Style File: Learn How to Become a Layer Player

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Style setter Addysten Trumper showcases her layering skills on campus with an outfit that allows for many weather patterns.  Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn
Style setter Addysten Trumper showcases her layering skills on campus with an outfit that allows for many weather patterns. Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn

Typical fall day for USF student: Morning class at 8:30 with chilly San Francisco fog lingering (thought: my hairstyle is already ruined). Lunch with friends at 12:00 in the caf, sun is shining and fog has turned to sweat (thought: a sweater and boots this morning?) Classes done for the day. Off to the Haight to grab a burrito with that special someone (thought: Brr! Can I borrow your jacket?).

Welcome to the daily challenge of battling San Francisco weather, which brings us to style logistics. We have all experienced a day like this, either too hot or too cold. There is only one solution that does not involve running home to change three times a day. With a few layering skills under your belt, your day will be comfortable no matter what time it is or what part of the city you are in. Layering does more than control your body thermostat. With this technique your wardrobe will expand so that you can rock your seasonal clothing year-round. Layering is not just wearing a jacket over your clothes, it’s the creation of texture and pattern proportions that can transform your look on a daily basis. Step out the door for a day full of weather changes without any major clothing changes by following these layering clues.

Pattern Principles

The fashion gods have devised a tricky trend for you fashionistas (or fashionistos) to follow when it comes to the art of layering: mixing patterns. This is an advanced skill, but as I have always said, if you feel it then wear it. Mixing two or more patterns in a single outfit can work with a little confidence in your craft.  While picking your patterns remember to stick to only one large pattern. If you are wearing a flower printed dress, do not wear large printed stockings that clash with the print. Focus on a stocking that has a petite pattern like small dots or a scarf that has an understated pattern like zigzags.

There are days I walk out the door feeling great but when I return home and look in the mirror a feeling of dread comes over me when I realize that I have too much going on in one outfit. Therefore this styling tip: when mixing patterns, it is smart to get dressed and give yourself a few minutes to look in a full mirror for the second time. I do my hair and makeup before I take a look from farther away; this gives you time to digest your choices so when you look in the mirror again you have a fresh perspective. This method helps edit patterns to flow together instead of clashing.

Texture Tips

Texture is all about relationships. Sometimes two pieces of clothing can overpower each other and the battle for attention begins. Layering your fur vest with that loose knit frock might seem comfy, but you just became a bundled Pillsbury Doughboy. Proportions are the name of the game when it comes to texture. If you are working with your fur, don’t mix it with something that has equal volume. Pairing your fur with cotton or silk will guarantee a more slender and elongated silhouette.

Just the other day I decided to wear all black. A safe bet, right? Wrong! As I pulled on my black torn-styled leggings, lace mini dress with my silk slip under, cotton vest, my feathered shrug and suede black knee high boots I looked in the mirror and realized that I was a mixture of six different textures- all in the same color. Don’t let this happen to you. Decide the look that you are going for and then carefully pick and choose what pieces can help you achieve that look without wearing each textured piece that you have. Oh, and don’t worry, I caught my mistake before jumping on the bus this time so I was set to go… proportionally perfect.

Her easily altered ensemble helps her cope with the often inconsistent temperatures of San Francisco while looking trendy and put-together at all times.  Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn
Her easily altered ensemble helps her cope with the often inconsistent temperatures of San Francisco while looking trendy and put-together at all times. Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn

Great Garb

As a layering luminary, there are a few pieces of clothing that are essential to ensure that your comfort is weather proof.  When I know that it is too hot for a jacket and by mid-day I am going to prefer short sleeves, a scarf is the perfect solution. While thin scarves are very stylish, invest in a “blanket scarf.” These scarves are thick, long and assured to keep you warm on your way to your morning course. They are also good for a little ‘security blanket’ in class. I often take my scarf off and place it on my legs in class to keep me cozy.  Also, it is much easier to shove a scarf in your bag in the warm hours than a bulky jacket.

Another fabulous convertible-layering item are “soft boots.” These boots are long enough to wear knee high, but soft enough to scrunch into an ankle boot. I have two pairs of these boots because I know that they can get me through any day in San Francisco. If I need a leg up on warmth, then I just pull my boots up past my knees. When I am feeling the weight of the sun, my boots are scrunched into bootie form. While many items in your wardrobe are perfect for layering, these garb ideas will carry you in comfort throughout the day.

Accommodating Advice

The major advantage to layering is having the ability to take clothes off and put them back on. But when you are on the go, where should you put your scarf when you are feeling a hot flash? The bag that you are carrying is essential in this case. Choose a bag that can accommodate the peeled layer. Make sure that you have a bag that will support your changing daily wardrobe.

If a large bag is not an option for your day’s work, make sure you plan for your transformation early on. For instance when wearing my soft boots, I make sure before leaving my mirror that they will look grand above or below the knee. If I know I do not have room for my scarf, I test it on my waist as an alternative to my neck. Feeling cool in temperature and looking cool in style are equally important.

As we all know, everybody’s style file looks different. But layering is a style that we can all utilize because in reality we have always done this. To make it into a fashion statement; we must be more conscious of what we are piecing together to create a modern and updated look. Get creative. Layering is fun because it allows for experimentation; try an unexpected look that is all yours. Embrace the San Francisco days that tend to throw some style curveballs our way and be a layer player.

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