Dressing warmly for winter whilst maintaining your style poise is something my clients often worry about. In my experience of working in both a cold air-conditioned office and roasting hot environments whilst commuting through snowy weather, I've learnt there are wrong and right ways to handle this.
Layering is key to remain adaptable in changing temperatures throughout the day. This can go horribly wrong when colour combinations fail and bulky items are used indiscriminately!
Here are my top tips to keeping your 'cosy-cool whilst beating the elements
Tip #1 - Avoiding the bulk when layering
Layering is all about space. If you are layering under another garment such as a dress, shirt or blouse, keep the under-layer tight or very fitted to avoid ruining the line of the top layer. Think of the underlayer as a second skin. It might even be that thermal jersey layers such as Uniqlo heat tech range which are imperceptible under an outfit are the key. The new colours and cuts offered can serve as a standalone layer if you get too warm providing the look is finished with the right jewellery or accessories. Rule of thumb here is look for warm yet light weight layers with yarns such as wool, cashmere and technical heat fabrics.
Tip #2 - Make a feature of your winter style layers
Showing cuffs and collars with intention. If you are looking for warmth around the neck with a higher collar or neckline, why not make a feature of it. Go for a colour that contrasts but stay within your seasonal colour palette whether you go for a neutral or a pop colour. (If you don't know your colour season, this is something I can help you with!) This works for fitted rollnecks under shirts, sweaters, dresses and blouses. If your base layer is shirt or blouse, you could have fun with popping up the collar, going for collars with interesting top button detail or cuffs visible or even turned back over the top layer for effect.
"Don't forgo your printed shirts, as they look just as good paired with a base layer." – Whowhatwear
Tip #3 - Bulky winter layers as the top layer only
Sometimes nothing beats the feeling of a heavy layer in cold weather but make this your top layer only. Layering multiple weighty pieces is how we can end up looking bulky. For example, don't do a heavy wool sweater under a heavy weight coat. You'd be better off with a lighter weight cashmere sweater or cardigan over a thinner base such as a dress or blouse.The top layer however, go as bulky as you like! Or alternatively, make that top layer as a sleek wool overcoat, (avoid teddy or puffa styles) and instead layer up with a chic matching wrap scarf and hat. it may feel counter intuitive but trust me, more layers, even if they are lighter weight is more practical and warm that one or two bulky ones since the layers trap heat between them.
Tip #4 - Make sure that each winter layer works independently as an outfit style
It's pretty much guaranteed that you are going to want to peel off layers when you arrive at your destination. Especially first thing after the morning commute. Make sure you are happy with how the outfit looks with just the base layer and then with each additional layer. This may mean considering finishing touches such as jewellery so that even a basic layer looks complete. Also worth considering is whether the base layer works with your proportions. If you know you look best in loose fit tops for example, you could go for a blouse worn under a jumper or blazer but would still function independently as an outfit.
Tip #5 - Colour matching: No more than three colours, one 'non-colour' and one metal in an outfit for good style
And finally, going back to colour palettes; knowing your colour season will help you to mix colours that work together flawlessly. The rule here is to limit to two or three main colours. Neutrals such as grey or tan count as one of your three colours as they have distinct colour properties. You can however add black or white as a fourth colour since they are not technically colours in their own rights but tones. The metal details such as hardware on accessories or your jewellery are additional to your three main colours so make sure it's a metallic colour from your colour season.
Tip #6 - Lengths and shapes
For a foolproof solution to layering successfully over everything, you need a long coat, and I mean below the calf muscle. This will be compatible with all shapes of trousers as well as all skirt lengths. (It's ok if a couple of inches of midi dress peek out from the bottom). It's not so ok if you go for a knee length coat and then wonder why it looks ungainly over a very long dress.
If you are layering a blazer over a blouse or shirt, it's cleaner and easier to make this work if the blouse/shirt has a very simple neckline. Keep it a straight, slash, square, rounded or scooped neckline but avoid buttons and collars. You want to avoid trying to coordinate two sets of V-necklines and collars.