How to maintain great style in painful cold weather (chic layering tips)
Mature woman standing in front of a snow pile in a parking lot in a shearling coat belted for shape with an ethnic belt, structured bag, blue LeatherCoatsEtc cashmere linen gloves, L.K. Bennett tall boots and wool beret (all own)

This guide provides chic layering tips to stay warm in frigid cold weather and breaks how to layer down in easy-to-follow steps using three different example outfits.

Contents
  1. How to layer when the Arctic vortex brings cold air
    • Outfit for temperatures around freezing broken down in layers
    • Layered outfit for -20F broken down
    • Business casual layering broken down in photos
  2. Style layering secrets for cold weather
  3. Further reading

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post.

How to layer when the Arctic vortex brings cold air

Clothing reduces energy loss, i.e. loss of your body heat. Thin air layers are best for protection from cold ambient air because a thin air layer is a bad conductor. In other words, it is a great insulator. You know conduction from your iron pan. Despite the handle isn’t in contact with the stove the iron handle gets hot. This happens because the molecules conduct the heat. Some pans have a wooden handle as the wood is a bad conductor and hence insulated your hands from the heat. Similarly you use a sheep skin or thin wool felt insole to avoid cold feet at frigid temperatures. What you basically do is to reduce the loss of your body heat to the cold ground.

Let’ s get back to insulation in dressing. In addition to looking stylish, layering creates appropriate insulation when it is painfully cold outside. For both style and best insulation how to layer is key. Wherever the fabric is in direct contact with your body and/or the environment, conduction takes place, and you will feel cold in no time. This means tight layers won’t do the trick. Also wrong layering may break the style or may draw attention to your not so favorite parts of your body. Not to mention that you may end up looking like the Michelin man.

When layering clothes, avoid to look like a dumpling. #styleadvice #layeringguide Click To Tweet

Did you know that we loose roughly 10% of our body heat from our head? The head makes up about 7% of our body surface. The heat loss is because the skin and hair is exposed to the elements. Thus, wearing a head is a Must to not feel cold so fast. In Interior Alaska, many inhanbitants wear face masks at 40 below, while others think that 40 below is great for a bikini look.

 

Outfit for temperatures around freezing broken down in layers

The outfit below is for a day with temperatures just below the freezing point. For someone living in Alaska, these conditions are still considered “warm” (as compared to -20F, -28.9oC). Thus, I am wearing my denim coat and booties with insole, one pair of tights, a knit skirt, cable knit sweater and a belt. Not seen is my underwear consisting of a slip, bra, panty and short sleeve Tee.

However, for those of you who live down south in California or in states along the Gulf of Mexico, around freezing temperatures are very cold. Thus, double up on the tights and go for long sleeve underwear. Outside add a scarf and hat. A beret looks stylish with a denim coat. A pom pom hat would be great too when you want a more casual look.

over 50 years old blogger in denim coat layered over knit wear to stay warm in cold weather

mature woman in cold weather office outfit in black knits and tights with belt

style book author in all black winter clothes with colorful statement belt
Outfit details: Max Mara denim coat, Harley Davidson booties, unbranded structured bag, Hermes collier de chien bangle, Vince knit skirt, Anne Klein crewneck cashmere sweater, Rebecca Collins belt, LeatherCoatsEtc gloves (all own) and tights c/o Histik Legwear

Layered outfit for -20F broken down

The first photo in this post, and the photos below shows me in front of a huge snow pile in the parking lot at work. I am wearing a shearling coat that I belted for shape, tall boots with insole and a beret. Underneath is my work outfit of cashmere sweater, pleated plaid wool skirt. The scraf is for style and to cover the neck. Below this look there are two pair of tights, a long sleeve silk top and panty as underwear and a bra (not shown). Furthermore, I wear a long half-slip under the skirt as the skirt has no lining (also not shown).

Alaskan fashion blogger standing in the cold in a shearling coat with stylish accessories

style blogger looking stylish in a cold weather office look with skirt

mildife blogger looking posh and stylish in a cold weather office outfit
Outfit details: GNW cashmere wool sweater (dyed blue), silk scarf to keep the neck warm, Pendleton plaid pleated wool skirt (slip and tights are not visible), Gucci belt, L.K. Bennett tall sude boots, Hermes collier de chien bangle and leather cuff, LeatherCoatsEtc wool beret, GNW Luxe sweater, silk scarf, Gucci enamel bamboo buckle belt, Vittoria shearling coat, ethnic belt, unbranded structured bag and blue LeatherCoatsEtc cashmere linen gloves (all own)

Business casual layering broken down in photos

The photos below break down what I wore over my underwear and shape wear to stay comfortable and warm on a cold winter day on the commute, when running from building to building, and sitting at my desk. These photos are to give an idea about how to layer and to illustrate that when taking off a layer the remaining look should still look like a stylish outfit that speaks for itself.

How to layer: A layering outfit should still be great when a layer is taken off. Click To Tweet

necklace over sweater

stylist in tweet skirt with sweater tall boots necklace
Start with a normal skirt and sweater combination like, for instance, this Eddie Bauer tweed skirt with Anne Klein mock turtleneck cashmere sweater, GNW tights, knee-high boots and long statement necklace (all own). Note that the necklace is already a layer that add interest and style.
business casual winter outfit with skirt, sweater and motorcycle leather jacket as a next layer
Add a motorcycle leather jacket (Graham and Spencer) instead of a blazer over mock turtleneck sweater, Eddie Bauer tweed skirt with gray opaque tights, heeled knee-high black boots and statement necklace (all own) for an edgy, but posh work look

 

Put on gloves, scarf and a hat in addition to your coat for a styled winter outfit.

woman in winter coat, beret and scarf

Alaskan woman in outerwear with gloves, scarf, hat, tights, shearling coat
Winter layering completed with styled outerwear: Cole Haan motorcycle shearling coat, RAK chevron cashmere scarf, leather gloves (similar here), Sanchez tall boots, GNW tights, wool beret and structured bag (all own)

Style layering secrets for cold weather

Here are some of my secrets to maintain stylish in painful cold weather.

  • Wear silk or polypropylene long underwear under your pants and sweater/shirt.
  • Depending on where you have to go wear slim, straight – read not skinny – winter wool trousers with lining or Alaska weight jeans with flannel lining.
  • Layer with a slim qiviut or wool sweater and a polar fleece vest for insulation. Note that qiviut is the underwool from the Arctic musk ox and provides the best insulation while looking chic and thin.
  • When layering pieces (sweater/cardigan, sweater/vest) of different color make sure it is either short over long or long over short with a difference in hem length of at least 2 inch (5 cm) and up to 5 inch (12.5 cm) except for a long vest or long cardigan that hit just above or below the knee.
  • Wear a turtleneck sweater to keep your neck insulated. They look stylish. Accessorize with a brooch on the side of the turtleneck or pearls when you style a winter work outfit for a conservative work environment.
  • Alternatively, a crewneck or mockneck sweater with a silk scarf work fine (see the photo of the LOTD below).
  • You may consider to wear a (turtleneck) sweater with a matching cardigan as a modern version of the evergreen twinset classic. It looks beautiful with layers of pearl necklaces à la Coco Chanel.
  • When your work dress code calls for skirts/dresses wear two pair of tights, long sleeve underwear, a silk or polypropylene half slip or slip with skirts and dresses, respectively. The right underwear are your base layers for cold weather.
  • Wear two pair of wool socks for extra insulation in winter boots a size larger than your summer shoes.
  • Squeezing your feet in winter boots is a recipe for cold feet. Click To Tweet
  • A hat, scarf, and gloves are must-haves in the cold. #polarVortex Click To Tweet
  • Gloves are not only a great accessory to keep your hands and fingers insulated, but also finish the styling of any winter outwear when chosen to match the vibe of the look. See 13 tips how to improve your style with gloves at this link.
  • Wear gloves with adjustable wrist band or knit cuffs to avoid that cold air enters and mixes with the air between your layers. They also exist as elegant leather gloves, for instance, at LeatherCoatsEtc.
  • Wear outerwear that has knit cuffs in the sleeves for the same reason. Wear outerwear with knit cuffs to keep frigid air out when the polar vortex goes thru town. #polarVortex Click To Tweet
  • When your boots have a wide opening at below the knee or at the calf, wear boot toppers to hinder cold air to get into your boots from the top and as a stylish element of your outerwear outfit. Yes, mature women can look great with boot toppers.
  • Go for a chic Russian wool scarf, a silk scarf or a knitted qivuit scarf to insulate your neck when your outerwear look must be dressy and work appropriate. Even if not, style your outerwear, it’s an outfit too. And the fun with styling keeps your mood up.
  • Don't forget to style your outerwear. Click To Tweet
  • Wear a hat that covers your hat and ears. Berets, or shearling hats are great options.
  • When you expect to stay outside for a long time like walking the dog or waiting for public transportation wear insulating pants over your trousers or an insulating skirt over your skirt/dress for extra insulation.
  • When dressing for the commute to work wear a tailored down coat with water resistant outer coating or a tailored below the knee length shearling coat. You can find what to look for in a down coat at the link.
  • In windy cold weather, your outermost layer must protect against wind too. Leather coats with quilted lining are a great option.

When you like these tips you may also like to buy my book How to Dress for Success in Midlife.

Winter layering outfit ideas

Here some work outfit layering ideas to stay warm and look stylish.

midlife fashion blogger in layered black, green, tan, white office outfit V-neck top c/o Covered Perfectly under own long Isaac Mizahri cardigan styled with Esprit silk neckerchief, Kieselstein Cord belt, Gucci Dionyseus buckle, Hermes collier de chien bangle, Banana Republic hounds tooth straight skirt (all own) and c/o Lizzy James bracelet

Alaskan woman in all neutral colors winter work outfit Notations zebra print cardigan, Banana Republic hounds tooth skirt, GNW tight, Sanchez riding boots, Kieselstein Cord belt and three horses buckle, Hermes collier de chien cuff, headband (all own), and layering top c/o Adea

style blogger in down vest and layered outfit GNW Luxe cashmere wool sweater, down vest, Kieselstein Cord belt and buckle, Hermes collier de chien bangle, GNW flannel tight, Söfft shearling booties, and silk neckerchief (all own)

#fashionover50 woman in casual posh work outfit with three horses statement belt Layering top (similar here), Anne Klein cashmere sweater, Pendleton glen check wide pants, GNW socks, unbranded pointy toe pumps, LeatherCoatsEtc beret, Jord bamboo wooden watch, Kieselstein Cord belt and buckle

Tip: Under wider or straight dress pants you can wear long-Johns or leggings or even tights. Put the long-Johns or leggings into your socks (knee-high are best) so you can avoid a cold gap. Also make sure the resulting bulk (or long underwear) doesn’t show when you sit or sit crossing your legs.

Long underwear showing under your trousers is never in style. #winterhassle Click To Tweet

Further reading

You may also be interested in reading about how to stay warm when the polar vortex hits or on creating a posh casual outfit with layering for windy days in spring.

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Photos: G. Kramm

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