cold weather layering

fw layering


I received a question recently about layering in a stylish way during the cooler months, to sum it up, how to do it?

I’ve lived in Washington state all my life, and layering is pretty much a standard as soon as you can dress yourself, since the weather here can change at the drop of a hat. My neighbors down in California are experiencing the same challenges lately (thank you global warming) and I admit the last time I was down there in January I actually got really cold in the evening!

Now it’s easy to put a big cozy sweater over some leggings and top it with a down coat, but I think a lot of people, especially those inclined towards vintage style, crave something a bit more. Above is a little illustration I did summing up my must have items for the cooler months, read on if you want more detail on my layering choices!

First of all, set those jeans down, just try a few looks without them, I swear you’ll be warmer. You know what I wear in winter? Skirts. People think I’m crazy, but I’m not a bit chilly in below freezing temperatures. The key is not just the skirt itself, but what’s underneath! I have some wool skirts saved up for winter, it’s often so overlooked as a skirt/dress textile, reserved for outerwear. If they’re full, and you like a full skirt look, add a soft nylon petticoat, I get mine from Doris Designs, they’re wonderful insulators. If you like something a bit sleeker, find a nice nylon or silk slip.

Legwear is another chance to layer, I like a bare leg look without the goosebumps, so I’ve found hosiery at 20 denier or higher is opaque enough to keep the chill away with Oroblu fishnets in “sable” over that. They are worth every penny, the quality is superb, and I don’t shave my legs all season and with these two layers you’d never know, it makes you look like you can handle a lot more cold than you can! I mostly wear boots, either knee, or ankle depending on the temperature, and wear wool socks under those, another added layer of warmth!

Having cold wet feet can definitely bring down your mood, and I don’t think comfort and style need to be separated. For something easy, casual, and classic, try a desert boot, they can be worn when it’s warmer, or if you slip them on in autumn/winter, just add some cozy wool socks. Roll or fold thick mid-calf socks over the top of the boots for a nice little cuffed look, with skirts of pants. If you need something more professional for the office, just slip a pair of ballet flats in your handbag or keep some heels at your desk and change into them once you’ve successfully kept your toes warm outside!

If you like wearing pants (and remember, set down the denim!) then cigarette pants are a classic I wear year round. The Martie style from J.Crew is my go to, they come out with various colors all the time, they’re very comfortable, mid-rise, side zipper, and seasonally they make wool styles as well. If you want a true high waist, Vixen by Micheline Pitt makes the style in various colors, for that bombshell look.

If you’re a bit tired of bulky sweaters, or they just become too hot midday, try instead a short sleeved or three quarter length sweater. Something in a finer knit, and if you’re not allergic, in wool or cashmere, they keep your torso warm, and leave your arms a bit more free and cool for when you’re in a heated building. Underneath for extra warmth, a silk or nylon camisole will do the trick.

Coats and jackets are an obvious choice, but have you considered a car coat? A true car coat comes to about mid-thigh, and has a great deal of warmth, with insulation and a style that looks great open or completely buttoned up. I like that they work well with pants or a slim skirt, and are technically casual, but look really polished. You can find them in fine wools, prints, bold colors or neutrals. A quick etsy search is a great place to start browsing.

Silk! It’s the forgotten insulator. Don’t save the luxury for evening-wear or lingerie, use it to stay warm without the bulk of wool. I have a large square silk scarf in my bag at all times, it comes in handy when it rains, or tied around the neck for warmth, and you can find something you really love in colors that suit your wardrobe.

A wool beret and leather gloves are other classics that add to the warmth, and don’t take up a lot of closet or handbag space! I’ve found acrylic knit gloves pretty pointless, and wool can get a bit bulky, so I stick to leather, lined if it’s very cold. A beret is a wonderful accessory that you can also find in such a variety of colors, and can be perched on the head or pulled down over the ears on breezy days. I get all mine from John Helmer, they carry a variety of colors and I prefer the oversized style.

If you still find yourself very cold but don’t want to look like the kid from A Christmas Story, you can get silk long underwear for underneath your wardrobe, these run very large, so size down.

And there you have it! I hope that was helpful and if you have any style questions feel free to ask!

2 thoughts on “cold weather layering”

  1. This is terrifically helpful, I had this perception that chunky sweaters were required for effective layering but since implementing lighter layers such as thin merino and lacy wools, with a coat over, it’s easier to adapt to the seven different temperatures one encounters over the day in NY, and I think I’m actually warmer in general.
    One question about your chiffon pettis, do you have issues with them “climbing” your stockings under the pressure of the coat over your skirt? I wear wide skirted New Look era coats and think there is enough room for things to move but at the end of the long hoof to class, I can have a “petti-diaper” sometimes! It looks like that simple black coat you often post on Insta is this type of coat, do you have issues with it influencing this or do you wear a silky slip under the petti?
    Thanks for your insights!

    1. Hello! Yes I come across the same issue! Wearing a slip under the petticoat helps, but I also have a less full vintage nylon slip I wear often that doesn’t gather at all. I found it this summer and it’s a lot more manageable for long walks, but still gives a bit of help with fulls skirts. If you found a one or two layer soft nylon petticoat and layered a slip underneath, I’m sure you’d find it pretty warm, something I’ll try when the temperature drops 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s