A Stylist's Guide to Effortless Layering

A Stylist's Guide to Effortless Layering

November 7th, 2019
Madinah Ashamu

You’ve probably heard it before, from every fashionista you know. “I love fall”. I will say however, that I live for everything this season stands for. From the early sunsets, and the changing of the leaves to the first snowfall and outdoor skating rinks. I love it all. I know this puts me in the small minority of Canadians who actually look forward to our annual visit from Jack Frost. But what can I say, I am unique. 

One of my favourite things about these very festive months is the fashion. More specifically, I am inspired by the ways fashion seems to transform. Somehow it’s like everyone breaks out their very best. For me this season is synonymous with exploration and pushing boundaries. It’s the one time in the year where my personal approach to fashion “more is more” is met with excitement from everyone, rather than the usual caution to reel it in and edit down. I am constantly being asked by colleagues to consider whether something might be “too much”. For the record, my answer is most often a resounding “No”, but that’s a story for another day.

Fall fashion provides allowances for my natural flair for adding, pairing and most importantly, layering! These are elements of style that don’t always work well during other seasons. Layering, specifically, isn’t always a huge hit with clients in spring and summer, but during the fall it is definitely better received. For obvious reasons layering in the fall winter months just makes sense, functionally and from a styling perspective.

 But the subtleties of effortless layering can be a delicate skill to master. However, me being the girl who does her best to layer all year round I have picked up some great tips over the years. First of all when planning outfits remember to have fun. If you take away nothing else this is the unofficial take home point. Always have fun with your style.


Now, let’s jump right into it! 

My first tip is to consider how you want to layer. Basic layering for me has to answer one question before anything else. “Am I layering to trap warmth or do I want to look great without overheating?”. The answer to this question will determine which fabrics you work with, wool if you're worried about the cold, versus cotton if you know you’ll be indoors. 

Paris Fashion Week, Paul Jeong Hypebeast

In my experience the second option is the most common. For this I would opt for a lightweight material for the foundation layer then pair it with a bulkier, even oversized, more dramatic second and/or third layer. I think the best example of this can be a long sleeve t-shirt paired with a knit cardigan. Another great option would be to pair a longer turtleneck of even a dress with an oversized knit so that the foundation layer is still visible under the thicker layer. This adds dimension to the look without adding too much bulk. I would suggest this sort of look for a day that’s not too too cold. This type of layering is eye catching without adding too much warmth.

(Chloe Fall-Winter 2019) (Alberta Ferreti 2019) (ANAKIKI AW 2019)

My second tip after figuring out how you wish to layer, for warmth versus dimension, is to think about texture. There are many ways to add texture to your look. In my personal style i most often reach for prints especially Nigerian or african inspired textiles. But im aware those can be a bold statement for most people. Most of my clients prefer smaller pops of colour. So, if your personal style is more minimalist you can increase interest by pairing different types of materials. This will also add texture. Layers are a really fun way to play with faux furs, leathers, and suedes all in the same look. The key to an effortless look is to appear as though you've just placed things together at random because they belong together. I call that the illusion of ease. You want your layered outift to look like a set in some ways. Sticking to one color story while mixing media is the perfect way to achieve this. A monochromatic look that incorporates multiple textures looks incredibly polished.

(Karl Lagerfeld) (Chanel Fall 2018/19) (Most seen colour for fall 2019 Pistachio)

Now, my next tip involves dusting off some of those summer pieces we loved so much. This year fall/winter lines for 2019 were full of clothing typically reserved for spring/summer lines. Layering can be a great way to transition summer clothes into the colder months. This can help decrease the amount of clothes that become unwearable in the winter. Which to me is a plus because it means money stays in the bank with less items to buy to bulk up our winter wardrobes. Picking summer pieces that already compliment your fall wardrobe is simple way to execute this season-less trend, while still adding a little spice, flawlessly. See what I did there lol? This means holding on to those brightly coloured t shirts, and those short skirts and dresses, they’ll go perfectly with an oversized duster coat or layered atop your favourite turtle neck. Since not everyone is hip to this trend its a great way to layer a little differently than everyone else while still looking chic.

(Proenza Schouler 2019) (British Vogue 2019) (Kenzo Fall 2019)

My third tip is one that is a little more obvious. In the winter it can come naturally to add on a few more layers to try to stay warm during long commutes. But most often we just put them on because its functional but something as simple as rolling up the sleeves of the uppermost layer, allowing other layers to shine through, makes all the difference. It sounds simple I know. But the elements that make any outfit great have to be seen. What good is that great pattern underneath your sweater dress if we can’t see it? Popping up a collar, rolling up or pulling down a sleeve, wearing shirts differed in lengths or necklines are little details we should all focus on more. Even your socks can help to elevate your look if you give them enough attention.

sleeves can be rolled up or folded

Once you have determined the function of your layers, incorporated multiple textures, or held onto that summer dress, my next and final tip would be not to be afraid to layer pieces typically seen as outerwear. Put a coat on a coat on a jacket . Sometimes your favourite trench would look great paired with a knit scarf or a poncho on top. Sometimes a pop of leather underneath your favourite coat will help to take your look all the way there. A bonus benefit is that on incredibly cold days having more than one coat comes in handy. 

(Alberta Ferreti Fall 2019) (Max Mara 2019)

I do specifically enjoy the way the streets come alive with all sorts of funky and inspired layered combinations. I look forward to seeing all of you stepping out to own these streets. Be confident, be wonderful and be warm. I hope some of these tips helped. Go our and run the world ladies.

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