If all else fails, always carry a pack of sparklers and a toffee apple and pretend you are en route to the bonfire!
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Brilliant advice this time of the year Helen. I find this particularly challenging for work environments and when presenting as i do tend to get a bit hot when working and when I am a bit nervous.
Being full bodied on top (including upper arms), it can be difficult to get layering right without looking a bit like a ‘michelin man’, so your advice is invaluable!
I often find it difficult knowing what to wear when the weather is like it is at the moment. This is good, practical advice.
I like the sound of this and might have to invest in one.
Great practical advice as ever Helen. I shall rethink my own attempts at layering to avoid the ‘sack of spuds’ look, until the happy day comes when I can take you clothes shopping with me!
Fabulous Fabulous advice as always Helen!
Layering is definitely an art form and managed to create the ‘sack of spuds’ look brilliantly! 🙂