You Asked: How Can I Add Layers In Winter Without Looking Bulky?
Messrs Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry in Friends, “The One Where No One’s Ready”, September 1996. Photograph NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images
We’re settling into the season where real functionality comes into play in our clothes, and the need to protect against the elements is greater than the need for style panache. Which is why, of late, a not insignificant amount of our followers on social media have been wondering how to pile on the layers, without looking like you’ve piled on the pounds.
Whether in the Catskills or the Cotswolds, when you’re fending off winter’s chill, you’re not generally focused on your sartorial presence. But the extra heft of a big winter coat, especially if it’s plumply padded, doesn’t exactly enhance the silhouette, which is particularly problematic if you’re a fellow who’s carrying some extra timber. You need the protection, but the shape isn’t wildly flattering. The answer to this cold weather conundrum? Smart layering.
Let’s start with the base layer. A thin-gauge knit might seem a tad flimsy and unsubstantial against plummeting temperatures, but it’s a starting point to build on. And as anyone who’s been hooked on the hit series Succession will know, the new power dressing is about soft stealth, not hard-shouldered, blocky suits. Hence the rise of the gilet.
Traditional connotations might put you off, but allow us to make a case. Yes, it has a cosy, countryside feel, but – as shown by cashmere specialists Loro Piana and Brunello Cucinelli as well as the Logan clan, Manhattan’s monstrous elite – it’s been quietly realigned into smarter iterations. And it doesn’t have to be overly bulky; try a sleek version in lightweight nylon and add technical know-how at a light-as-a-feather weight.
Next up, the all-important outer layer. If you do opt for a padded down jacket or coat, streamline everything else. The shape will be bulky, so keep the rest of the look minimal; tailored trousers or straight-leg jeans, crisp shoes and a thin, lightweight knit underneath will balance the volume. And if you can avoid it, don’t wear a padded jacket with a suit; the structure of the latter will add more chunkiness up top.
If you’re wedded to a more traditional wool winter coat, keep our aforementioned friend the gilet in mind for slipping underneath for extra warmth without the excess padding, and also look at certain details that will provide extra cover up. A shaggier type of wool such as alpaca or mohair will provide more warmth, while a loose, fluid shape means you can add sweaters and gilets underneath without feeling too trussed up.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, sleek coats with serious structure will create a defined silhouette that’s more streamlined, regimented and sharper. The issue with this is that they tend to not carry as much warmth and protection as their puffa/shaggily oversized counterparts, but look for variants with details such as shearling collars or swaddling funnel neck collars – such little touches will come into their own when the mercury plummets. There’s a happy balance between looking like an inflatable at the Macy’s Day Parade and shivering in something insubstantial.