Learn the art of sustainable layering with tips, techniques, and hacks for dressing smarter, not harder
Fall is upon us, and with the cool, crisp air comes more opportunities to mix up your wardrobe by layering your favourite clothing. Not only does layering create unique and versatile outfits, but when done sustainably, it benefits your wallet and the environment.
The fashion industry is notorious for its environmental impact, from overproduction to water waste. However, Anne Mulaire is trying to change that through conscious, small-batch clothing that is made mindfully through sustainable materials. Choosing sustainable clothing, especially when layering, is the right step toward minimizing the environment’s impact.
Sustainable layering is not just about wearing eco-friendly fashion, but also about maximizing the use of what you already own, making your wardrobe work harder and last longer.
Building a sustainable wardrobe starts with having the right pieces to layers. Here are some key items:
- Opt for a tee or long-sleeve: Your base layer should be comfortable and snug, laying the foundation for the layers to come. Think lightweight tees or tighter long-sleeved shirts. This layer's primary purpose is to manage moisture and keep you comfortable, so opt for breathable fabrics like bamboo.
- Add a sweater or vest: Next add a thermo-regulating layer like a sweater, vest, or shawl that will add depth and interest to your outfit.
- Bundle it up with outerwear: Quality jackets or blazers are pieces you can wear again and again. Choose a color that you know will match most of your existing outfits—and if you wear a lot of neutral base layers, don’t be afraid to choose a vibrant hue that will really pop.
- Don’t forget to accessorize: Accessories are your best friend for changing up your look from day to day. Statement pieces like earrings can dress up any outfit, and belts are great for adding a waistline and creating definition. Or, opt for a headband that keeps your ears warm and is low-maintenance if you’re in between hair wash days.
Sustainable Layering Tips and Techniques
- Choose quality over quantity: Invest in fewer, high-quality items that will last longer. By investing in timeless pieces, you have essentials you can wear again and again rather than giving into short-term trends that end in mass waste and overproduction.
- Prioritize proportions: When layering, it's essential to balance your proportions. If you're wearing a long, loose cardigan, consider pairing it with a fitted shirt underneath and slim jeans. Or, a baggy boyfriend shirt might pair well with a tighter tank and leggings. The key is to avoid looking overly bulky or hiding underneath too many layers.
- Play with textures: Mixing and matching different textures gives an outfit interest. Pair a sleek leather jacket with a soft, fuzzy sweater underneath. Or contrast a shiny silk blouse with a rugged vest. Playing with textures not only adds depth to your look but also introduces an element of surprise.
- Incorporate colors thoughtfully: While monochromatic layering can be chic and sophisticated, don't be afraid to mix colors. However, remember the color wheel's basic principles. Complementary colors (opposite each other on the wheel) can make your outfit pop, while analogous colors (next to each other) offer a harmonious blend.
- Layering for all seasons: Don't restrict your summer clothes to only the warmer months. A summer dress can be layered with tights, boots, and a cardigan for a chic fall look. Or, try reverse layering. Instead of the traditional method of thin-to-thick layers, try wearing a chunky knit sweater with a longer, lightweight coat or vest.
How to Layer for Cold Weather
- Mindful underlayers: Choose a breathable fabric, like bamboo or tencel, that’s naturally moisture-wicking. The key is to ensure that the first layer doesn't add bulk but provides significant warmth, like these bamboo fleece leggings.
- Close the gap: Ensure there are no spaces in your clothing where cold air can enter. Tuck in shirts, use scarves, and ensure your socks overlap with your pants.
- Natural fibers: Opt for plant-based fibers that are manufactured ethically. They tend to retain heat even when wet, keeping you warm and dry no matter the conditions.
Invest in a Capsule Wardrobe
A capsule wardrobe is a limited number of versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched in a variety of different ways. All of a sudden, seven quality pieces can turn into twenty different outfit possibilities. And layering is a big key to adding new options to your wardrobe. When investing in pieces for a capsule wardrobe, be mindful of these things:
- Stick to a colour palette: This ensures that most items can be cohesively paired together, but it doesn’t mean everything has to be monochromatic. Choose colours that complement each other, you can have lots of neutrals and a few added bold colours too.
- Rotate seasonally: While many items in a capsule wardrobe can be used year-round, some rotation (like swapping summer sandals for fall boots) is necessary.
- Care for your items: The essence of a capsule wardrobe and sustainable fashion is longevity. Proper care like gentle washing, air drying, and mending when necessary extends the life of your garments.
Layering for colder months doesn’t just amplify your style; it's an opportunity to make eco-friendly fashion choices all year long. By investing in quality pieces, experimenting with different styling techniques, and opting for a capsule wardrobe, you can step into any season with sustainability at the forefront of your fashion choices.
About the author: Jessica Baltzersen is a sustainability copywriter based in California. She covers topics on the outdoors, sustainable fashion, and ecotourism.