How To Layer Clothing For Winter: Keeping Warm When The Temperatures Drop

by   |  in Smart Casual

As we get deeper and deeper into winter, learning how to layer your clothing effectively is a useful skill!

Ideally, you’d have a heavy-duty parka for the coldest temperatures and wind chills, but even if you’re just getting by with what you have, you can still stay relatively warm and dry.

Here are some clothes I grabbed from my closet.

This is pretty typical of what I’d wear on a casual day in late autumn / early winter when running errands, meeting up with friends, or just hanging out here in NYC.

Of course this outfit won’t keep you warm in the most frigid of temperatures, but I can easily get around in 20-30°F winter weather bundled up in this.

layering example
(click to enlarge)

Thanks to a Lean Wardrobe, Layering Pieces Are Easily Swappable

The photo above is just a sampling of what I picked from my closet that day.

You may not have these exact items, and even if you did, you may not be in the mood to wear them, or feel inclined to combine them in the way I did.

The good thing is, you can swap out lots of items for similar things in your wardrobe.

If sweaters are more your thing than quilted vests, go with that.

Raining outside, and you don’t want to ruin your new leather boots? Swap them out for Bean Boots instead.

Prefer a more formal look? Go with a wool fedora over a beanie.

You get the idea.

A Few Basic Layering Tips for Winter


Start with the thinnest layers at the bottom

…and wear the thickest layers furthest away from your skin.

So of course your underoos would be first, then a T-shirt or undershirt (if you wear those), followed by your button-up shirt (a thick cotton twill plaid, in my case) and denim, then any mid layers (quilted vest, as you can see above), accessories (such as scarf, glove, hat), then finally, your shoes and outerwear.

Multiple layers is better than one heavy coat

Layers are great because you can peel them off one by one as you get warm, or add them as needed when the temperatures drop.

Contrast that with wearing just a T-shirt + your heavy coat.

I’ve been in situations where temperatures suddenly change and keeping a coat on would make me overheat, but a single layer wouldn’t be warm enough, either. Layers are key.

Avoid the bulk

Going from thinner to thicker layers helps to keep bulkiness down to a minimum.

If you have too many bulky items (or thinner items over bulky items), it’s not easy to just peel off the layers you need to keep your temperature regulated.

More range of movement

Layering in this way helps with range of movement.

Generally, your thick coat is tougher to maneuver in than your heavy cable-knit cardigan, which is tougher to maneuver in than your shirt, etc.

Long underwear for insulation

Consider investing in long underwear or other garments that keep you insulated.

For workouts, I use these Nike compression leggings which keep you warm, and if the need arises this winter, I won’t hesitate to wear these under my denim.

Uniqlo has a line of undershirts and leggings called Heattech that I also plan on trying out, though I’m not much of an undershirt guy.

Do you get hot easily?

In the end, you know yourself best. I get warm fairly quickly, especially if I’m walking a lot (which you tend to do in NYC), so I may not wear as many layers as, say, my wife, who gets cold easily.

If you are always cold (and stay that way, despite the activities you’re participating in), then add the layers you need to stay comfortable. It may take some trial and error, and of course, will depend on the weather, but you’ll figure it out in no time.

Just remember, it’s better to over-layer; you can always take off a couple things if you start to overheat.

Was that helpful?

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