Fall is really flying by, thanks to the universe deciding to jump from summer breeze to winter gales (with a little help from a hurricane), and I bet some of you are freezing your asses off. The wind is blowing, the rain is pelting, and you are caught on 45 degree mornings wearing sweat shorts and another university’s hoodie (tut-tut). At some point, your streak of rotten luck is not the weather, it's you. Luckily, here’s a little guide on how to layer, from the bottom-up, inside-out, and with some style (not pointing any fingers but many of you need it).
For the uninitiated, underlayers are anything you can wear underneath normal, everyday clothes. A flannel shirt, tights, any thin trousers that fit underneath some loose pants might come to mind. For the skiers and northerners among us, you’ll recognize these as long johns. These generally come in polyester and cotton mixes, with some high quality ones coming in merino wool. Underlayers will keep you warm, but depending on what else you’re wearing with it, they may have you sweating out the Narragansett Bay, so save these for extremely cold days or when you're feeling sweater averse.
You can basically do anything with shirts as long as you’re not wearing an untucked pirate shirt three sizes too big (though I suppose…that could be okay too). The complex part of this freedom is actually making all your wild shirt dreams come true and not look like a costume mixing experience gone wrong. Generally, a buttoned shirt will be your go to base layer for the fall and winter seasons. These can come in a terrifying variety of styles and patterns, but to start out, I would recommend a solid color or quiet-patterned cotton button up in white, blue, or checkered (please no gingham, and no, I will not elaborate), and a more vibrant color of your choosing. I would also recommend a flannel or two in any pattern. These shirts are going to be the base layer under your sweaters and sport coats so making sure the colors match is of prime importance. Color match doesn’t have to mean that they are in the same corner of the color palette (e.g. light orange with a lighter orange), I personally recommend trying to get a good contrast with your shirts: Think white shirt and navy blazer/sweater.
These are your bread and butter. There’s a reason they call this sweater weather. Sweaters are one of the big statement pieces that your outfit can be built around and, because of this, there are fewer rules and guidelines about what colors and patterns to follow. Crewnecks, V-necks, turtlenecks, and polo-necks are all acceptable styles to wear out. Shetland crewnecks in dark fall colors like red and green, and chunky navy sweaters of all varieties will always look good, just make sure to match the color with your button-ups. When it comes to material, a wool sweater will be warmer than a cotton sweater, but cotton will still do the job well.
Blazers and Sport Jackets:
Tweed is king here. There is little more to be said. Blazers of any color are good as long as the patterns mix correctly (remember: contrast is good) and navy will basically go with anything. Tweed blazers, however, are the language of fall and, provided they fit, will flatter your figure and make your sweaters pop underneath. It’s that chic-Ivy-professor look everybody and their mother has been trying to go for since Beau Brummell went crazy and Tom Wolfe died. Trust me, you want tweed. Grays and browns in herringbone, houndstooth, and glen plaid will be the most common and will look the best with your layers.
Please for the love of Bruno (yes I invoked it), no skinny fit—that ten-year moment is over. What you’re going to want for the coming seasons are warm and dependable pants that won’t stick to your leg like you got dipped into Willy Wonka’s chocolate river. Wool flannel pants, chinos, and (on occasion) jeans will all work fine. Wool pants should be your winter staple as they’ll keep you warm and look good at the same time. I recommend varieties in gray and navy blue—they’ll go with everything in your wardrobe while adding flair. If you’re adventurous and are trying to go for the 1930s struggling author look (like me), try getting wool pants with pleats and high waists to go all in on classic silhouettes and incomprehensible manuscripts about train station platforms. Chinos will always serve you well, khakis being the easiest to pair with the previous layers mentioned, but some explorations into fall colors like burnt orange and green can also be worthwhile, provided they’re paired with the right pieces. Jeans are jeans and to keep up with the theme of impressing your parents, try to pair them with more casual layers.
The function of a coat in the colder seasons is to (1), keep you warm and (2), make you look cool as hell. The right coat can make an outfit go from good to great and consequently the wrong coat can make an outfit look wrong or in between styles. Generally, it's always a safe option for your coat to be contrasting with the rest of your outfit–a dark coat with a light outfit, a light coat with a dark outfit–but similar color layering is possible if coordinated well. There are many (headachingly many) different styles of coats but to keep things simple I’ll differentiate between single-breasted and double-breasted coats, which refers to how many rows of buttons there are on the closure of the coat. Single-breasted coats will look sleek and generally slim your figure down at the cost of warmth and dramatic wooshiness. Double-breasted will keep you warmer, look more formal, and generally add a broader edge to your figure as well as giving you the ability to layer more underneath. It’s a matter of preference but I recommend a double-breasted coat for their classic look and warmth. Good materials to look for are wool, tweed, cashmere wool, cotton gabardine for rain, and camel hair. Navy coats and tan coats are good starting options as they can go with most of everything but under no circumstances should you ever be wearing a single-breasted tan overcoat. Never.
Lastly, it is important to remember all the little accessories you can pair with your outfit to really make it pop. Bright scarves, socks, and hats are the finishing touches that can add some personal style to your outfits of solid darker colors. They're also good for keeping you warm in the Providence winds if, like me, you sometimes forget you live in the real world and not a Polo Ralph Lauren ad. Cashmere is always a good option for warmth and comfort as well as providing a luxurious flair that might help more casual accessories from slipping into grubbiness.
Hopefully this guide will help you find the right way to layer in the coming cold and not freeze half to death on the way to class. Remember: tweed is your friend, contrast is good, look smart on parents' weekend, and always check the wind speed before getting dressed in the morning. Good luck out there everybody, stay warm and stay stylish.