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How to Stay Stylish and Warm Without the Bulk

Keep the chill at bay with the right kinds of layers


spinner image a fashionable woman wearing layers for warmth
AnnaZhuk/Getty Images

Layering has become a shortcut to style. It’s also the best way to dress for cold weather outdoors and lowered thermostats indoors, including a shocking degree of winter air-conditioning in movie theaters, workplaces, stores and restaurants. Throwing on a lounge-around outfit of tank, tee, hoodie and joggers is easy. The problem is how to stay toasty without looking bundled and bulky in everyday clothes. Pile it on and stay sleek with these six tips:

spinner image Skims Fits Everybody Crewneck Bodysuit in Onyx; Lands’ End Women’s Lightweight Fitted Long Sleeve Turtleneck Tee in Radiant Navy; Poseshe Women’s Plus-Size Long Sleeve Bodysuit in Navy Blue
(Left to right) Skims Fits Everybody Crewneck Bodysuit in Onyx; Lands’ End Women’s Lightweight Fitted Long Sleeve Turtleneck Tee in Radiant Navy; Poseshe Women’s Plus-Size Long Sleeve Bodysuit in Navy Blue
Skims; Lands' End; Walmart

1. Stock up on base layers.

The biggest mistake is not having the right pieces to make layers work efficiently. Your best move? Swapping go-to basic layers such as boxy tees, sleeveless tanks and old lace-trimmed camisoles — for stretchy bodysuits and long-sleeved tops that hug your torso and arms like a second skin. The smoothest are fabric blends infused with modal, elastane or spandex. As the first line of chill defense, they slide ripple-free under dresses, knits and sweaters and provide itch protection. Available in classic crews, turtlenecks, Vs and trendy square necklines, they work as an invisible base under clothes or can add a stylish touch peeking out at neckline or wrists. The most useful for cold weather are long-sleeved styles in neutrals such as the Skims Fits Everybody Crewneck Bodysuit in Onyx ($78, skims.com) available in a wide range of skin-tone shades for wearing under white and pale colors, the Lands’ End Women’s Lightweight Fitted Long Sleeve Turtleneck Tee in Radiant Navy, Vicuna Heather or Black ($20, landsend.com) and the Poseshe Women’s Plus-Size Long Sleeve Bodysuit in Navy Blue or Black ($20, walmart.com).

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spinner image Everlane The Long-Sleeve Supima Square-Neck Bodysuit in Black; Loft Ribbed Turtleneck Ribbed Midi Dress in Pavestone Heather; Old Navy Cozy Long-Line Cardigan Sweater for Women in Heather Gray; Lauren Ralph Lauren Charm Crosshatch Leather Belt in Black
(Left to right) Everlane The Long-Sleeve Supima Square-Neck Bodysuit in Black; Loft Ribbed Turtleneck Ribbed Midi Dress in Pavestone Heather; Old Navy Cozy Long-Line Cardigan Sweater for Women in Heather Gray; Lauren Ralph Lauren Charm Crosshatch Leather Belt in Black
Everlane; LOFT; Old Navy; Macy's

2. Make any dress into a “twinset.”

Wearing dresses in winter is always a challenge. Instead of shivering or adding a tailored blazer in desperation, try “winterizing” dresses with supple long cardigans for insulation. You can tone the cardigan to the dress or contrast it for a pop of color. A sweater dress such as the Loft Ribbed Turtleneck Ribbed Midi Dress in Pavestone Heather ($100, loft.com) is fine on its own but gets extra cozy layered over Everlane's The Long-Sleeve Supima Square-Neck Bodysuit in Black ($32, everlane.com) and under the trim Old Navy Cozy Long-Line Cardigan Sweater for Women in Heather Gray or Black Jack ($48, oldnavy.gap.com). Want a shapelier look? Add the slim Lauren Ralph Lauren Charm Crosshatch Leather Belt in Black ($35, macys.com) over the dress (under the open cardigan) or over the dress and cardigan at the waist.

spinner image Lululemon Wundermost Ultra-Soft Nulu Square-Neck Long-Sleeve Bodysuit in Black; J.Crew Tissue Turtleneck in Rich Coffee; Garnet Hill Cabled Cashmere Sweater Vest in Bisque White
(Left to right) Lululemon Wundermost Ultra-Soft Nulu Square-Neck Long-Sleeve Bodysuit in Black; J.Crew Tissue Turtleneck in Rich Coffee; Garnet Hill Cabled Cashmere Sweater Vest in Bisque White
Lululemon; J.Crew; Garnet Hill

3. Stack the layers to keep them fashionable, not filling.

Imagine you’re creating a clothes sandwich with the heaviest pieces on top, lightest on bottom and a light to mid-weight filling. Sometimes you may want just a hint of extra warmth, especially when wearing an “indoor” jacket. Two tricks make this more comfortable, so you won’t look “stuffed.” Simply double up two light layers such as the Lululemon Wundermost Ultra-Soft Nulu Square-Neck Long-Sleeve Bodysuit in Black, Espresso or Rich Coffee ($88, lululemon.com) and the J.Crew Tissue Turtleneck in Black, Navy and Rich Coffee ($15 each, jcrew.com) in soft cotton, as the base and filling. You can also opt for the Garnet Hill Cabled Cashmere Sweater Vest in Bisque White ($189, garnethill.com) instead of a sweater. Worn over a base layer and under a jacket, the vest warms the torso without beefing up arms. Solved in a snap!

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spinner image Sam Edelman Bronson in Black 1; Lane Bryant Mock-Neck Belted Midi Sweater Dress in Rhubarb; Rockport Evalyn Tall Boot in Sand
Left to right: Sam Edelman Bronson in Black 1 ($119, zappos.com); Lane Bryant Mock-Neck Belted Midi Sweater Dress in Rhubarb ($49, lanebryant.com); Rockport Evalyn Tall Boot in Sand ($160, dsw.com/en/us)
Zappos; Lane Bryant; DSW

4. Close the gaps.

If you’re very sensitive to cold, be more selective about getting extra coverage at necklines, wrists and hemlines where air might sneak in. You might switch to a turtleneck, mock neck or funnel neck instead of the barer necklines you favor in warm weather and choose long, slim sleeves with a snug fit at the wrists instead of wide or three-quarter ones. One of the best space-filling strategies is to wear midi-length skirts or dresses with tall knee-high boots and long pants with ankle-covering Chelsea boots that have a higher shaft.

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spinner image On The Go! Women’s Classic Opaque Black Footed Tights; Madewell The Curvy Perfect Vintage Wide-Leg Jean in Heathcote Wash; Universal Thread Women’s Cotton Cable Knee-High Boot Socks in Tan Heather; Hue Women’s 3-Pk Roll Top Socks in Oatmeal Leopard
Left to right: On The Go! Women’s Classic Opaque Black Footed Tights ($13 for two, walmart.com); Madewell The Curvy Perfect Vintage Wide-Leg Jean in Heathcote Wash ($128, madewell.com); Universal Thread Women’s Cotton Cable Knee-High Boot Socks in Tan Heather ($6 each, target.com); Hue Women’s 3-Pk Roll Top Socks in Oatmeal Leopard ($15, macys.com)
Walmart; Madewell; Target; Macy's

5. Bring back tights and socks.

You may not have worn these practical extras in years, but they’re ready to help you stay warm. Tights, crew socks and knee socks work much like bodysuits and liner tops but for the lower body. Slip back into opaque pantyhose to add another layer of warmth under wide-leg jeans and relaxed-leg pants and to bridge the leg and ankle spaces between hemlines and boots. If pants and loafers are wardrobe favorites, this is the moment to buy socks again (after years of barefooting it!) and save tootsies from frost.

spinner image J.Crew Factory Two-Button Sweater Blazer in Hthr Mushroom; Mango Tweed Jacket with Jewel Button in Brown; Liverpool Los Angeles Pearl Pull-On Faux Suede Flare Pants in Penny Brown; Mangopop Women’s Crew Neck Long Sleeve Basic Bodysuit in Long Sleeve Camel; Gap CashSoft V-Neck Sweater in Cocoa Powder Brown
(Left to right) J.Crew Factory Two-Button Sweater Blazer in Hthr Mushroom; Mango Tweed Jacket with Jewel Button in Brown; Liverpool Los Angeles Pearl Pull-On Faux Suede Flare Pants in Penny Brown; Mangopop Women’s Crew Neck Long Sleeve Basic Bodysuit in Long Sleeve Camel; Gap CashSoft V-Neck Sweater in Cocoa Powder Brown
J.Crew Factory; Mango; Nordstrom; Amazon; Gap

6. Use color to streamline your layers.

Sticking to one or two colors keeps layers from looking haphazard and creates the effect of a trimmer silhouette, regardless of size and shape. For example, you might limit your layers to all black or do a monochromatic look but vary the shades from light to dark. Take a look at the warm brown/beige/camel tones in the Mangopop Women’s Crew Neck Long Sleeve Basic Bodysuit in Long Sleeve Camel ($18, amazon.com), the Gap CashSoft V-Neck Sweater in Cocoa Powder Brown ($23, gap.com) and the Liverpool Los Angeles Pearl Pull-On Faux Suede Flare Pants in Penny Brown ($98, nordstrom.com). This toasty combination works perfectly the way it is, but it can gain even more warmth with the optional addition of the J.Crew Factory Two-Button Sweater Blazer in Hthr Mushroom ($59, factory.jcrew.com) or Mango Tweed Jacket with Jewel Button in Brown ($140, mango.com/us) for a pulled-together look that is calorie-free.

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