8 Creative Layering Techniques That Will Make Your Winter Outfits Cute as Hell

Julia Guerra
·4 min read

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Up until recently, my knowledge of how to layer clothes in such a way that was both functional and fashionable was limited. As far as I was concerned, piling on various knit and fleece-lined items was a means of survival in frigid weather conditions, not a fashion statement. Imagine my surprise when it finally dawned on me that I could be warm and look cute, too.

Autumn and winter forecasts can be near impossible to predict (hence why I’m so leery of my weather app this time of year). One minute it’s cloudy and freezing, and the next, the sun is shining and I’m burning up under a sweater. Instead of dressing for one extreme or another, senior vice president of Aerie Design, Andrea Jagaric says layering clothes can help keep you prepared for anything and everything.

“The chillier months naturally give us more options to play with when it comes to choosing what to wear for the day,”Jagaric tells InStyle, before giving advice on the pieces to stock up on. “Look for options that are versatile and give you the option to mix and match for multiple different looks.” For example, combining activewear with classic staples such as an oversized button down, or sherpa vest.

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Layering also gives you the opportunity to play around with the pieces that are already in your wardrobe. Give yourself permission to experiment with different textures, fabrics, weights, patterns and colors, and the outfit possibilities are endless. Here are a few ways experts recommend layering clothes in the upcoming months.

Grab a Summer Dress

There’s a place for spaghetti straps and sleeveless dresses in your fall-to-winter wardrobe, too. Once temperatures start to drop, transition your wardrobe by layering this summer favorite over a long-sleeved shirt or sweater. If the dress is form fitting, pair it with a slightly looser material for a cozy contrast, and keep things casual with simple footwear (sneakers or booties) and minimalist accessories.

Try a Poncho

Erase the image you have in your head of crunchy, yellow plastic garments because ponchos aren’t just rainy day attire. The sweater alternative is great for autumn days that aren’t too cold, but aren’t too warm, either. Drape it over a fitted top or turtleneck and pair with jeans so if you get toasty, you can shed the layer. And, because most ponchos aren’t too bulky, you can quickly fold it up and place it in your bag for safe-keeping.

Embrace Overalls and Jumpsuits

“Overalls and jumpsuits were designed for layering,”Jagaric tells InStyle. Her favorite way to style them: adding a cozy turtleneck underneath with a jacket layered on top.

Remember Sweater Vests

“The sweater vest allows you to have fun with statement sleeves and different collars,” says Express’ executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, Malissa Akay. “To add a bit of excitement to your look, we recommend pairing a vest with a balloon sleeve top or lightweight blouse that complements the specific style of the vest.”

Play Around with Outerwear

Layering a teddy bomber jacket or long peacoat over a sweatshirt is a wearable street style trend perfect for running errands on chilly weekends. Complete the on-the-go, off-duty look with baggy jeans and running sneakers, and when temperatures really start dropping, Jagaric suggests doubling up on coats. “This layering look not only brings dimension to your outfit, but gives you the flexibility to take off your larger jacket needed for extra warmth and show off a more trend-driven piece underneath,” she says.

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Go with Classic Sweaters and Button Downs

Sweaters are a great option to wear over a classic plaid or solid button-dow, as it keeps the look polished yet adds more of a laid back feel,” Jagaric says. This simple styling technique is especially great for layering newbies because these are pieces you most likely already have in your wardrobe.

Experiment with Patterns

Don’t be afraid to experiment with patterns and different materials when layering (it's very Emily in Paris). Grab an army jacket and throw it over a cozy knit, wear polka-dots with plaid, and play with color. When mixed and matched, says Akay, modern colorways — tonal, neutrals — create effortlessly chic looks that make a statement.

Add Blazers to Loungewear

If you’re getting tired of working from home in straight sweats, spruce up your loungewear by vegging out in jeans and a cozy tee layered under a tailored blazer. “By adding a blazer to your comfortable joggers and essential tee look,” Akay says, “your outfit can be instantly transformed from loungewear to a polished and timeless classic.”

Layer Shirts Over Turtlenecks

Jagaric tells InStyle that one of the easiest ways to layer is by adding a turtleneck underneath an outfit. Graphic tees and a denim jacket will give off a cool-casual vibe, and you can just as easily amp up this basic by adding a poncho, cape, or dress overtop.