Layering 101: A Guide to the Essential and Timelessly Stylish Dressing Method

Different coats and cardigans overlap in front of a salmon background.


From tights to coats, these layering pieces will never go out of style. 

Even in the warmest of climates, fall and winter will bring inevitable cold snaps. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ve got to strategize around them.

So, here’s a refresher: Layering in colder months is all about adding progressively heavier and looser fabrics to your outfit. This technique invariably starts with a form-fitting, lightweight base. Think tights, leggings, and camisoles. While it may be tempting to just find a piece of heavyweight outerwear and be done with it, the “all or nothing” approach of a thick coat directly on top of a wispy dress has significant drawbacks. If you take your coat off, you’re likely going to be immediately chilly (unless the heat is cranked up). But who wants to leave a full parka on at a dinner party or at a wedding reception? Instead, choose a medium-weight cardigan or a wrap (we’ve got recommendations for both) as an in-between later.

Ahead, we suggest 16 neutral layering basics that can act as a base for your fall or winter wardrobe. And then, you can easily build new outfits around your favorite statement pieces. In fact, investing in a few reliable basics will help your printed pants, embellished sweaters, retro vintage finds, or killer shoes pop even more.

Best Layering Clothes for Women 2022

HUE Women’s Opaque Tights


Here’s your yearly, cold weather reminder that you can never have too many pairs of tights. After all, they always seem to get lost, shredded, or otherwise compromised over time. That being said, reviewers say that this HUE pick is pretty durable, not to mention soft. 

$13-$19 at Amazon

1.State Pintuck V-Neck Camisole


One buyer calls this cami a “closet workhorse,” and they’re not wrong. Perfect under a cardigan, sweater, blazer, or blouse, this camisole is a chic base for a day-to-night outfit. It has a v-neck, but reviewers say it isn’t too low cut.

$59 at Nordstrom

Everlane Seamless Tee


If you plan on wearing multiple layers, it’s smart to start out with a form-fitting base. This midweight tee layers smoothly under a sweater and jacket, but reviewers say that it’s thick enough to be worn on its own, too: “This shirt is constructed from a substantial material that hugs your body while allowing you to breathe.”

$40 at Everlane

Halogen Funnel Neck Top


If you love the look of a turtleneck but hate feeling constricted around your throat, the funnel neck might be for you. The high neck is much looser, but the rest of the top remains fitted and sleek. The material is lightweight with a satin smooth finish. 

$24-$39 at Nordstrom

Lulus Mock Neck Ribbed Bodysuit


One-piece aficionados already know this, but here’s a PSA: Adding a bodysuit to your wardrobe can easily nix unwanted wrinkles. This is especially useful when layering under a fitted skirt or pants, since a cinched waist often creates annoying fabric bunches. The ribbed knit on this Lulus find is thick enough to warm you up without being sweater quality.

$28 at Lulus

Quince Washable Silk Skirt


Layering skirts is a fun opportunity to play with length. We love this Quince option for a few reasons. It’s silk, which is lightweight and hypoallergenic. It’s (miraculously) machine-washable, so you don’t have to schlep to the dry cleaners. Plus, it will look movie star glam yet understated under a long coat. 

$60 at quince

J.Crew Gwyneth Slip Skirt

J. Crew

Speaking of skirts, we couldn’t write this list without including this elegant J. Crew piece. It’s a simple maxi with subtly gorgeous details — namely, the gentle draping adds a touch of texture. Buyers can’t get enough of the piece’s versatility: “The feel of the skirt is light, flowing, and comfortable. A great wardrobe staple.”

$90 at J. Crew

Everlane Luxe Merino Cardigan


Cardigans are an essential layering piece. They are easy  to slip off or unbutton for ventilation, plus the knit is notoriously versatile and can be worn with skirts, pants, or dresses. We like this particular cardi because it’s a fitted piece that you can easily slide on over a cami or tee and under a jacket. Made of wool and yak hair, it will also be fairly warm all on its own.

$140 at Everlane

Everlane Oversized Alpaca Cardigan


Here’s a cardigan that swings in the other direction. This oversized piece is snuggly, but it also has room for multiple lightweight pieces underneath. One buyer says that this is an ideal choice for a minimalist wardrobe: “I have been looking for a cozy oversized cardigan for my capsule wardrobe and this one is perfect. It is oversized and cozy but still has nice details and fit to be polished.”

$165 at Everlane

J.Crew Oversized Cashmere Wrap

J. Crew

If you’re a layering commitment-phobe who hates the feel of wearing a full on sweater under  a coat, a wrap is a low stakes solution. Sure, you can toss it on under outerwear, but it’s far less constricting and way more blanket-like. And if you’re going to spring for a wrap, why not go for super soft cashmere?

$113 at J. Crew

Lulus Wild at Heart Vegan Suede Moto Jacket


If you’re afraid of looking like the Michelin Man, here’s proof that layering won’t leave you shapeless. This suede moto jacket is fitted but leaves a little room for a light cardigan and tee underneath. Plus, the draping at the collar is fluttery without being fussy or frilly. 

$80 at Lulus

J.Crew Chateau Parka in Italian Stadium-Cloth Wool

J. Crew

This J. Crew coat is a bonafide winter classic with gold and faux fur details that are unique without being overwhelming. Katie Couric Media’s Diana is in love with her’s: It’s gotten her through heavy Vermont snows, but it’s also perfect for chilly San Francisco fog. Plus, just look at those pockets. 

$210 at J. Crew

Everlane ReNew Long Liner Jacket


This Everlane liner jacket is multipurpose: It can act as a coat by itself, or — if you live in a cold climate — you can layer it underneath another coat. Either way, it’s a soft quilted piece made of recycled material. 

$178 at Everlane

32Degrees Baselayer Legging


Leggings are a layering staple for a reason: They’re warm yet comfy, and they go with everything. For a classic black look, we love this breathable pair. It’s sort of a Goldilocks pick — not too thick, and not too thin (or God forbid, see-through). 

$8 at 32Degrees

Uniqlo Heattech Seamless Crew Neck


You can’t go wrong with a basic, mid length, long-sleeved tee. Advertised as extra warm, this ribbed crew neck is basic enough to go with anything but still cute enough that you’ll be proud to show it off. It will work wonderfully under a cardigan, a pullover, or as a boost of warmth under a short-sleeved top. 

$25 at Uniqlo