Ever stared at someone, trying to pinpoint what it is that makes them so chic? When it’s not as obvious as a designer slip-on, it can be hard to decipher exactly what was mixed and matched to create the covetable finish. Enter our new series, Mix Masters, dedicated to cracking the style code of our favorite It girls. We’ve teamed up with 7 for All Mankind to ensure that we address the one thing we all wear on rotation: denim. One by one, we’re getting inside the fashionable minds (and dramatically different wardrobes) of these style stars—and we won’t rest until they’ve spilled the secrets to mastering their look.
Kat Collings, editor in chief here at Who What Wear, is the unrivaled master of layered looks. When it comes to flawless outfits with a twist, Collings knows exactly how to add interest with a third (or fourth) piece—which means we need to know what she knows. What makes for pieces that layer well? What does she reach for when she feels like an outfit needs a little something more? And short of being a sartorial genius, how exactly does one walk the line between too much and not enough? We asked Collings to throw on her favorite new-season 7 for All Mankind denim pieces and show us her secrets to crafting next-level looks. Welcome to Layering 101.
Ready for some expert tips? Kat shows us her layering tricks for her three go-to denim looks below.
Tip #1: LAYER OUTSIDE THE BOX
For those of us who can’t sew, who can only handle so much vintage, and who aren’t exactly buying couture, Collings has great news: There’s another way to build a wardrobe full of unique looks—and every fashion girl does it. “When you shop, think beyond the garment’s intended use,” she advises. “Wearing an item in an unexpected or unintended way is a great way to add a little creativity to your look.” The perfect example? 7 for All Mankind’s Belted Shirt Dress—also known as her current favorite striped coat, which she tells us is the perfect weight for this time of year.
Bonus tip: Sizes are only a guide, so don’t take them as gospel. Chances are that anyone you’ve ever style-stalked has heeded this advice—and Collings swears by it. “Overall fit is crucial for pulling off trickier layered looks, and being open to trying different sizes can help you nail the silhouette you’re looking for,” she tells us. “For example, going a size down in a bomber to make it a slight crop, or buying a button-down shirt a couple sizes too big.”
Double denim: We all know it has the potential for disaster, but when done well, it’s the epitome of so-wrong-it’s-right. As far as Collings is concerned, layering denim artfully is the true test of sartorial flair. Her pro tip: “When you double up on denim, it’s essential to add another element”—even if it goes against your gut feeling that there’s already a lot going on. The key is to keep the layers monochromatic. The simple addition of a white button-down, worn undone to expose a white T-shirt beneath, takes this look from country to fashion in an instant.
It’s about adding subtle points of interest that give the look dimension without demanding attention.
Collings emphasizes that the surefire way to curate a versatile wardrobe is to keep layering in mind when you shop, adding that she snapped up this Oversized Boyfriend Jacket specifically because of her inclination to double up on denim. “The darker pockets and edging to the collar give the illusion of breaking up all that matching fabric so your look doesn’t feel as one-dimensional,” she notes. “That’s the kind of thing most people don’t notice, but it makes a head-to-toe look work.”
Dresses worn over pants and layered turtlenecks are two classic examples of make-or-break layering moments that have dominated our Instagram feeds as of late. When we asked Collings to help translate these looks from street style galleries to everyday life, she upped the challenge by combining the two. Says Collings, “Layering a dress over pants instantly feels fashion-forward, but covering it up with a lot of fabric means you need to create some balance.” The trick to making it feel less overwhelming? “Keep the pants cropped and swap your sneakers for slides or mules.”
Bare your ankles to break up the look.
One last piece of advice: The turtleneck you wear under a dress isn’t necessarily the same one you’d wear beneath a sweater. “I love this dress, and I don’t want to ruin the shape with knitwear that’s too heavy,” Collings tells us. The simple solution is to opt for light layers, thus ensuring that you add interest without adding bulk.