A Guide to Layering Outfits for Fall and Winter

A Guide to Layering Outfits for Fall and Winter

Regardless of where you live, there's usually a big difference between those first few days of fall and the middle of a cold winter. The one consistent clothing trend for both seasons, though, is layering.

Layering gives you the freedom to orchestrate your ideal body temperature. You can layer your outfit to protect the parts of your body that get the coldest, or will have the most exposure, depending on your activities outdoors. If you start getting warm, you can always peel off a layer or two to avoid sweating, which would cause your temp to drop significantly if a cool breeze came through. Stay warm and feel wonderful by layering up this fall and winter. Use this guide to help you look and feel your best.

The Basics

Always start with a thinner, moisture-wicking fabric as your base layer. Fabrics that work best are often synthetic, like polyester or nylon, but wool is a natural and hard-working wicking material as well. Cotton, while a general favorite, will not work well if you plan to exert any energy, as it holds moisture and takes a long time to dry. Both tops and bottoms have base layer options, from thermals to bodysuits and beyond.

When the weather is biting and cold, layering is your best defense. Work your way from your base (thinnest layer) to your outermost shell (thickest layer). The idea here is that with each item, you're building layers of warmth by trapping the heat your body generates within the structure of your outfit. For every piece that you add, be sure that it allows enough room or "give" to hold the layers below it so that you don't feel squished.

To the Top

For fall and early winter, you can sometimes get away with wearing a short-sleeve top as your base layer, but as temperatures drop, we recommend sticking with long sleeves. Avoiding ruffles, frills, or poofy sleeves will ensure that you can add anything on top of that base layer without feeling scrunched up. If you live in a particularly icy area, you can even add a tank top underneath that shirt to offer some additional warmth for your abdomen and back. Once you've got your base layer chosen, you can play with endless options.

If it's still early in fall, or you only experience mild winters, you might just want some protection from the cooler breeze. In that case, a long-sleeve shirt under a tunic top may be all you need. Alternatively, throw a vest on over your base layer, and be sure to bring along a light jacket wherever you go, as temperatures tend to drop later in the day.

From your base, you can add cardigan sweaters first, then a vest or roomier fleece sweater over that. From there, pull out one of your warmest down coats, and you're good to go!

That example is just one of many options. It's all about your personal preferences, some practicality, and protection from the elements. If you know that you heat up quickly, choose items that you can easily unzip or unbutton, to allow for some ventilation when needed. If your chest seems to always feel cold, be sure your base layer is a crew neck rather than a V-neck for even more coverage, and top it off with a turtleneck.

Layer Your Legs

Layering is a full-body effort, whether you're hoping to comfortably frolic while picking apples in the fall, or trying to stay warm during a winter hike. It may seem like our bottoms have fewer layering options, but the truth is you can get as creative as you want.

In the fall and early winter, you can probably stay warm with tights on under a knee-length skirt and your favorite pair of boots. As the weather cools down even more, you can pull out your thicker tights and add fuzzy socks or knit leg warmers to bulk up a bit. Once the temperature really drops, stick with women's thermals underneath pants or wool skirts.

Wrapping Up

While not traditionally considered layers, we can't overlook the fall and winter accessories that seal (sometimes literally) the deal.

Scarves are a surprisingly versatile item in your closet. Even using them as you normally would present you with multiple options in how to style and wrap them. Find the way that suits you best, and seals as much warmth as possible. But don't stop there! If you're out on a day that's only mildly cool, bring a scarf around to use as a makeshift shawl. If your ears or face is getting nipped by cold air, lifting your scarf a bit off your neck and toward your face will siphon heat from your body upward, creating a warm and wonderful draft.

Gloves are another way to stay warm with very little effort. Light gloves in the fall will help trap heat in, while winter gloves are recommended for snowy months to keep your digits both warm and dry. Looking to layer? You can find glove liners that activate and trap heat that you wear for additional warmth under your heavy-duty gloves.

You can even layer hats, though you may want to also bring a brush along if you plan to take them off in good company. Your head releases a ton of heat, so keeping it warm is a great way to maintain a safe and comfortable temp. Start with a beanie in the fall, and ramp up as the thermostat drops. Instead of switching your thinner hat, leave it on under whatever winter cap you choose. Or, find a thicker but lightweight hat to wear under your coat's warmth-trapping hood.

Layering is a great way to stay warmer during the fall and winter months, but it's also an opportunity to get creative with your outfits. The more layers you need, the more variety your look has throughout the day.

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