How to Layer for Fall/Winter

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Photo: Megan Cameron Photography

To layer or not to layer, that is the question. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, fall is now in full swing. The leaves have dropped, cooler temperatures have set in, and you may be seeking more time indoors. When the weather turns cold we tend to seek the comfort of warm, cozy clothing (wool socks, slippers, a shawl, soft leggings) as a way to feel good when the weather may not be.

Last year I wrote a post about Hygge (a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment. Source: Wikipedia) In my post 5 Items to Hygge Your Wardrobe I talk about how you can incorporate more coziness into your wardrobe for fall/winter.

Photo: Megan Cameron Photography

This leads me to the layer aspect. Dressing in layers is a great way to keep warm without too much bulk, if you start to feel hot you can take off a layer at a time to achieve your desired level of comfort. Thin layers are key for comfort, mobility and also packing the items away once removed.

Layering may sound a bit dowdy, like a bag lady in New York City, but if Mary-Kate Olsen can make Bag-Lady Layers look cool, so can you. The key to mastering the layer look is to use thin layers built over top of your “foundation” look. Check out my step-by-step techniques for layering success.

Solid Foundation

The foundation  of a house is important, it keeps things grounded when things like the weather get cray and keeps the house from blowing away. If you apply thin analogy to your outfit, a solid base layer is going to keep you warm and comfortable so make sure to choose wisely. Leggings are always a comfortable choice for winter, they come in a variety of colours, fabrics, styles and weights (think fleece lined) black leggings can be worn under a dress, skirt or tunic and also can be worn under trousers if it’s really cold. Alternatively, you can wear jeans (try to select jeans with stretch and soft feel interior for extra comfort) or cotton trousers. 

For the top I would recommend a soft cotton t-shirt (long sleeved or short), a soft, thin, cashmere sweater or a cotton blouse. Thin layers underneath will make layering heavier items over-top easier and will look less bulky.

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Photo: Megan Cameron Photography
My absolute favorite tee from Ottawa brand BBxCollection , Rocktar Jeans by Old Navy, Chelsea Boots by Aldo and Watch by Berg + Betts

Layer 1: Build It Up

Next you will want to layer a knit cardigan (this can be thin if you plan to layer a blazer over it or a chunky, knit sweater if not) I like cardigans because they provide warmth but don’t cover up the top underneath. Alternatively, you can put on a crew neck sweatshirt, hoodie or knitted sweater, don’t worry if this layer seems a bit too dressed-down, we can make it more interesting when we add accessories later on.

The reason why thin layers are best is because in the winter, you often go from cold outside to warm inside so being able to peel away a layer if you get too hot is key to being comfortable, thinner layers will make it easier to pack them away if needed. 

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Photo: Megan Cameron Photography
This hip-length cardigan is perfect for adding a pop of colour and is thin enough to layer easily under a blazer.

Layer 2: Layer On

I’m a big fan of blazers, especially blazers with a bit of texture, pattern (plaid, herringbone or gingham) and special details like leather, suede or special buttons. They are professional but can also be dressed down for a more casual look. They are not overly bulky and can be worn as an additional layer underneath a winter jacket. 

When choosing a blazer that you plan to use for layering, make sure it fits well but isn’t too tight. You want to be able to layer comfortably over-top of a long sleeve tee, sweater or cardigan, save the tighter fitting blazers for when you are just wearing a tank or tee underneath.

Photo: Megan Cameron Photography
Throw your hands in the air, and layer it like you just don’t care.

Layer 3: Accessories To Tie It Together

If you ask me, accessories are the icing on the cake. They elevate any look and make it more interesting. You can be wearing a simple look of jeans and a knit sweater, comfortable but pretty boring. Add a necklace, bracelet, belt and voila, things just got interesting.

While we’re on the subject of layering, we have to mention “winter friendly” accessories, as much as we don’t want to admit it, they have their place in the perfect winter outfit. My go-to winter accessories are a warm, versatile blanket scarf (my current fav is a b&w striped one from WHITESPACE GOODS) a slouchy beanie (I really love my thin-knit jersey one from Joe Fresh) a good pair of wool gloves, fleece mitts, or leather gloves are essential to keep your hands warm and ward off dry skin. A good pair of boots and a beautiful handbag finishes off the look.

Photo: Megan Cameron Photography
Layered up, and ready for the fall/winter weather.

Layer 4: BOOM Done

All that’s left to layer is your winter jacket and a pair of sunglasses! As for the jacket, I recommend having a variety of different jackets for different temperatures and conditions (I am all about jackets and handbags, can you tell?) if you must have me narrow down which jackets are essential, I recommend having a wool jacket, preferably in black (for work and dress-up occasions (I bought a black wool-cashmere jacket from Mackage over ten years ago, it cost me a lot and for a long time it was the most expensive item I owned, but I never regretted that purchase and I still wear it).

Next I suggest having a a warm, down-filled or poly-filled parka with hood (I just bought a pre-loved Canada Goose parka and it’s so warm, well-made and luxe, plus Canadian) and a quasi of the two (I found this amazing wool outer, teddy bear fleece lined anorak style jacket at Maison Simons in Montreal last year and it is the perfect all-around jacket. It’s long, has the anorak shape I love, zipper with added snap flap, warm, hooded, great pockets and stylish looking.)

The bottom line? Having options pays off in spades when it comes to coats. The same goes for sunglasses, have a variety of different colours and styles, your outfits can never be boring with the right eye wear. 

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Do you have any go-to moves when it comes to layering up for winter? Let us know in the comments!

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