styled alternatives: winter layering

i’m taking a little break from gift guides today to focus on something that’s perhaps a little too near and dear to my heart: layering. i swear, i was cold-blooded in a former life…when the temperature plummets, i’m inexplicably unable to maintain core body temperature for most of the winter. the more clothes i can wear this time of year, the happier i am. but of course, like so many things in fashion, layering is an art…one that’s learned with lots of trial and error.

so, this season, in an effort to help you keep your layered looks hip and well-thought-out, i thought i’d give you a few of my favorite tips and tricks for great layering.

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first, start with great pieces. they don’t have to be expensive, but they do need personality! look at that grey cardigan above, for example. it’s fleece, from alternative apparel, and it’s a steal at $68. it’s incredibly comfy, and utterly perfect for layering – i styled it in the two different ways above in about 5 minutes, and had at least 4 more ideas i couldn’t squeeze into the page. it’s warm and classic, but the raw edges and draped collar give it so much style, i literally can not stop wearing it this fall. something like this great draped cashmere vest from vogel10 would also give you amazing layering opportunities, and is a great choice if you’re feeling a little more adventurous.

second, know your weights. not your body weight, your clothing weight. you only want one chunky piece on your top half, or you’ll risk a visual illusion you’re not going for. so grab that great textured cardigan, but pile a sleek, tissue-weight tee and tank underneath. or, find a bold tweed menswear vest (goodwill is an awesome place for it!), but keep the top layer lean and close-fitting.

speaking of which, don’t be afraid to size up on your outer layers. when you’re trying on in the store, remember that you’ll be piling on layers underneath, and you don’t want to feel like a kid stuffed into a snowsuit. go up a size in that chunky cashmere cardigan – you’ll be so glad you did. i’ve been known to buy the same cardi in two different sizes, just for this purpose.

third, get creative! that tired old tee-and-cardigan route is just too easy for a forward-thinking fashion icon like you. next time you’re layering, come up with a way to add a third, or even a fourth piece. maybe you’ll take your favorite summer-weight v-neck cardigan, layer it over a contrasting-patterned tee (i love lace tees for this trick!), button it up, and put a chunkier cardigan, tweed blazer or even a military jacket on top. the effect is that the cardigan looks like a great, tailored vest. layer a favorite cowl or v-neck sweater with a fun tee or tank in a stripe or a bold hue underneath, then top with that same chunky cardigan. and don’t be afraid to mix colors, patterns and texture to add interest. if you stick to the same color family, most anything can be blended with success. or try your favorite jersey dress as your first layer, and treat it like separates – add a vest and blazer on top, tights underneath, and something tells me you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

next, remember that layering doesn’t stop at the waist. instead of your usual jeans, try layering thick, cabled tights under your favorite skirt or wool shorts (though i think the shorts look is best if you’re still comfortably in your mid-20s). add a tall boot or even a little bootie – the trick is to keep bottom layers all in the same color, to keep your legs looking long and lean.

finally, be bold. go out of your comfort zone just a little bit, as an experiment, and play around until you find something great. i absolutely guarantee that if you spend an hour mixing and matching in your closet this weekend, you’ll find new things to try. it’s all about trial and error, and you’ll definitely ‘miss’ on a few. but you’re sure to find a new look (or three) you didn’t even know you had!

what about the rest of you? any great layering tips to share?

{FTC disclaimer: some product samples were provided to help me compile this guide, but as usual, there’s no pay-for-play here.}

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