Layering isn’t just a way to stay warm – although it can be of course. But it’s also a way to make a style statement. However, layering can be tricky as you can add unwanted bulk. Let’s take a look at why you might want to layer and how to layer your clothes to create the most flattering effect.

You can use layering in so many different ways – to make yourself look taller, slimmer, or hide any parts of your body that you aren’t so confident about.

Reasons to layer your clothes

You can reinvigorate your wardrobe

Layering your clothes can be the perfect way to reinvigorate your wardrobe. By layering, you can create countless new looks from your existing wardrobe.

You can make yourself look taller and slimmer

You don’t have to look taller and slimmer, of course. But if there are days when you want to, using long layers can create an elongating, lengthening effect which can create the illusion of height.

You’ll find more tips in this article on how to look taller and slimmer.

You can wear your warm weather clothes for longer

If you have a favorite summer dress, you don’t need to stop wearing it when the weather cools down. You can just add a few layers to make sure you stay cozy and warm.

Layering is bang-on-trend right now

There were plenty of layered looks on the runways for spring and summer 2021. Here are just a few of them (below).

Runway layering looks |

Michael KorsAdeamMax Mara

How to layer clothes

Now that you’re thinking about why you might want to layer, let’s take a look at how to layer effectively and with style.

1. Play around with proportions

Stella Carakasi Days Like This cropped sweater |

Stella Carakasi Days Like This cropped sweater (similar here)

Layering is a way to add fun and maybe a touch of the unexpected to your wardrobe. You can add a shorter, boxier sweater over a traditional white shirt, for example.

2. Focus on your fabrics

How to layer your clothes like a pro |

A good way to ensure that your layered outfit looks “right” is to use different materials for your layering. So you may add a wool vest or sweater over a cotton shirt.

Kim (above) uses different textures in her outfit, and finishes off her look with a pair of net shoes.

Get her look with this similar shirt, sleeveless top, wide leg pants, slingback pumps and earrings.

How to layer clothes - vest over shirt |

CURRENT AIR metallic sweater tankRails cotton shirtWit & Wisdom bootcut jeansTory Burch sneakersKurt Geiger London quilted shoulder bagAdina’s Jewels twisted hoop earrings

3. Try a dress over pants

How to layer clothes - Nikki wears a shirt dress over jeans |

I’m a big fan of wearing dresses over pants, and plenty of the big-name designers showcased this look in their shoes for the upcoming season.

Nikki (above) looks fabulous in her long, white shirt dress worn over skinny jeans.

Recreate her outfit with this similar shirtdress, jeans, espadrille sandals and handbag.

Wearing a dress over pants |

Halogen tie waist shirtdressPAIGE raw hem ankle jeansCecelia New York peep toe bootieKurt Geiger London leather toteChristina Greene cuff braceletChristina Greene drop earrings

For more inspiration, take a look at how to wear tunics and short dresses over pants.

4. You don’t have to stick to traditional layering techniques

Layering looks on the catwalks |

Victoria Beckham

Yes, it might be usual to pop your sweater over your shirt – but how about doing it the other way around? You can see above that Victoria Beckham created a whole collection around the concept of wearing a shirt over a sweater.

5. A black roll neck goes under everything

How to layer clothes - Patricia layers her knitwear |

When thinking about the essentials you need in your wardrobe, a black rollneck is always useful as you can wear it under pretty much everything.

Patricia (above) shows how you can layer your knitwear for extra warmth and to create a different look. She wears her black rollneck under her crewneck sweater.

Check out this similar turtleneck top, long sleeve top, jeans, flats, handbag, necklace, belt and sunglasses.

Layering a turtleneck under a dress |

Vince Camuto floral puff sleeve dressL’AGENCE turtleneck topVagabond Shoemakers knee high bootKurt Geiger London quilted shoulder bagTory Burch stud earrings

6. Wear a shorter coat over a longer top

Beth wears a denim jacket over her t-shirt |

Often you may wear a coat that is a little longer than your top or dress. However, wearing a shorter jacket over a longer top is a good way to play with the proportions of your outfit.

This can also be a good technique for hiding a belly because the different lengths can help to disguise areas of your body you may not feel so confident about.

Beth (above) wears a shorter denim jacket over her long white t-shirt.

Get her outfit with this similar longline shirt, denim jacket, printed pants, sneakers

Wearing a shorter jacket over a longer top |

Sam Edelman leather bomber jacketTheory tunic topAG skinny jeansTory Burch sneakersKurt Geiger London leather toteMissoni wool blend scarf

7. A long vest is a layering staple

Petra wears a long vest |

A long sleeveless vest is a fantastic way to layer at any time of year, but it’s a particularly useful piece of clothing during spring and summer when you may want to add a layer without adding too much additional warmth.

Petra (above) opts for knitted coordinates and accessorizes with a Bottega Veneta crossbody bag

Check out this similar blouse, cardigan vest, pants, boots and sunglasses.

Layering a sleeveless vest over your outfit |

MBJ vest cardiganRails cotton shirtPAIGE raw hem ankle jeansGentle Souls wedge sandalKurt Geiger London leather totePanacea pendant triple layer necklace

8. create long lean lines

How to layer clothes - Laura wears a long cardigan |

A long cardigan is a beautiful way to create, long, lean lines in your outfit.

Laura (above) coordinates her navy cardigan with the trim on her lace top.

Steal her look with this similar printed lace trim top, cardigan, jeans, booties, crossbody bag and bracelets.

Long cardigan outfit |

MBJ open front long cardiganLock and Love slim T-shirtPAIGE raw hem ankle jeansFranco Sarto ballet flatFashionPuzzle tassel crossbody bagKendra Scott long pendant necklace

9. Leave your shirt tails hanging out

How to layer clothes - Vanessa wears her sweater over her shirt |

If you’re going to layer, then make sure your layers show. Rather than tuck your shirt into your pants and then layer your sweater over, leave your shirt tails out for a modern look.

Vanessa (above) wears her sweater over her shirt and adds a touch of biker chic to her outfit with her chunky boots.

Recreate her outfit with this similar shirt, sweater, jeans, lace-up boots and clutch.

Sweater, shirt and jeans outfit |

ZAFUL criss cross twisted back knit crop sweaterRails cotton shirtAG skinny jeansrag & bone Chelsea bootKurt Geiger London quilted shoulder bagAdina’s Jewels twisted hoop earrings

10. Layer your knits

How to layer clothes - Alexis layers her poncho over her shirt |

Layering your knitwear can add enough warmth so that you don’t need a coat.

Alexis (above) wears her poncho over a striped shirt, but you could also wear with a turtleneck sweater.

Recreate her outfit with this similar striped shirt, poncho, pants, flats and clutch.

Poncho, sweater and jeans outfit |

PULI knit ponchoL’AGENCE turtleneck topAG skinny jeansVagabond Shoemakers knee high bootKurt Geiger London leather toteAdina’s Jewels twisted hoop earrings

11. Double your outerwear

How to layer clothes - Patricia wears a long sleeveless coat with her jeans |

You can wear two coats together to create a warm and edgy look. I’ve seen the double-coat look on the catwalks, on Instagram and on city streets.

You could wear a moto jacket under a longer coat. Leave the collar of your moto over the collar of your wool coat.

Patricia (above) shows off another layering technique by layering a sweater over her shirt, and then adding a long, padded vest.

Check out this similar shirt, vest, puffer coat, jeans, boots, shoulder bag and sunglasses.

Wearing two coats outfit |

AllSaints leather biker jacketChartou oversize plaid jacketTreasure & Bond classic shirtWit & Wisdom bootcut jeansrag & bone Chelsea bootNordstrom leather crossbody bagTory Burch stud earrings

12. Wear a belt over everything

How to layer clothes - wear a belt |

A belt is really useful for creating different looks with your layering. If you feel an outfit is looking a little shapeless or too bulky, try cinching a belt over everything and see if that is more flattering.

Belts of all thicknesses were major accessory trends for spring 2021, and there are more tips in this article on how to wear a belt.

Monika (above) wears a belt over her coat.

Recreate her outfit with this similar mock neck top, coat, belt, pants, pumps and handbag.

Belts to layer your outfits with |

Tory Burch leather beltMadewell woven beltHalogen double ring leather beltIsabel Marant reversible leather belt

13. throw on a scarf

How to layer clothes - Annette wears a yellow and navy outfit |

A scarf is another good wardrobe staple to add as a layer to any outfit. It can disguise a tummy, add interest and tie in the colors of your outfit.

Annette (above) wears a scarf which combines the blues of her sweater and boots with the yellow of her coat.

Steal her look with this similar long sleeve top, coat, pants, booties and scarf.

Scarves for layering |

Nordstrom eyelash trim print cashmere & silk wrapBarbour tartan scarfNordstrom tissue weight wool & cashmere scarfAllSaints patchwork scarf

14. choose a ready layered outfit

An easy way to layer is to choose a top, dress or jumpsuit that already features layering, such as the Karen Kane layered hem top (below).

Karen Kane layered hem top |

Karen Kane layered hem top

15. Don’t wear too many bulky items together

If you’re layering you’re likely to want to stay warm and perhaps create a long, slimline look. It’s unlikely that you want to create added width. So, be sure to keep your outfits in proportion when thinking about how to layer clothes, using the tips above rather than adding too many bulky layers.


A capsule wardrobe on how to layer like a pro |

Do you already layer your clothes day-to-day. What are your best tips on how to layer clothes for the most flattering effect?

Continue reading:

  1. 14 Sure-Fire Ways To Hide Your Belly With The Right Clothes
  2. How To Wear A Cardigan Without Looking Frumpy: 11 Cardigan Outfits For You To Try
  3. How To Wear Asymmetrical Clothing – Asymmetric Dresses And Tops To Fall In Love With

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How to layer your clothes like a pro |

Feature image by Kim


Sylvia is 40+style’s editor-in-chief and has been helping women find their unique style since 2011. An alumni of the School of Color and Design, she is devoted to empowering women of any age to look and feel their best. Read more about Sylvia and 40+style on this page.

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