How to Wear Winter Layers With Style

winter layers

Other animals literally grow a winter coat to hibernate and survive the winter. Unfortunately for humans, while we may put on a few cold weather pounds, they don’t double as outerwear. Thus, we pile on the clothes — which may make you feel more like a linebacker than a style sophisticate. But it is possible to shun those bulky, frumpy layers and stay both sleek and warm. Here’s how to cover up from head to toe.

Cover Up in Style

Cover Up in Style

Other animals literally grow a winter coat to hibernate and survive the winter. Unfortunately for humans, while we may put on a few cold weather pounds, they don’t double as outerwear. Thus, we pile on the clothes — which may make you feel more like a linebacker than a style sophisticate. But it is possible to shun those bulky, frumpy layers and stay both sleek and warm. Here’s how to cover up from head to toe.

Wrap Your Neck

Wrap Your Neck

If you target specific body parts, you’ll be surprised how quickly the rest of your body heats up. Wrapping your neck is a stylish way to create some heat indoors and out. Circle (or “infinity”) scarves are particularly tidy, no fuss options. There are no long tails to drop in your food, nor do you have to worry about how it’s tied. And it’s equal parts body warmer and accessory: Just put it on to pull together an entire outfit. If you do go the traditional long scarf route, study these 50 ways to tie a scarf and wrap with confidence.

Try this: Cashmere Infinity Scarf, $78, in grey

Warm Your Core

Warm Your Core

Keeping your core cozy is crucial for total body warmth. When your vital organs are warm enough, warm blood is able to travel to your extremities. When your core isn’t warm enough, your fingers and toes start to suffer. But when you’re talking about the layer of clothing that touches the body, softness is as important as warmth.

Merino wool is naturally moisture-wicking, making it a great base layer. Look for a tank blended with silk for extra comfort and softness, like the Hocosa wool-silk cami. (It’s worth spending a little more on a quality tank you can wear under everything this winter, especially when it’s going to be touching your skin so frequently.)

Try this: Hocosa of Switzerland Wool-Silk Camisette, $58

Shrink Your Sweater

Shrink Your Sweater

Ok, so don’t actually shrink it — but purchasing sweaters that fit cleanly to the body will significantly diminish the frumpiness factor. A sweater that hits right at the waist can still provide plenty of warmth, without the bulk. And if you can find one with pockets (like this fitted fisherman’s sweater), your hands will thank you, too!

Try this: J.Crew Cable-Knit Pocket Sweater, $118

Belt Your Sweater or Coat

Belt Your Sweater or Coat

Long sweaters are the easiest way to wrap up and warm up — but most of them slip into bathrobe territory, making it look like you’re wearing a blanket (a look that says “popcorn and a movie,” not powerful professional). That doesn’t mean you have to forgo your long cashmere sweater coats, however. Create some shape by adding a sophisticated belt at your waist, over the sweater. Changing the silhouette allows you to keep the coziness, while adding a bit of polish. And don’t be afraid to belt your long outerwear, as well. Cinching your waist is a quick way to feel feminine, even when it’s freezing.

Try these: Cecile Solid Cashmere Wrap, $198.50
Anthropologie Deco Buckle Belt, $38

Wear a Little (Faux) Fur

Wear a Little (Faux) Fur

Fur is one of the oldest forms of clothing — and whether you’re into the real stuff or prefer fake fur, it promises to add a dash of luxury and a whole lot of heat. Extravagant stoles or long fur coats can be hard to pull off for everyday wear, but a fitted vest is a smart look for both day and night. Pair it with a fitted t-shirt or turtleneck for body-conscious warmth.

Try these: Calvin Klein Women's Faux Fur Sweater Vest, $113.65, in dark taupe
Calvin Klein Layering Tee, $32

Cover Your Legs

Cover Your Legs

Just because the temperature drops doesn’t mean you have to retire your skirts and dresses until the spring. One of the best parts of winter dressing is hosiery. Even if the rest of your body is shapeless, an articulated leg demands attention and is the perfect canvas for a bit of affordable flair. Sign up for a monthly hosiery delivery and collect a variety of work-appropriate stockings sure to perk up your winter wardrobe. Or, for particularly frigid days, proudly showcase winter legs by investing in some fleece-lined tights, or layer your hosiery with thin wool knee socks and pair with tall boots.

Try these: Pretty Pointelle Tights, $24
Plush Fleece-Lined Tights, $35, in grey
Madewell Over-the-Knee Ribbed Socks, $17.50

Trap Heat

Trap Heat

Long underwear is perhaps the most cliche way of layering up for the winter. But let’s be clear: Today’s base layering options are not your grandmother’s long underwear. They’re sleek, seamless and stylish enough to wear under your clothes or alone. Some, like the SmartWool varieties, are also antimicrobial (fewer germs = less odor) and offer UV protection. Layer it with tall riding boots and a quilted vest for bulk-free chicness.

Try these: Duofold Thermal Pant, $35.83, and Duofold Snug Fit Shirt, $33.75
Corso Como Over the Knee Riding Boot, $166.79
J.Crew Quilted Vest, $120

Thinly Veil Your Skin

Thinly Veil Your Skin

Going out at night or dressing for more formal occasions can be a challenge in the winter. Sometimes you want to go bare, but the temperature may not cooperate. A light layer can be just enough to hold in heat and minimize skin exposure, while still feeling dressed up. Look for formal tops that still add a thin layer of warmth with sheer fabrics — and all the better if they also have a little sparkly embellishment.

Try this: Anthropologie Laceglow Buttondown, $88

Anna Akbari, Ph.D. is the founder of Sociology of Style (formerly Closet Catharsis), her wardrobe and image consulting company, where she is the "thinking person's stylist." Find out more and follow her on Twitter.

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