1. Style
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

How to Layer Clothing

Learn about each layer and how to maximize your winter style.


Actress Nathalie Sesena
how to layer clothes

If you haven't been much into layering, get in front of the mirror for a little cami+sweater+scarf snow day experimentation. You might just come up with some new combinations that create new looks for winter without altering the clothes at all.

Here is a cheat sheet for layering style:

Absolute Inside Layers:
With the inner-most layers, remember that the goal isn't really to hide them, (unless you're simply going for maximum warmth). Long inner layers can show under hem of the bulkier sweaters to define your hips and add a pop of color. The straps on these can also show off your shoulders through a wide-collared sweater.

  • Camisole - Try something with a pattern. Lacey camisoles suggest that your underwear is showing.


  • Tube Top - Tube tops leave a lot of neckline for scarves and necklaces later. Short tube tops will show some stomach, but, remember, we're layering, so that can be covered later. (Tutorial: Make a Tube Top from a T-Shirt)


  • Tank Top - A take top with a v-neck or scoop neck is a good option for a close-fitting scarf and cardigan. Long tank tops also look great under deconstructed and oversized, lopsided sweaters. (Tutorial: Turn a T-Shirt into a Tank Top)


  • A Bold Bra - Wearing a brightly colored bra can work without looking like a street walker. Paired with a lot of fine layers on top, it's a risky look that can go over big when done right.
Mid-Inside Layers:
The middle-inside layers should immediately hide anything you don't want to show underneath. Inner-most layers can add color, but might also leave too much showing.
  • Distressed T-Shirt - A distressed t-shirt is often thinned out and might even have peek-a-boo holes. It's a good look if you've put on a patterned camisole or tight tank underneath.


  • Fitted T-Shirt - This one can also be worn as an inner-most layer, but if the neckline dips farther than that of your cami, you've got layers going already.


  • Thin Tank Top - Worn over a cami or a bold-colored bra, a loose tank top can add body to your look while shrouding the bare parts.
Middle Layers:
These are often the 'main' pieces that cover a lot of area and make up the bulk of the look. The goal is not to hide the layers underneath, but to show off your skill for pairing pieces.
  • Button-Down Blouse - I love the look of a button-down blouse open at least to the waist over previous layers. If you have some businessy blouses that you didn't know what to do with before, try wearing them open as a middle layer.


  • Deep-V Blouse - These are usually a jersey or otherwise stretch knit that is made just for layering over tight inner layers. The neckline dips all the way to the waist, sometimes there is even extra material to tie it in the front.


  • Oversized Sweater - Since the 80's, these often off-the-shoulder oversized sweaters have made a tasteful comeback. Tug it in one direction to show off a camisole or tank strap. Try one that is cropped short so that your previous layers show at the the hips.


  • Destroyed Sweater - Buy these new, or pick them apart yourself. A destroyed sweater has intentional holes so that the wearer can show off some serious layers underneath. It's a good way to add edge to a softer look. (Make it: How to Destroy a Sweater)


  • Loose-Knit Sweater - Along the lines of the destroyed sweater, this allows under-layers to show through. If you go for a long sweater that hides the hems of your previous layers, make sure the neck is at least wide or off-the-shoulder.
Mid-Top Layers
Totally optional, these are little after-thoughts that can be added if you decided not to go with a middle layer. They're also a great transition during Fall and Spring weather, when you don't need a lot of coverage, but want to wear more than just a t-shirt.
  • Long Sweater Vests - Long sweater vests are one of my personal favorites, because I can throw one on over a t-shirt to look a little more put-together before walking out the door. Have a couple on-hand in neutral colors to quickly dress up your look. They are sturdy enough to put pins in to add that PTA mom status.


  • Skinny Vests - Vests made out of a lighter material are often almost not there. These can be wispy hints of color that don't close in the front, hanging at the arms to add more dimension to your look.


  • Short Wraps - Snugly fitting and cropped high at the ribs, these tops are tight wraps that are often knit or even made of faux animal fur for a Hollywood look. (Tutorial: Turn a Button-Down Shirt into a Short Wrap)
Top Layers
These are the bells & whistles of your look. A neutral outfit can shine with a boldly colored scarf, and necklaces can work to break up a bulky sweater.
  • Scarves - The right scarf can change up the whole outfit. Try skinny scarves with bulky sweaters, and thicker scarves if you're already wearing a romantic, wispy look. (Tutorial: Easy Scarves to Make)


  • Necklaces - Just like scarves, necklaces can add a lot of busy noise to an outfit that may otherwise fall flat. If you are going simple on the layers (t-shirt, vest, sweater, for example) top it with a few strands of coordinating necklaces. Try long sets of pearls or chains if your neckline is scooped or a close V. If you've got a lower neckline on your outfit, try something that will make a statement and fill the space. A pendant that lands just below your collar bone, or a group of beaded chokers would look great. Play around in the jewelry box and see what you can come up with. (Try these: Easy Neckalce Projects)


  • Button-Down Sweater - Just like mom said, don't forget your sweater! If you've already got on a sweater vest or wrap, this is probably over-doing it. With a T-Shirt and a few scarves, however, a nice sweater can do the trick to gussy up your look.


  • Arm Warmers - A pair of short knit arm warmers can be worn over the sleeves of your sweater to lengthen the sleeve and add dimension to your look. Not to mention they keep your pulse points warm. (Tutorial: Make Pair of Arm Warmers)


  • Necktie - To add some edge to a soft look, tie on a necktie, no collar needed. (How to Tie a Necktie)


  • Belt - A belt can accentuate your shape, or add interest with a flashy buckle. A wide belt can look great over a long sweater, and a thin belt crooked to the side works well with thin knits. (Easy Belts your Can Make)
If things aren't working out, ask yourself a few questions. What do you need to shop for? Do you have an all-purpose scarf that will go with just about anything? Get out to the thrift store and put together an inexpensive arsenal of basics like camisoles and neutral-colored scarves and vests. You can use these with the shirts you already own to create lots of new looks.

Got it together? Upload photos of your layered looks! You could be featured in the DIY Fashion blog and newsletter.

(Need help? Ask Rain on Facebook.)

Fast DIY Jewelry:
Milk Tab Bracelet . Pop Tab Bracelet . Make Paper Jewelry . Toothbrush Bracelet . Microchip Earrings . Hemp Necklace . Pressed Penny Bracelet

Easy Bags, Hats, Scarves and More:
4 Ways to Tie a Tie . Make Glittery Heels . 5 Placemat Purses . Cassette Tape Wallet . Duct Tape Wallet . How-To Bags . Finger Knit a Scarf . Gloves and Wristbands . Easy Zippered Change Purse

Clothes you can Make:
10 Upcycled T-shirt Tutorials . Make PantsSkirt Tutorials . Dye Your Clothes . Recycle Your Clothes . 10 Clothing Repairs You Should Know . Beginner Sewing Projects

Please Note: Photographs, patterns and illustrations contained in this article are copyrighted ©Rain Blanken and Getty Images, and licensed to About.com, Inc. Do not redistribute these photographs or illustrations in any form.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.