How to Take Basic Outfits from Simple to Stunning Part 3: Layers

How To Wear Comfortable and Chic Layers

Welcome back to our series about dressing comfortable and stylish. How do you marry the two things we’re craving the most after the most bizarre year and a half? We’re ready to get out again and get dressed, but we can’t forget how good it felt to live in pajamas. I’m here to tell you that you can have the best of both worlds. We’ve already talked about tops and bottoms, and today I want to talk to you about comfortable and chic layers.

Tis the season to be freezin’, and many of us gratefully layer up to keep warm, but it also adds interest to our outfits! To keep it comfortable and chic, there are some things to consider when looking for layers.

This article and the video below are taken from the Stunning Style Weekly Style Snack! Join us Wednesdays at 1pm ET on the Stunning Style Facebook page or the FREE Capsule Wardrobes for Classic Style Facebook Group.

Check the Weather

Whenever I leave the house, I worry that I will be cold, so I check the weather about ten times, and then I think about what the temperature will be like inside as well. Even though the temperatures have dipped, my 8-year-old has been insisting on wearing short sleeves and thin leggings to school, but she will take a coat.

A couple of weeks ago I put on a thick sweater and added a jacket to go volunteer in her classroom. As I walked down the hall to her classroom, I wondered why so many kids were in shorts and short sleeves until…I walked into the classroom. It was swimsuit weather in there! Add a bunch of bodies and the humid climate and it was a sauna!

The jacket came off immediately, but I couldn’t shed that sweater without being escorted off the property and banned for life (but I did consider it).

The other moms were in long sleeve tees, and they were fanning themselves and getting red-faced, too. All I could do was push up my sleeves and mop my brow for 1.5 hours. And now I know why my daughter layers because she can keep warm at the bus stop, but she can peel that coat off once she arrives in her class.

Likewise, you don’t want to wear something that’s not warm enough and freeze. Chattering teeth and blue extremities also aren’t fun or our best look.

Does your layer need to be waterproof? There are a shocking number of raincoats out there that aren’t. What about breathable?

Vests are a great layering option. And one you don’t have to take off, because it doesn’t restrict your arms, but it’s removable when you need to.

Make Room for More

Get the right size so there is enough room in there for your other clothes, and keep in mind what those will be. I look for different sizing and fit for my layers in the spring and fall than I do in the winter. Will you be layering over a big, thick, or oversized sweater? Any other tops underneath those? Check that it’s roomy without being bulky.

With new technology you can have a lot of warmth without the bulk.

April from Stunning Style wearing a navy layer with a striped skirt.
April from Stunning Style wearing a navy coat with leopard print bag.
April from Stunning Style wearing a navy layer with patterned top.

It’s not just about the body of the coat or jacket though. Some layers are cut to be super narrow and fitted, and more than a thin tee may not comfortably fit in there. Can you get your arms and your outfit into the layer? Can you use your arms in a reasonable range of motion? Can you feel your arms, or have you lost all circulation once you put the jacket over a sweater? Are the armholes big enough for you and your clothes?

This goes for cardigans, coats, and jackets. Some of my cardigans can be layered over thin sweaters because the arms and armholes are roomier, and others…it’s not happening.

April from Stunning Style wearing a comfortable layer over her stylish outfit.
April from Stunning Style wearing a comfortable layer over her stylish outfit.

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Don’t Forget to Stretch

Let’s start with the obvious option: cardigans. Layering a cardigan over a t-shirt or even another sweater is a great way to add interest to your outfit. it’s also a great way to keep warm as the temperatures drop, or if you’re cold inside too.

They come in every length, material, thickness, weave, and style imaginable. I’ve finally figured out the cardigans I like, and I went from zero to 15 cardigans this year. They are stashed all over the house because I wear them constantly.

If you want stretch, is a cardigan the only option? Nope. Even some leather is stretchy. When we talked about pants I shared my undying love of Lycra, and it’s also being used in items like wool coats and blazers, so they come with some stretch now.

A lot of jacket styles come in knits or have knit panels on the sides and under the arms. Leather jackets with sweater arms are the best of both worlds.

Live Your Life

Yes, we want to look great and be comfortable, and in order to keep our things looking nice, it’s important to consider what our lives are actually like. Where are you going to wear this and what will you usually be doing? Are you likely to get dirty? Is it machine washable? Will it snag easily?

I’ve had this sleek down jacket for a few years, and I love it because it’s comfortable, packable, has a nice fit, and it’s wipeable if something gets on it. It doesn’t have to be this exact material, but some jackets, they have that water resistance or waterproof, which means it will be easier to clean. 

Think about the material. Will it snag or scratch easily? Some cardigans snag easily and others are more durable. Some leathers are more delicate than others.

What about the color? If it’s a light color, will it likely get stained? Is it easy to put on and take off? Or do you require assistance? Is it long enough to cover what you need and short enough not to catch or drag on anything?

What’s appropriate for the occasion? Are you going somewhere casual or dressy?

April from Stunning Style wearing a blue dress and grey fur lined cardigan.
April from Stunning Style wearing a black puffer coat.

I Have a Lot of Feelings

How your layers feel against your skin can matter A LOT. Even when you are bundled up, that material is going to make contact with your skin somewhere. Is it itchy? Scratchy? Does it shed?

And then there is how we feel about it when we wear it. I love this cardigan, but every time I look down at my forearms, I see the abominable snowman. Some days I can handle it and some days…I can’t

April from Stunning Style wearing a comfortable layer over her stylish outfit.

Add Your Twist

I’m all about function first, but that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice fashion. Anything that looks fabulous will automatically feel more fabulous. When it’s so YOU, you’ll reach for it over and over and over again. Look for the details that make it perfect for you.

Is it a color you love? A pattern? Buttons? Zippers? Specific materials?

These are all things I factor in when shopping for the Classic Wardrobe Guides, so you don’t have to figure it out!

April from Stunning Style wearing a comfortable layer over her stylish outfit.

3 thoughts on “How to Take Basic Outfits from Simple to Stunning Part 3: Layers”

    1. va@stunningstyle.com

      Hi Anne, the link to this coat was included in one of April’s Seasonal Wardrobe Guides, which are for subscribed members of the Stunning Style Society. If you’d like to learn more about the Society you can do so here: https://stunningstyle.com/society

      Doors to join the Society for the winter season are closing soon!

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