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Fall Layering Basics

Fall is just about here, friends; sure, we still have a few weeks of semi-sweltering heat left, but autumnal winds are slowly blowing in. To me, the principal manner of dressing when it comes to fall is to layer well. While you probably already have a slew of traditional layering basics like long-sleeve shirts and tights, there are always a few fashion-forward items to spice up your closet come September and October. So, if you’re up for a hunt for your next fall outfit, look no further than these seven layering basics as the perfect foundation for a layered wardrobe.

First, hoodies. Yes, they can be juvenile and more of a weekend item, but a good hoodie will see you through the season and are surprisingly versatile. You can pair a hooded sweatshirt with a blazer, jeans, and sneakers for a more elevated casual look. Or go for something a bit more eclectic with a crochet, hooded knitwear, and a maxi skirt and boots. For a sporty version, you can’t go wrong with brands like Champion or Gap when it comes to hoodies.

It wouldn’t be fall without a go-to cardigan. These are great transitional pieces as the weather settles into autumn. A neutral cardigan can go with a white t-shirt and lightweight cargo pants in early fall, and then, come the chiller days, go great with a trouser and Henley-style shirt. There are as many different types of cardigans as there are sheep in the world. From chunky to fine knit, to button-up to open front. For layering purposes, I recommend a mid-weight cardi with buttons and, if you can, some texture to the knit, like LL Bean’s Basketweave Button-Front Cardigan.

If you’re feeling a bit bold this season, consider adding a miniskirt to your outfitting rotation. I prefer a slightly A-line skirt, but flare, pleats, and, of course, plaid are all on the sartorial table for fall. For something a bit edgy, check out Calvin Klein’s Faux-Leather Pull-On Mini over at Macy’s. This isn’t a super-short mini, and it has back pockets. While it’s still on the warm side, pair a chic mini with a ribbed-knit long-sleeve top and ballet flats. As the weather gets colder, layer with sheer tights, a turtleneck sweater, and a blazer.

Speaking of turtlenecks, you can literally wear a turtleneck with almost anything. I like to wear it in place of the standard button-down for office outfits. Or, depending on the heft, underneath a button-down. It can also be layered under dresses for getting a few more wears out of your sundresses from the summer. Land’s End Supima Cotton turtlenecks are soft to the touch and come in a range of neutrals, while J.Crew Factory’s Tissue Turtlenecks are ideal for an inner layer that’s a bit sheer, so you don’t feel as covered up and potentially overheated.

For outerwear, nothing beats a denim jacket for early-to-mid fall. The Gap has some great denim and chambray jackets, blazers, shirts, and tunics perfect come this October for a denim-on-denim looks. You can match up washes for a tone-on-tone ensemble or play with contrast by mixing in white or black denim pieces. Try a white denim jacket with black jeans or light-wash wide-leg jeans with a faded denim shirt. Denim is also a great fabric to thrift or buy second-hand for a more worn-in look.

Another great denim layer this fall are wide-leg jeans. Style them with other denim pieces or play against type with a patterned collared shirt, silk scarf, and a blazer. What makes these great jeans for layering is that you can wear tall socks or tights underneath and tall boots. Uniqlo’s Baggy Jeans or Wide-Fit Pleated Pants feel more like trousers for a sophisticated yet relaxed take on jeans for fall and into winter.

Lastly, sweater vests! You can top off your mini and turtleneck look with a sweater vest and knee-high boots or throw it over a button-down and wide-leg jean. Sweater vests like cardigans can go with just about anything; it’s all in how you proportion your look. Baggy sweater vests are best paired with more fitted outfits, while a cropped or leaner vest can give shape and structure to a slouchier look. H&M’s Rib Knit Sweater Vest goes well with a tissue tee, trousers, and a denim jacket. While Boden’s Cropped Rib Sweater Vest can cinch an oversized button-down and wide-leg jean.

Fall fashion is my favorite time of year, and while layers are indeed functional as the weather shifts, they can also be a lot of fun to play around with and experiment with. The key is to build from thinnest to thicker as you work out from your base layer to your outerwear. If you’re feeling too bulky, remove a layer, and if you’re still chilly, add a scarf. Happy layering!