Fashion: The art of all-season layering

Autumn layering
Autumn layering
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As the weather and our lifestyles become ever more unpredictable, we need flexible clothing. Stephanie Smith has advice on how to work it.

Get it right, and layering looks elegant, chic and cool, in an insouciant nod-to-the-trends kind of way. Get it wrong and, sadly, it will look as if you have got dressed in the dark, using items from someone else’s wardrobe.

Autumn fashion

Autumn fashion

It seems now more important than ever to master the art of layering. Once upon a time, we had the four true seasons, and then those in-between times, as winter transitioned into spring, and when summer moved towards autumn.

But this doesn’t feel as if it is happening in quite the same way any more. We seem to have all the seasons jumbled together, mingled and mixed up, with sometimes three different seasons presenting themselves in the same day.

We’ve had warm, almost summery days, punctuated by storms and chills. Now, mid-August, autumn feels well on its way. Clothes need to be adaptable, flexible and especially layerable.

Multi-function fashion is a trend that is evolving rapidly, as we increasingly want and need to find pieces that can be worn, with a minor tweak or two, for both work and play. This is a reflection of the way in which once separate areas of our lives have merged, as we pay less attention to any division between weekends and weekdays, and instead find ourselves moving seamlessly from gym to desk to drinks and dinner.

Couple this with the maddening unpredictability of the temperature and weather conditions, and it’s easy to see why clothes with layerability are at the forefront of making life easier, more comfortable and more stylish.

The layer nearest your skin should be the finest and most skin-friendly. Knitted linen is perfect for wearing alone in the summer and on holiday, but then for using as a base layer as the days cool. Cotton is good also, of course. Look for long-sleeve tees or sleeveless vest tops, but make sure it’s not so fine that it’s see-through.

Cashmere is ideal as a second layer, especially at this time of year, as it is light and fine, so doesn’t take up too much room either worn or folded up into your bag.

A cashmere or cashmere-blend wrap, poncho, sleeveless long sweater or tunic dress also make perfect second layer pieces. Take a look at what Harrogate-based Pure Collection has to offer (it has a shop in York as well as its online store), and also Celtic and Co, online.

Tonal layering is very much a thing for this autumn, in head-to-toe shades of pink, red, or taupe. It’s all about texture without bulk. Keep layers fine and relatively close fitting. It can be useful to think in terms of pleasing thirds, especially with wide-leg trousers (cropped or not) and midi and maxi skirts. So divide your body mentally into three parts horizontally – head to waist (or just below); waist to knee or above; and knee to floor. You will need to experiment with exactly which formula of proportions works best with your height and shape.

A word about the sweat dress, which is an extremely useful layer piece, to wear alone (with socks or tights) or with a shirt beneath and long jacket or coat over. Easy, versatile, casual with a chic edge.

Bomber and leather jackets are another easy layer option, working well with skinny jeans or leggings, then a fine long tee or sweater, longer than the jacket and fitted.

Having said that, oversized, slouchy knits are another trend for autumn sure to prove super-wearable. Wear over a slim but flirty hem skirt for an elegant look (remembering that a V-neck draws the eye’s attention straight down the body, elongating it). Or simply wear over leggings or skinny jeans for an everyday look that works anywhere, depending on your footwear – smart boots for the office, trainers for weekends.