By Alexandra Whittaker
Updated Oct 15, 2018 @ 12:30 pm
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Tan France Alexandra lead

I'll be honest: if I were to choose just one person to curate my wardrobe based on fashion sense and approachability alone, it would definitely be one of the Fab Five of Netflix's Queer Eye. So, when the chance to have a fashion masterclass from the show's resident style expert and American Eagle's Stylist at Large Tan France came around, I practically dislocated my shoulder raising my hand in the air to volunteer as tribute.

My fashion dream had finally come true.

I decided to ask France about some of the most common — and most Googled — fall fashion questions from the general public. He was refreshingly quick to share his wealth of fashion knowledge (including how to look, quote, "slick as shit" in the workplace). One fashion dilemma that I frequently encounter is, coincidentally, one of the biggest, baddest beasts of the fall fashion season: layering.

"Here’s the thing, I like to believe I’m an expert on this topic because of this reason: I am from England ... We don’t get too hot and we don’t get too cold in England, so it’s always cold in the morning, and we have to layer," France said simply. "The reason I suggest layers throughout the year for English people — or Americans — is because if you add layers as opposed to wearing, say, a chunky sweater, you’re giving yourself options. So by the time you get to work, you’re not stuck in one layer all day. Layer as much as possible."

Now that's an ideology I can get behind. Check out France's answers to your burning fall fashion conundrums below, and get a look at exactly how he Cinderella'd this InStyle editor into a work wear pro with a little help from American Eagle.

On how to layer clothes: "I like to start out with a simple tee. If you’re a woman, you can layer it with a sweater and a blouse. If you’re working in a cooler office, a hipper office, you can wear the same thing with a button up underneath or a blouse, but throw on something like a moto jacket or a cool trench. Wear a pair of sneakers on the way to the office if you want to be comfortable, and then change them out for a pair of boots. There are ways of wearing layers that can let you be super stylish as you’re coming into work, but then strip off to the great layers underneath. Don’t forget that when you are in an office that’s either going to be heated or cooled, depending on whether it’s spring or fall, you are going to need to take those layers off, so make sure every layer is ready. Make sure that every layer is sophisticated. If you layer a white shirt, make sure it’s a crisp white shirt, not one that’s dingy. If you’re wearing another jacket, make sure it’s not too tight, and make sure every layer, not just your outerwear, is beautiful."

On how to layer without overheating or becoming uncomfortable: "What I would say is make sure you have a size that you actually are as your base layer, and have a size up as your outerwear layers, because that way you won’t feel too restricted by your clothes. If you go for everything super super tight and everything is your actual size, you’re going to be super uncomfortable. But layers layers layers, throughout the day, strip a layer off, strip a layer off, strip a layer off."

On trench coat length: "Here is my opinion: If you are somebody who is taller … you can afford to go much longer with your trench coat. You can even go for a duster coat. If you are vertically challenged, a really long coat is going to make you look shorter. Do I do that? Yes. I don’t mind that sometimes I look short, I just want that fall look of having a duster coat. But if you are concerned about the length of your coat, if that’s an issue for you because you want to look as tall as possible, go for something that hits the knee or goes just past the knee. Any longer, and you’ll look shorter."

On how to wear denim-on-denim without having a Justin/Britney moment: "My advice for denim on denim is don’t go for the same color denim. I had denim on denim today, but I made sure the denim wasn’t too far apart in color. So I wasn’t going to wear an acid wash jean with a chambray shirt, it would’ve looked ridiculous. I got tones that compliment each other. Just make sure one isn’t too extreme for the other. If you’re wearing a really light top, do it over a super dark jean."

Tan France Alexandra embed

On wearing jeans to work: "Don’t go for rips unless you’re working in retail, go for something as formal as possible. I’d go for a black jean for work because it [looks like it] could be a trouser."

On alternatives to business casual that aren't just "add a blazer": "For me, business casual is never just “add a blazer.” If you are a blazer person, go for it — I am. However, if you’re going to work, I wouldn’t see my only options if I were a woman as a dress, or a blazer over a pair of pants and a shirt. I think for women especially, there are a lot of options. Even a shift dress without a blazer, or a pair of black denim and a white button up, can look more refined than adding a blazer to any old outfit. I think in many ways there’s an archaic notion that a suit or a blazer is the only way to look professional at work, but absolutely not. As long as what you’re wearing is well fitted, it looks relatively chic and isn’t too street wear, I think it can look really refined. If you are struggling with workwear and you don’t want to be a blazer woman, but also aren’t the kind of woman to wear a dress, go for a simple pair of black jeans and a white button up buttoned all the way up, and you’re going to look slick as shit."

On how to wear trends in the office: "I think being a slave to a trend is always unwise. I will fine tune one or two trends per season to test out and see if they work for me, and if they don’t, I find something else. But just because something is a trend doesn’t mean you have to go for it. If your personal style is more classic, you should go for that, if it’s more refined and business wear leaning, go for that. However, if you are one to incorporate a trend, start out simple. Put it in an accessory, or a piece of outerwear."

On how to style rain boots: "I love it with a skinny jean, however, I would just say make everything else look more polished, because a rain boot can look very sloppy. As long as everything else is well fitted, again you can wear skinny jeans with it or a beautiful pair of work pants ... Here’s my opinion: Hunter do a pair of just past the ankle boots, and they do them in a range of colors, and in the last few years they’ve really found a way to make the rain boot look more refined and sophisticated so the ankle height boots are super simple. If you wear those with a pair of jeans to the office with a sweater, you’ll look perfectly appropriate."