Reader Request: Layering 101

There’s no better way to avoid a dreary outfit than to build layers of texture and colour.  This post is the first in a set of twin pieces, all about layering.  Today – keeping a fairly monochrome pallet, and playing with proportions and textures instead.  Come back on Tuesday next week for patterns and colour!

Whenever I ask what you guys would like me to cover off on the blog, one of the top requests is how to layer, or how to print and pattern mix.   The key to both of these (in my opinion) is to understand the proportions you want to create and then…get inventin’!  I recently bought this beautiful lace overdress from Clothing by Desiree, and thought it would be a great piece to use to demonstrate layering with texture and proportion.  Let’s dive in to the steps…

Step one – create a good base


Obviously, layers add bulk.  I wanted something super streamlined to start this look and so I reached for the trusty black bodysuit and black trousers.   You could try a simple slip dress, a pair of your favourite jeans with a fitted tee, or even a skirt and shirt.  Beginners might do better with a single colour, but if you’re more advanced, you can start playing with colours and patterns right from your base layer.  Just keep it fitted!

Step two - add interest


There’s always a hero item in any outfit, and in this case that has to be this lace dress.  I loved it for layering because it adds a great texture and colour to an outfit (that dark green is so neutral that it will work across a wide spectrum of colours) and the lace is airy.  It adds shape and volume to our very fitted base layer without adding too much heaviness.  I also like that the floral in the dress and the bodysuit echo one another very slightly. 

 Step three – play with your proportions


While I love the lace dress, the volume needed to be corralled into a better shape for my body type and for the benefit of the ultimate outfit.  I bought this little top from Ruby several years ago, and it has proven perfect for “closing in” outfits like this dress.   If you have a bigger bust than me, this might be the time to just deploy a great belt.  You might like layering chunky necklaces to break up fabric, or you might like the plain swish of this dress unbelted.  The key is to play with the volume and shape here to create something pleasing to your eye.  I intentionally left a little of the dress peeking over the top, to make sure it was clear it was a dress and to create a break between the body suit and my top.

A word of warning here – not all black clothes are the same colour black (like all colours, it can have different intensities and different undertones).  Do what you can to match so you don’t look higgledy-piggledy!

Step four – add another layer!


That extra layer (in this case, a collarless blazer) is what makes this more of a look. The blazer turns this into something I would happily wear into the office or out to dinner. I’d throw a long coat over this when I left the house; I also think a fairly chunky necklace here, or a great brooch on the lapel of the jacket, would add more dimension to the centre of this outfit and further break up the black of the vest.


The goal with layering is to always make it look intentional – i.e., not like you just threw on all of your clothes at once in the order they happened to come to hand.  Thinking about a simple colour palette and being intentional in how you approach the bulk or volume of the layers is key to making sure you don’t end up looking like a kid on their first trip to the snow. 

 This lace dress is also a great contender for another version of layering, which is minimal layers and maximum impact.  This dress, over a black bodysuit with a pair of strappy sandals is a L.O.O.K –  is it a look I would wear?  Unclear as yet, but let’s agree: sometimes fewer layers is better.

Many thanks to the very talented Nia Turley for the photos on this post!