Layering is an art, but it doesn’t have to be complex. While we here at H|M specialize in suits and more formal wear, we want to be a resource for you no matter what you’re wearing. So today we’re going to discuss the art of layering. Here’s how to achieve a comfortable, versatile style that looks as great as it feels. Layering is most beneficial in Spring and Fall, when different parts of the day can vary in temperature. In such weather, layering allows you to stay comfortable all day long, while still looking great.
There are three main rules you want to follow, which we will discuss below. We include some tips and tricks to make sure that all the individual pieces of your outfit work. Specifically, we want to make sure the pieces work for you and work together. Before we get into that, though, let’s talk about the different layers that make up a put-together layered look.
Shop The Look
Layering 101: The Different Layers
Layering Formal Shirts
For your shirt layer, a dress shirt is always a good bet. It’s definitely the most commonly used shirt layer, especially in more formal settings. But dress shirts are also not your only option. Polos and Henleys are common as well, depending on if you want to go more sporty or more casual.
Layering Casual Shirts
Optional: Shell Layer
Depending on the weather where you are, you can use an optional shell layer, which serves more as a function piece. For instance, a thin, weather-proof raincoat is a good example of a shell layer.
If you’ve gone quite simple with your look and you still want to add another layer of style, consider accent pieces. Accent layers like hats, scarves, gloves, or jewelry can add a lot of style if done correctly. A well-made watch is a stand out piece against a custom suit. However , if you already have some very bright colors or complex patterns, avoid any extraneous pieces. If your look does have bright or complex patterns, keep accents on the subtle side. As a general rule, you want your clothing to do most of the work for you. That is, let your accent pieces be small touches that give just a bit more panache to your look.
Some Rules on Layering
Rule #1: Patterns should be scaled by intensity
In order to have a cohesive look, avoid having patterns or fabrics of different intensities on randomly placed layers. You want to make your patterns progressive: lightest to strongest. There is no hard set rule on whether light goes on the inside or the outside – you can wear it either way. Make sure that no matter which layer your light pattern goes, the farthest layer from it has the strongest pattern, with medium intensity patterns going in the middle.
For example, if you’re wearing a solid color shirt in a more neutral hue, you will want your outer layer to be either a brighter color or a pattern other than solid. In the middle, you could use a slightly brighter hue of the shirt’s color, so that your look gets progressively more bold, from the inner to the outer layers.
Rule #2: Use one or two bright colors as accents
This rule is quite simple: part of the art of layering is learning how to balance. Having a bright color for every layer will look loud and obnoxious. You can absolutely use bright colors when layering, but keep it to one or two of these shades and keep everything else more neutral.
Rule #3: Each visible layer should be something you can wear on its own
The core purpose of layering is to allow the wearer to shed or don the layers throughout the day to maximize comfort. Because of this, you don’t want any of your layers to be something you wouldn’t wear on its own. That’s because if you decide you don’t want that layer shown because you don’t like the way it looks by itself, it defeats the purpose. When putting on a layered outfit, stop in front of your mirror after you’ve put on each layer, analyze the look, and determine if you would feel comfortable going out in the look as it is just then. Once you’ve determined it works, add another layer, then stop again and survey the look. Do this until you have your last layer on and take one last look. Make sure everything looks great all together, and then you are ready to go tackle the day.