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How to Layer Clothes for Cold Weather

How to Layer Clothes for Cold Weather—Without Sacrificing Style

Our top five tips, plus seven Power Casual outfits to try.

By Madeleine Kim

Rife with sumptuous sweaters, dramatic outwear, and cozy knit accessories, winter just might be the most fun season for getting dressed. But it also can be challenging to find that right balance of practicality and style. You want to stay warm, but you also want to look chic; you want to make use of all your favorite sweaters, but you have no plans of making weekly trips to the dry cleaner. 

That’s where layering comes in, and with a few rules of thumb, you’ll be doing it like a pro. For this month’s edition of our Power Casual Report series, we’re sharing our top layering tips, plus seven polished-yet-comfortable outfits that will keep you warm all winter long.

How to Layer Clothes for Cold Weather

Tip #1: Choose a Comfortable Underpinning

The key to an effective layering system is to start with a fitted style that helps trap body heat while still allowing for some airflow, keeping you warm and dry. And the softer your base layer, the more comfortable you’ll be throughout the day. High-quality cotton tees and knit tops do the trick—and bonus points if they’re machine-washable, for that moment when you step into a heated building and immediately start sweating. (Here’s more on how to layer T-shirts.)

Tip #2: Go for Quality

Quality always makes a difference—but especially so when you’re dressing for cold weather. An ultra luxurious cashmere sweater and a fast-fashion sweater may look similar from afar, but wear them outside on a windy day, and the difference will become chillingly clear. Take the Lea sweater, for instance. What you can’t tell by looking at a photo is that this sweater is made with an enormous quantity of extra-fine yarn, which results in a fluffier, softer, and much warmer garment. (Also, isn’t it pretty?)

Tip #3: Consider Outdoor and Indoor Temperatures

As you bundle up for a chilly day ahead, don’t forget to consider the indoor climates you might encounter. To make sure you’re ready for anything, choose layers that you can easily take off if your body temperature gets too high.

Tip #4: Use Texture to Your Advantage

One thing I love about dressing for cold weather is that it presents the opportunity to infuse my outfits with texture. The chunky ribbing on a merino wool sweater, the gentle striations on a long-sleeved knit top—textural styles invite instant visual interest to your look.

Tip #5: Thick Over Thin

You may have heard the phrase “thick over thin” as applied to skincare products. But you can also channel this mantra in the way you layer clothes. Wear thicker styles (like this chunky merino wool sweater) over thinner ones (such as this stretchy work dress). You can think about it in terms of silhouette, too. Wear more oversized pieces (like the Mila shirt) over form-fitting styles (like the Axam turtleneck).

The Best Layers for Cold Weather—and How to Style Them


The Axam Turtleneck

I live in my Axam turtlenecks (yes, plural) during the fall and winter. They’re pajama-comfortable, easy to tuck and style, and—most importantly—ideal for layering and staying warm. To winterize your go-to button-down-and-jeans outfit, just add an Axam underneath your shirt. All you need is your favorite water-resistant puffy jacket, and you’re ready to face the elements.

Axam Turtleneck
mmlafleur Katari Coat

The Katari Coat

For days when it’s too cold to go coat-free, but not so freezing that you need a down jacket, the Katari coat is that perfect in-between outer layer. Its cocoon-like shape provides plenty of room for layers, the longer length keeps your lower half warm, and our sherpa knit makes you look as cozy as you feel. Wear it with the buttery soft Elizabeth turtleneck in silk jersey, tucked into the stretchy, wide-leg Milo jeans. Thigh-high knit boots give your legs some extra insulation, and a textural beanie tops off the outfit.


The Lea Sweater

On those super-cold days, go for a layer that pulls out all the stops—aka the aforementioned Lea sweater, made from the very finest, very warmest cashmere. Wear it over a washable cotton tank like the Paige and add some wrinkle-resistant pants for a full ensemble. The colorful alpaca Nash scarf adds wind resistance and style points. (Tip: If it’s too cold for sneakers, you could easily sub in winter boots and wool socks.)

mmlafleur Lea Sweater
mmlafleur Ollie Sweater

The Ollie Sweater

For a sharp Power Casual look that keeps you warm, choose a classic cashmere sweater like the Ollie as your middle layer. The Janette blazer is made from cozy ponte, so it can serve as both an outer shell and a sleek styling piece. The Soyoung T-shirt, layered underneath the sweater, will keep your skin dry even if you sweat a little bit and save you from constantly having to launder your mid layer. Finish the outfit with the reliable Foster pants, some knit boots, and hoop earrings.


The Snyder Jacket

We’ve dubbed the Snyder a jacket because its lush merino wool blend makes it cozy enough to function as outerwear—but it also performs beautifully as a desk sweater (and as an excuse to match with your baby). Keep it at the office and throw it on over a stretchy work dress like the Etsuko to create the appearance of separates any time you need an extra layer. (Bonus tip: To further winterize your work dresses, try wearing the Axam turtleneck underneath.)

Snyder Jacket
Steffi Jacket

The Steffi Jacket

The Steffi has the look of a cool, utilitarian denim jacket, but a removable sherpa lining makes it much warmer. Wear it with a textural knit top and matching Better Than Denim jeans for a complete stretchy set. During the warmer months, keep relying on this effortlessly chic outfit by removing the jacket’s sherpa lining.


The Cookie Cardigan

You need a festive outfit for a holiday gathering—but you’re way past the phase of sacrificing warmth for style. The Cookie cardigan lets you have it all: glitz, pizzazz, and comfort. Wear it with stretchy, polished separates like the Marcia T-shirt and vegan-leather Archie pants for a look that’s celebratory without being over-the-top.

How to Layer Clothes for Cold Weather

Written By

Madeleine Kim

Madeleine Kim is the Senior Brand Manager at M.M.LaFleur, where she started out as a stylist. She loves developing styling-focused content and creating newsletters that bring the M.M. community together.

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