The Daily Telegraph - Saturday
Perfect the art of layering
Mix and match colours and cardigans for big impact this spring, writes Alyson Walsh
Someone once paid me the ultimate compliment when they said the outfit I was wearing, a khaki jumpsuit over a pink shirt, looked very David Bowie. Obviously, they meant the pared-down, post-Ziggy Stardust era rather than the glam-rock platforms and painted-face period – and so here I am again, channelling the influential one’s more stylish years.
Sliding into spring and hopefully out of lockdown could be the perfect time to practise your layering skills. New arrangements of clothes will take us outdoors, feel fresh and signal freedom. Time to unlock the wardrobe!
Create a handful of winning combinations ready for re-entry. Be prepared. And there’s no need to spend, spend, spend when all those clothes are just waiting to be unleashed; revisiting forgotten items will make them feel like new again.
The American designers Donna Karan and Eileen Fisher are Queens of Layering. Both developed style systems using jersey pieces of different lengths and proportions, designed to mix-and-match and make up lots of different outfit combinations. Pleats Please by Issey Miyake works in a similar way.
And while this is a fantastic solution, I prefer experimenting and pairing slightly unexpected items together. Playing around with proportions is a nifty way to add interest. The classic shirt, pie crust or pussy bow blouse also works under a dress – choose a shortsleeved tunic style to make the most of a decorative collar and cuffs. Wear a shirt dress over wide leg trousers or straight leg jeans for extra impact. Go for a colour match here, so: black wideleg trousers and a black dress; dark denim jeans with a navy frock; or an indigo stripe and faded blue denim.
The cardigan is one of the finest layering pieces and in retrospect I wish I’d added one to the outfit I’m wearing here. Captain Hindsight strikes again… One styling trick I often use with jeans or trousers is to layer two cardis together. To avoid bulk and the frustrating sleeve struggle, ensure the cardigan underneath is a finer knit and neater fitting than the one on top. For bigger, slouchier cardigans try one of &Daughter’s oversized styles,or Finisterre’s Eyre Cardigan (£150). Or do what I’m doing WFH right now, and borrow your partner’s knitwear when he’s busy on Teams in the front room.For extra warmth, the tank top is the layering piece du jour. The sleeveless knit is great over everything, including a favourite dress, though perhaps not a jumpsuit, where going to the loo is tricky enough.
Should two cardis sound like too much, the slightly looser cardigan over a shirt unbuttoned to show a plain white T-shirt creates a similar effect. See also the collarless shirt over a cotton jersey polo neck. And I am full of admiration for Julie Pelipas, the Vogue Ukraine fashion editor, whose image, in an indigo-blue shirt under a looser rust shirt under a mannish trouser suit, sits on my desktop. The doubling-up technique can be repeated with jackets, though I’d go for a mismatch and pair a buttoned-up denim jacket under a bigger blazer or wool overshirt; or a lightweight, liner jacket under an overcoat or loosely belted trench coat (see right).
When it comes to layering, there’s one item I’d steer clear of: the sleeveless gilet. Too reminiscent of the Tech Bro look beloved of Silicon Valley execs and badly dressed government advisers…