Layering

Layering
Fall weather is a bit like a roller coaster relationship--one day it's sunny and bright, the next it's bleak and chilly. My solution to the seasonal wardrobe limbo is simple: layering. Besides being utterly practical, layered outfits are also downright fun to create. Figuring out the right combination of proportion, color, and texture is the sort of fashion Rubik's Cube that delights my sartorial soul. With this wardrobe puzzle in mind, I turned to the F/W 12 runways for some ideas and inspiration. From the funky graphic sweatshirts worn over turtlenecks at Balenciaga to the preppy stripes under bright shells at J. Crew, the abundance of varied looks convinced me of one thing: there's a layered look for every style type out there. While I won't catalog all of them for you today, I am happy to present my three favorite ways to layer up, so please read on for my go-to coat combinations.

Look 1: Double Coats
The idea of showing off two gorgeous pieces of outerwear at one time is very appealing to me, so my first layered look involves two coats. Usually I'm not one for fashion rules, but in this instance, I think they help. My formula for a dynamic coat duo is as follows: 1) Combine coats with complementary colors and contrasting textures. For example: I paired a camel peacoat with a subtly patterned cream coat. 2) Layer the longer coat on top to create a flattering silhouette. 3) Drape the top coat over your shoulders, like a cape.

Style Notes: As for the rest of my outfit, I realized that the key was to avoid piling on too many additional layers. Two coats are already pushing the boundaries of bulk, so I kept things sleek with a thin silk dress and Swiss-dot tights. The finishing touch: a traditional pointy-toe pump in oxblood, which is the color of the season. This shoe silhouette is key for this look, because it's elongating and balances the horizontal volume of the double coats.

What I Wore: Joe Fresh Classic Peacoat ($69) in Khaki; Joe's Erica Long Jacket ($298) in Beige; Vanessa Bruno Silk Plaid Dress ($660, 323.655.5310) in Chair; Kelsi Dagger Sydney Convertible Shoulder Bag ($124, 312.335.7700); ShoeMint Gelareh Heels ($80) in Wine; Hue Mesh Dot Net Tights ($18) in Black; Lulu Frost Endless Summer Necklace ($480).

Look 2: Turtleneck
The turtleneck has some less-than-stylish associations--it's the clothing equivalent of bifocal glasses, traditionally--but I was ready to tackle it for one reason: Phoebe Philo. The Céline designer endorsed the oft-maligned winter staple by including it in her F/W 12 collection, and I figure it's a fairly safe fashion bet to follow her lead. With this runway in mind, I sought out slim turtlenecks made from substantial materials, like a spandex cotton blend, in classic colors and patterns. In other words: skip the ribbed knits and anything droopy.

Style Notes: The high-neck silhouette of a turtleneck feels like a fresh alternative to a traditional button-down shirt, so I like to swap it in wherever I'd normally wear a collared shirt. In this case, I styled it underneath a white blazer and tailored black vest, and added a pair of cropped trousers too. Much like my turtleneck itself, these additional pieces are pretty streamlined and minimal, which helps to elevate the shirt. Since my outfit is quite modest, I added a little flash with a pair of low-cut metallic ankle boots, and then finished the look with a minimalist color-block clutch made of luxurious pony hair.

What I Wore: American Apparel Stripe Cotton Spandex Jersey Long Sleeve Turtleneck ($32); H&M Vest ($25, Available early October), Mango Smoking Blazer ($70); Tibi Jagger Suiting Skinny Pants ($298) in Deep Burgundy; Jon Josef Mama Heels ($165, Special order at Info@jonjosef.com) in Copper; Topshop Belt ($24) in Navy; Tommy Hilfiger Avery Envelope Clutch ($398, 212.223.1824, available in store only).

Look 3: Moto Vest
A vest is my secret weapon for a great, layered outfit. The reason is simple: I get the warmth and visual interest of adding another layer, minus the extra sleeve bulk. As for how to style it, I have one major tip that makes all the difference: pull the vest's lapels over your outermost layer. (I did this with my turtleneck outfit too.) Since my quilted Topshop motorcycle vest has an incredible texture, I pulled its lapels on top of a zigzag cardigan, ensuring this stunning piece doesn't get lost in my layers.

Style Notes: For this outfit I aimed for a French-chic-meets-'90s-grunge vibe by mixing modern mainstays, such as my structured duffel bag and graphic cardigan, with slacker staples, like a plaid shirt and knit beanie. I also incorporated a mélange of textures and patterns--the quilted moto vest provides a pleasing tactile contrast to the soft knit sweater, while the zigzag pattern and plaid offer a dose of insouciant pattern mixing. The resulting sartorial stew feels nuanced and lends dimension to the entire ensemble.

What I Wore: LNA Cropped Flannel Shirt ($150) in Red Plaid; Topshop Black Quilted Gilet ($270); Love, Zooey Dolman Wrap with Braided Leather Belt ($330); The Elder Statesman Bunny Echo Beanie ($220, 310.274.8800) in Crazy Blue; 3x1 W1.7.6 Jeans ($245); Nine West Callme Pump ($99) in Black; Stuart Weitzman Ceogrande Bag ($898) in Black.

SHOP THE TREND
My favorite part of layering is that practically any piece is fair game. Beef up your closet's options with a wild patterned cardigan, striped tee, or denim moto jacket.
Kenzo Intarsia Angora-blend Cardigan ($595); Kain Ramona Modal T-Shirt ($100); Citizens of Humanity JMoto Jacket ($488).

P.S.: Do you have a trend you're not quite sure how to wear? Leave a message in the comments, and yours truly might try it out! --Kat Collings
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