DO THIS DON'T: Wear Lots Of Layers In The Summertime

I think the "don't layer" rule is because it's supposed to make me look fatter? Like I give a shit about that. Especially in the summertime!

Jul 18, 2013 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

Sometimes I will entertain the idea of leaving Florida, of moving somewhere that will make Ed happier because it has actual seasons instead of hurricane season and tourist season. Boston is a natural when the idea comes up because I have a bunch of friends there, including Lesley. She's an awesome friend because she supports these moving fancies and promises to make me her layering padawan so I won't die of cold weather.

I seriously think I would still die of cold weather though. Snow, y'all. I have no idea how people live with it.

But JUST IN CASE, I have started practicing my own Florida version of layering, inspired in large part by the European idea of "lagenlook" -- which means, essentially, layering.

Layering often feels weird and awful to me -- I have some sensory issues and bunchy or twisted clothes will literally freak me right out of being able to concentrate on anything else. I was the kid who acted like the turtleneck was strangling them slowly all day. I've been pushing myself on that score -- not because I think there is something wrong with sensory defensiveness but because I am the boss of my clothing, not the other way around. That might only make sense to me, sorry.

Once I started thinking about there are these arbitrary (and often contradictory) fashion rules about how fat people shouldn't wear layers, I was even more determined to make this work for me. I mean, I'm fat. Looking a little bit fatter because I wear layers is never going to be the end of the world. 

Thus, here are the things I have learned about layering in my independent study of the concept.

1. Layer Lightweight Fabrics All Day Long.

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You can pry my summer layers from my fat, fat hands.

So, a while back, the folks at Rachel Pally's White Label were kind enough to send me two dresses to try. I was initially skeptical, because they looked awfully expensive for really simple pieces -- though I did appreciate that the styles are similar when you compare the straight and plus sizes. Julieanne set me correct on that though -- and when the dresses arrived, I understood: Rachel Pally dresses are actually better than being naked.

It's true. And the incredibly soft and amazing fabric is perfect for layering with other soft fabrics so that you look all pulled together and deliberate but you FEEL like you're wearing pajamas to work.

I'm not sure I can conceive of higher praise than that, actually. Which is why I am now camped on their sale page. (They have good sales.)

At any rate, this outfit is a dress over leggings with a really loose jersey knit off-the-shoulder top over all of that. Because the fabrics are so thin and light, I could also have topped things off with a cardigan -- it gets cold in my office.

Those leggings are from Domino Dollhouse and the shirt is an ancient dolman-sleeve top from Avenue that I cut the waist and neck out of. The shoes are Dr. Martens.

2. Layer Sleeveless Things Over Sleeveless Things.

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Thanks, christinedavitt, for the style inspiration on this one!

I love me some Instagram, which is where I found myself growing more and more determined to wear a sleeveless vest over something else that was sleeveless. I've never been a big fan of sleeveless for the office, because it seems so casual to me, but that IS what Casual Fridays are for. 

Plus, sleeveless over sleeveless is brilliant. I generally think tank tops, even this skull patterned one from Torrid, are pretty boring to wear. Throwing this cropped vest (also from Domino Dollhouse, with studs and Adam Ant button added by me) over it breaks up the boredom -- and makes the shirt more office appropriate since the black parts in between the skulls are a little sheer.

Because I have kind of a short torso, I like cropped vests a whole lot. Cropped layers on top makes the whole look more interesting when it comes to proportion for me. And it keeps it from looking like something heavy you'd wear in winter to protect yourself from the weather.

(Those are really old Avenue jeans that I actually have contemplated setting on fire because I hate them. And a pair of flats by Crocs that are, like, the only kind of flats I wear these days.)

3. Wear A Dress Over Jeans.

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Sometimes jeans are just better than leggings.

I remember putting a dress on over jeans once when I was in highschool. My family did not quite understand that style choice but one of my very old aunts who was visiting told me she liked it. I felt totally style vindicated, but I still didn't wear a dress over jeans again for years.

Now, it's one of my favorite warm weather layering techniques. There's something durable about jeans, something that makes me reach for them on the weekend when I know I'm going to be moving in and out of over-air-conditioned spaces and the humid outdoors. I feel like I could go from horseback riding (which I haven't done in years) to getting manicure (which I also haven't done in years) in jeans. 

And jeans, even skinny jeans, tend to have a more rugged look than leggings. The contrast between dark denim and a full-skirted dress is, like, everything good in this fatshion world to me. I topped this with another cropped cardigan and felt like I was appropriately dressed for just about any situation.

The jeans are Torrid jeggings, the dress is by eShakti, the cardi is Domino Dollhouse again, and the shoes are black glitter Dr. Martens.

4. Tie, Clip, Or Otherwise Manage Long Layers.

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Maxi dresses, man.

I know maxi dresses continue to reign supreme and all that, but sometimes they are just too long. Or aren't what you really want to be wearing anyway. In which case, you can tie and clip and pin and otherwise reorganize them however you want.

This is a bright red Rachel Pally tank dress that is, once again, the softest and most comfortable thing I have ever worn. It's also a little too long for me because I'm 5'4" and the dress is meant for people slightly taller than that. I could trim off an inch or two -- or I can layer it over leggings and under a slouchy shirt and play with the skirt part until I'm happy with how it falls.

You know what's awesome for this sort of thing? Vest clips! You can do all sorts of easy clothing mods with vest clips and then you can remove the clips and do other things. You can make these mega easy -- get some short lengths of elastic and some suspender clips and then handstitch the elastic to the clip. 

I tied a plain old knot in one side and clipped up the other side to be high enough to show off my over-the-knee leggings from Domino Dollhouse. The shirt is that old Avenue one I wound up cutting apart for the first outfit. The shoes are Dr. Martens flocked mary janes.

This could also be read as "Wear Shirts Over Dresses" because so many people kept complimenting my skirt that day. No shame in getting double duty out of a dress, especially one as comfortable as this. Because the fabrics are all lightweight, I stayed cool and protected myself from the sun.

5. Mix Patterns For More Visual Interest.

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Can't stop, won't stop mixing patterns.

OK, I have to admit that I am cheating with an older picture on this one -- you can tell because of the tights. Even I cannot often wear tights in the heat of Florida summer. But I wore this again the other day with bare legs because I wanted to feel fancy.

Sure, you could do this with a plain old color blocked scheme, too, but the patterns are what make this outfit really fun. The graphic influence is the strongest element, followed by the shape of the clothes -- I'm a sucker for a ruffle after all.

Stripes and polka dots totally go together -- but stripes and skulls are an even better take on that bit of classic pattern mixing to my mind. The white skulls kind of look like big polka dots from a distance, too. Because the cardigan and the skirt are both black and white, there's no competition for visual focus. 

If I were outside a lot in this, I'd have opted for a patterned top instead of a cardigan and left the cardigan at home. But for going out at night, I always have a top layer on hand in case I'm sitting under a vent or something.

The cardigan here is from Torrid, I don't even remember where I got the long tank top, and the skirt is one I made myself. The black boots have been lost to shadow and extreme wear, which is what happens sometimes.

It's entirely probably that I'd still freeze to death if I ever had to dress myself for a Boston winter. But I'm pretty happy with hot-weather layering that keeps me looking like I know what I'm doing when I get dressed in the morning without sacrificing my comfort to the heat index. 

What are your favorite layering tricks for summer dressing? Have you ever worn one of those Rachel Pally dresses? I swear, I've never swooned over a fabric like that before.

Marianne is on Twitter, talking about how onions and parfaits both have layers: @TheRotund.