The secret to layering your clothes and still look stylish (without adding bulk)

The secret to help you stay warm in the colder months is to successfully layer your clothes. Wearing lots of fine, thin layers, rather than one thick item of clothing is a smarter way to keep warm, whilst still looking stylish.

The cold weather doesn’t have to mean boring, frumpy or functional. Nothing wrong with that by the way – I love my giant puffer, duvet style winter coat! But, practicality speaking, I can’t really sit in it all day. Learn to master the basics instead.

I’ve recorded a 3 minute video which you can watch on my YouTube channel here. Below, I’ll explain the details and how to layer successfully.

Layer one – the base layer

For most of us, everyday life is being at home, work or being outdoors. It’s not trekking across Antartica. So adding lots of thin, fine layers is as simple as it gets. You don’t have to spend a fortune on fancy, expensive gear – unless you think you’ll get the use out of it of course.

This base layer is the first layer of protection which sits closest to your skin, so it’s better to be thin and fine as it’s the foundation to which you’ll build your further layers.

Think vests, t shirts and long sleeved t shirts. What I tend to do is actually have a long sleeved t shirt underneath a jumper. If I’m feeling particularly chilly, I might have a vest underneath it or a t shirt underneath. Because they’re thin, I can layer them and not add too much bulk to my frame. I use my summer items (vests, t-shirts) underneath my winter woollies so I get more use of out my basic, core items. Many of these I’ve had for years too!

Merino wool is probably one of the best (if you can’t afford cashmere!) due to its insulating and breathable qualities. It helps regulate body temperature, wicks away moisture, and if you sweat, you won’t be left feeling wet, stinky or clammy!

An unlikely consideration is silk which is one of the softest fabrics you’ll ever wear which is great all season round. It’s lightweight, hypoallergenic, and a natural insulator – a silk vest will be great.

You’ll read a lot in terms of outdoor wear that actually cotton is one of the worst. But actually, if you’ve got a cotton and polyester blend, which I think a lot of my long sleeve tops are, you’ll be absolutely fine for sitting in the house and popping to the shops. These blends are very popular and cost-effective options.

Layer two – the mid layer

Adding this extra layer of insulation acts as a barrier to the cold whilst retaining your body heat. It’s the middle layer between your base layer and your outer-wear.

Depending how many layers you’re going to have as a base layer, just think this layer is about what’s being worn on top of your base layer. Most likely; a jumper, sweatshirt, hoodies, cardigan or fleece, but could also be a shirt and then a jumper.

Consider the thickness of the fabric in the garments here. The thicker the fabric, the finer and thinner your layers underneath are better off being. If you had a fine knit jumper here, it will mean you can add another layer over the top if you need it.

Layer three – the outer layer

Your outer layer is about protecting you from the elements outside. You’ll know from coats you’ve owned in the past how effective they are against the wind, snow, rain, or ice! To help you stay dry, your coat will need to be be both waterproof and breathable. Water resistant options are cheaper but be aware that they will not protect you from torrential rain or being out in the rain a long time. Make sure you’ve got enough layers to protect you should the rain soak through.


Whilst these layers play a vital role in keeping your body warm, pay close attention to your head, face, hands, and feet too.

Hats, mittens, gloves, scarves, socks and waterproof footwear are all worthy considerations! Merino and cashmere accessories are much cheaper to buy and will work wonders at helping to keep you warm. I’ve raved previously about my cashmere fingerless gloves and would highly recommend.

Keeping your feet warm is a vital part of retaining body heat and staying comfortable in colder temperatures. So consider cashmere socks or foot insoles to keep your feet warm and toasty with waterproof footwear for outside.

Your style

For ease of demonstration, I’ve talked about tops but you can also have base layer bottoms too.

Aside from the practicality of staying warm, layering your clothes is also a clever way to add interest or colour to your outfit. It’s something I’ve covered previously in this blog but if you’re struggling with any aspect, do get in touch:

Secrets to layering, staying warm and looking stylish

Aside from the practicality of staying warm (heat the person not the home as Martin Lewis says), you can use layering to add interest as well as colour to your outfit.

It’s a very clever way of instantly looking more pulled together! It can also improve your £’s per wear on your clothes and help you get more wear out of what you already have in your wardrobe.

In the real world, it can feel tricky to pull off without feeling like Joey from Friends (the one where he wears all of Chandler’s clothes!)

Here’s my seven tips to help:

1. Choose fine, thin garments as layers

This avoids adding unnecessary bulk to your frame. Plus, it means you can add more layers if you need them.

As an example, think a top, jumper, with a blazer and a scarf.

2. Select your fabric wisely

Unsurprisingly, wool is a great insulator so a must for winter. In case you didn’t know; wool will keep you warm even when wet! Wool also comes from different sources and thickness. So, Herdwick sheep’s wool tends to be thicker and more course compared to merino sheep wool which tends to be finer (and therefore less irritating).

Cashmere is another fab choice but is not sourced from sheep so it is different to wool. It can be expensive, so if your budget doesn’t stretch, consider it in your accessories. I love my Turtle Doves cashmere fingerless gloves (featured below) which help to keep my hands and wrists warm.

turtle dove gloves

Synthetic fibres aren’t breathable which means they trap heat in. Polyester, nylon and non-wool fleeces are examples of such fabric. Use them as an outer layer rather than as a base.

Silk adjusts to your body temperature and works in both hot and cold months. Makes it a great choice for increasing your £’s per wear and wearing items all year round.

3. Add interest to your outfit using colour

There are lots of ways to wear colour (which you learn during a colour consultation) but here’s two ways.

Wear them tonally and in the same colour group (ie blues together, greens together etc.)

Or, wear them contrasting (ie a light and a dark colour). You can see the example below.

tonal vs contrast

If you’ve had your colours done and you’re interested in an advanced colour session, be sure to register your interest here in colour analysis.

4. Wear different textures

Fabric will look and feel different depending upon the material. Using different textures in your outfit can add an element of luxury or interest. Try a cashmere jumper with denim jeans, a tweed jacket, leather boots and a silk scarf.

5. Be clever with your colours

Use them to colour block and take attention away from any problem areas you feel you have. So, if you’re conscious of an area, avoid wearing a light colour there as it can highlight it instead.

If you’re bigger busted, stick to lighter or brighter colours below the waist instead to draw the eyes and attention away from this area. You can also use print to detract attention though see point 6 below.

Those with an inverted triangle shape, wearing a short puffy jacket and chunky knit scarf will simply emphasise your top half with bulky layers. Instead consider elongating your height by wearing a longer line coat. By contrast, someone with a triangle or pear shape will find that layering on their top half will visually balance out their figure instead.

6. Finishing points like hems

Hems and edges which finish at narrow parts of your body will be much more flattering. Think sleeves ending at the wrists or just above. Hems on jackets finishing at your waist if you have a narrow, clearly defined one.

A horizontal line (even a stripe) which falls across your widest part like hips, bottom, thighs or shoulders can emphasise this if it’s one of your widest points of your body.

7. Strike a pose!

Whatever your shape, the best and easiest way to check if your outfit is causing you to look visually imbalanced or putting your proportions out is to take a picture. Ideally in a full length mirror, then check and see if visually, you are balanced and in proportion or out of proportion.


Here’s an example of layering:

Base layer: camisole, vest or thermal top
Second layer: a top, blouse, shirt or fine knit jumper
Third layer: blazer, cardigan or shacket
Fourth layer: gillet, coat*, jacket, poncho

*Finally, on the subject of coats, they are often one of your most expensive pieces. Revisit this video on choosing a winter coat where I share some coats from my own wardrobe and why they work to help inspire you.

If you'd like to know more about what suits you, book my colour and style consultations.

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