Skip to main content

Products purchased through this post may earn us a commission.

11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro

Tips from a celebrity stylist on looking polished through winter.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:
11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro Graphics_Promo

Over the years, I've invested in a small collection of trenches and coats for trips to New York and chilly L.A. days, but layering still feels like a chore. When I caught up with my friend, celebrity stylist Anita Patrickson, she was in town for two days before heading back to New York, I asked her how she does it—after all, it's her job to make sure celebrities from Anna Paquin to Emma Watson look polished, no matter the weather. To her, layering is another way to add interest to an outfit. She said, "In New York this time of year, you never know what it's going to look like in the middle of the day—first you're boiling, then you're freezing again. Layering allows you to be proactive—while looking completely put-together." Here are the tips she gives her clients for layering like a pro:

11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro_1

A good rule of thumb, Anita said, is to always build your outfit from thinnest to thickest pieces. "It’s like what they say about fitting things into a jar, so to speak" Anita said, "Put in big rocks, then pebbles, then sand, and then, just when you thought you couldn’t fit more in, water. With layering, it’s the opposite—you start with the water, then the sand, then go with the pebbles then with the rocks." In other words, start with a silk camisole, then go for a slightly weightier blouse, then a cashmere sweater, followed by a denim jacket or large coat. "By the time you're at drinks with your girlfriends," she said, "you're in your cute little cami with all these things laying around you like clouds." 

To that end, if you're desperately wanting to wear a chunky knit (which Anita confirmed are very in right now), you may have to skip the jacket since the combination will look too bulky. 

11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro_2
11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro Graphics_Image 4

When it doubt, Anita says, eyeball it. "If it doesn't look right, it's probably not; and if it doesn't feel comfortable, it's probably wrong," she said, "You don't want to feel restricted. If you're staring to look like you can't move, you have to take off a layer."

11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro_3

"Blazers are just so flattering on everybody," she explained, "Whether you're feeling slim or not, blazers give you that gorgeous structured look. They're great over a cocktail dress or you could do one over a cami with an open button-up—I can barely think of one thing they don't go with! You can even simply throw it over your shoulders and walk around with it!"

11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro_4
11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro Graphics_Image 5

"If you're changing the integrity of what's underneath or above the layer, you're doing it wrong," Anita said, "You can't do a flouncy, full-bodied dress with a long blazer—you're going to ruin the dress, or lose the appeal of it." Instead, she'd recommend opting for something like a cropped jacket. On the other end, always pay attention to the inseams—if anything's bulging-out because of a lower layer, you may want to rethink your outfit. 

11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro_5

"The great thing about having a fabulously, beautifully printed, mad coat is that the rest of your outfit can be very simple," Anita said, "Throw it on and you look exactly like you know what you're doing, because it does all the work for you." The only thing, she added, is that you can't wear it every day since people will notice. If you have a neutral coat, on the other hand, you can wear it for days and no one will necessarily remember you repeated.

11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro_6
11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro Graphics_Image 3

When getting dressed, find the vibe of your look and stick to that color palette. "Say you're doing beautiful pastels," Anita said, "Find creams, pinks, beiges, oatmeals, and ivories. Or, go with a fall burgundy, rust, gold, and cream palette. Obviously blacks, whites, and greys are brilliant because you hardly have to think about them."

11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro_7

"The great thing with layering," she said, "is not having to pack all your gorgeous prints and short skirts away." She'll add a thin turtleneck under a silk tank, or tights under a short dress to make it more fall appropriate, and more demure. "So often we forget about tights," Anita said, "but they're such a fun accessory. Polka dot tights are in right now and it's a fun way to mix prints and add a little interest."

11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro_8
11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro Graphics_Image 1

"The look should be able to work at any layer, even if it's going to be covered-up most of the time," Anita said, "At some point, you're going to take something off and pull it around your waist, and when you do that you don't want the rest of the outfit to fall apart."

11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro_9

Pick one thing to show-off, whether a large scarf or a big necklace, remembering what you have underneath and what your day is like. "Do you want a scarf and a sweater if you're just going to end up in a cami at drinks at the end of the day? You may just just want an arm of bracelets and a great top coat." 

11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro_10
11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro Graphics_Image 2

"Even a slightly more cocktail-y piece can be layered if you find a cream or black thin turtleneck or button-up," Anita said, ensuring that there's really no strong rule of thumb. "If you want to do a shirt under something sleeveless, you've just got to eyeball it." 

11 Tips for Layering Like a Pro_11

"If you’re truly in an absolutely bleak, cold place, then it’s less about layering and more about survival," Anita said, but added that there's "absolutely a way to still look presentable." She suggests spending money on a beautiful, black belted coat that pulls in at your waist, and will look perfect year after a year—she recommends Shrimps, & Other Stories, Mansur Gavriel, Armani, Zara, Sandro, and Maje. 

P.S., Looking for more styling tips from Anita? Check out her favorite things, common fashion mistakes, and what really goes into styling for an award show.

Products purchased through this post may earn us a commission.