11 Solutions for How to Layer Clothes To Survive the Summer-Fall Transition

When it's chilly in the morning but brutally hot by lunch, these tips will come in handy.

Nephtys Laurent wearing a neon purple ruffled short dress
Photo: Getty Images

Up until recently, my knowledge of how to layer clothes in such a way that was both functional and fashionable was limited. As far as I was concerned, piling on various knit and fleece-lined items was a means of survival in frigid weather conditions, not a fashion statement. Imagine my surprise when it finally dawned on me that I could be warm and look cute, too.

Autumn and winter forecasts can be near impossible to predict (hence why I'm so leery of my weather app this time of the year). One minute it's cloudy and freezing, and the next, the sun is shining and I'm burning up under a sweater. Instead of dressing for one extreme or another, the chief design officer at Aerie, Andrea Jagaric, says layering clothes can help keep you prepared for anything and everything.

"The chillier months naturally give us more options to play with when it comes to choosing what to wear for the day," Jagaric tells InStyle, before giving advice on the pieces to stock up on. "Look for options that are versatile and give you the option to mix and match for multiple different looks." For example, combining activewear with classic staples such as an oversized button-down, or sherpa vest.

Layering also gives you the opportunity to play around with the pieces that are already in your wardrobe. Give yourself permission to experiment with different textures, fabrics, weights, patterns, and colors, and the outfit possibilities are endless. And don't be too concerned with going overboard; there are ways to layer clothes without looking bulky. Ahead, experts prove it by recommending their best tips for layering clothes in the upcoming months.

01 of 11

Grab a Summer Dress

Person wearing a crochet dress over a shirt
Getty Images

There's a place for spaghetti straps and sleeveless dresses in your cold-weather wardrobe, too. Once temperatures start to drop, transition your wardrobe by layering this summer favorite over a long-sleeved shirt or sweater. If the dress is form-fitting, pair it with a slightly looser material for a cozy contrast, and keep things casual with simple footwear (sneakers or booties) and minimalist accessories.

02 of 11

Try a Poncho

Person wearing a poncho with sneakers
Getty Images

Erase the image you have in your head of crunchy, yellow plastic garments because ponchos aren't just rainy day attire. The sweater alternative is great for autumn days that aren't too cold but aren't too warm, either. Drape it over a fitted top or turtleneck and pair it with jeans so if you get toasty, you can shed the layer. And, because most ponchos aren't too bulky, you can quickly fold them up and place them in your bag for safe-keeping.

03 of 11

Embrace Overalls and Jumpsuits

Model wearing a green printed jumpsuit
Getty Images

"Overalls and jumpsuits were designed for layering," Jagaric tells InStyle. Her favorite way to style them: adding a cozy turtleneck underneath with a jacket layered on top.

04 of 11

Remember Sweater Vests

Person wearing a bold yellow sweater vest with green trousers
Getty Images

"The sweater vest allows you to have fun with statement sleeves and different collars," says Express' executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, Malissa Akay. "To add a bit of excitement to your look, we recommend pairing a vest with a balloon sleeve top or lightweight blouse that complements the specific style of the vest."

05 of 11

Play Around With Outerwear

Model wearing fleece outerwear with jeans
Getty Images

Layering a teddy bomber jacket or long peacoat over a sweatshirt is a wearable street style trend perfect for running errands on chilly weekends. Complete the on-the-go, off-duty look with baggy jeans and running sneakers, and when temperatures really start dropping, Jagaric suggests doubling up on coats.

"This layering look not only brings dimension to your outfit but gives you the flexibility to take off your larger jacket needed for extra warmth and show off a more trend-driven piece underneath," she says.

06 of 11

Go With Classic Sweaters and Button-Downs

Person wearing a plaid button-down with a jacket
Getty Images

"Sweaters are a great option to wear over a classic plaid or solid button-down, as it keeps the look polished yet adds more of a laid back feel," Jagaric says. This simple styling technique is especially great for layering newbies because these are pieces you most likely already have in your wardrobe.

07 of 11

Experiment With Patterns

Person wearing gingham pants with a patchwork jacket
Getty Images

Don't be afraid to experiment with patterns and different materials when layering (it's very Emily in Paris). Grab an army jacket and throw it over a cozy knit, wear polka-dots with plaid, and play with color. When mixed and matched, says Akay, modern colorways — tonal, neutrals — create effortlessly chic looks that make a statement.

08 of 11

Add Blazers to Loungewear

Person wearing a black blazer over silky loungewear
Getty Images

As things cool off, you might feel inclined to slip on your coziest sweats, rather than a stiff pair of jeans. That's ok — you can quickly spruce up your loungewear by tossing on a tailored blazer.

"By adding a blazer to your comfortable joggers and essential tee look," Akay says, "your outfit can be instantly transformed from loungewear to a polished and timeless classic."

09 of 11

Use a Turtleneck as a Bottom Layer

Person wearing a jumpsuit layered over a turtleneck
Getty Images

Jagaric tells InStyle that one of the easiest ways to layer is by adding a turtleneck underneath an outfit. Graphic tees and a denim jacket will give off a cool-casual vibe, and you can just as easily amp up this basic by adding a poncho, cape, or dress overtop.

10 of 11

Have a Monochromatic Moment

Person rocking a neutral monochromatic ensemble
Getty Images

Monochromatic outfits are still in style, and MiKADO personal style advisor, Jordan Stolch said honing in on one color is a great layering technique.

"Style your favorite pantsuit with a coordinating colored sweater, or layer a simple knit dress under a duster cardigan, topped off with knee-high boots," she tells InStyle of the look. Stolch also says the shades of each piece don't need to be exact matches. "As long as they're in the same color family, you'll nail this look!"

11 of 11

Combine Your Staples

Person wearing a vivid blue oversized blazer
Getty Images

It generally isn't all that cool outside in early autumn, which means your summer staples will likely be in play still. But if you still love the concept of a layered outfit in September, stylist Christina Stein says a blazer over a summer dress — be it a maxi dress or a midi — with a belt makes re-wearing this seasonal favorite a breeze.

Related Articles