The art of layering in style for winter

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The arrival of cooler weather means it's time for a style switch, but before you sadly bid adieu to your lightweight tees and stuff them in the back of the closet, consider incorporating them into your winter wardrobe. Yes, we're talking layering.

Did you feel a jolt of fear race through your body at the thought? Or was it a bolt of excitement at the prospect of having so many sartorial possibilities? More layers mean more options, new dimensions, more chances to put your unique spin on your style. Layering is flexible. It's an opportunity to showcase your personality. Plus it's just plain practical.

Before you jump headfirst into the deep end of the layering pool, there are some guidelines to familiarise yourself with. Start with these rules for layering properly, then bend them once you feel more comfortable.

Quick tips to get you layering correctly

Lightest weight first

This is the most basic of all layering rules. In fact, it's just common sense. Even Brad and Beckham couldn't rock a t-shirt pulled over a jacket (though we'd be amused to see them try). Start with a thin shirt, then add a slightly thicker mid-layer and top it all off with a jacket. Not only does it look and feel better, it also allows you to easily adjust your temperature by adding or removing layers.

Choose complimentary colours


Kind of a no-brainer, but worth mentioning anyway. One colour should be your star and the rest should form a strong cast of supporting characters. Once you've established the main piece – something in a bold colour, pattern, or print – you can construct the rest of the outfit around it. If you're opting for patterns, think of them as a gradient. They should flow seamlessly between each other, rather than be mixed at random or broken up into disjointed chunks by neutrals.

Go for a lighter colour base

Just because the weather is cooling down, doesn't mean you have to tone down your love of colour with it. Anything is an acceptable winter colour as long as it's combined properly. Make the lightest colour your base, then incorporate darker and bolder colours as you work your way outwards.

Avoid the Michelin Man/hobo look

There's no set number of layers, so use your best judgment. Comfort is the rule. If you can barely move under all that clothing, it's time to lose some layers. You don't want to look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man destroying Manhattan with Ghostbusters in hot pursuit. We all know how it ended for him.

Know your layers and what goes where

Bottom layers

Your basics belong on the bottom. Think t-shirts, singlets and other lightweight shirts of any kind. Your base garment should be made from a thinner fabric, like cotton, then layered over with something heavier like wool or denim. Pro tip: the better your base layer looks on its own, the better it'll look as part of a layered ensemble. If you wouldn't wear it solo, don't include it in a layered look.

Middle layers

Here you have a lot of leeway. Your second layer could be a shirt, a sjumper, a cardigan, a vest, a denim jacket … think outside the box and find what works for you. Take texture and the season into account when choosing your mid-layer. Winter fabrics include tweed, flannel, corduroy, thicker cottons, wool and cashmere. In the summer, opt for lightweight materials such as linen, seersucker, whipcord, poplin cotton, madras and chambray.

Top layers

The finishing touch is your jacket, blazer, or coat. The weather and the formality of the occasion (though layering should be reserved only for things on the more casual end of the spectrum) will determine what makes an appropriate top layer. Wear something heftier if you'll be facing the elements and go for a blazer if you're layering for an everyday work look.

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