6 Tips to Layer Up Without Looking Bulky

a woman looking at sweaters

Are you afraid to wear layers during the winter months out of fear that you’ll look bulky? Don’t be! Here are 6 tips to layer up without looking bulky.


by Tess DiNapoli | Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness, but she also enjoys covering the fashion industry and world of fitness.

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Worried about colder weather keeping you from expressing your unique style? Afraid those traditional puff jackets and knit sweaters will add too much bulk? You can stay warm and look great, as long as you follow these six sure-fire tips to layer up without looking bulky.

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Tip #1: Keep the First Layer Light

No one wants to get stuck wearing a thick sweater when they’re indoors and the heater is blasting. Instead, keep your first layer light and breathable. You’ll appreciate the moisture-wicking material against your skin as you go from a cold to a warm atmosphere and back to cold again. 

Opt for a neutral-colored bodysuit or silky blouse. Keep this top minimalistic but stylish enough to show off. Then, throw a blazer or shacket on so you can remove layers when you’re inside.

Tip #2: Pay Attention to Shades

A full monochrome look can make a definitive statement. Just complete it with a pop of some of the season’s most popular colors, like green, fuchsia, or blue. One accent piece with bright colors and patterns can take a typical wintry outfit from shades of black and gray to a standout ensemble.

Of course, if you have tons of clashing colors, it can be overwhelming. Try to be conscious of how the hues of each of your layers work together. Complementary colors will add depth as you mix and match various pieces. You could also go with a neutral pattern, like leopard print. Stay true to your sense of style by going for the shades that suit you the best.

Tip #3: Consider Layering with Traditionally Spring or Summer Pieces

Tried-and-true layering pieces are classic staples in every winter closet. But, it’s also fun to add a splash of another season into your look. Why not try a turtleneck under a summer floral dress or a knit cardigan over a light, springy blouse? Or, your swimsuit coverups can be repurposed as a light layer when paired with some tights and boots. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your combinations!

If you want a really bold look, bring out your spring or summer bralettes or lingerie that can peek out from your layers while shaping your figure underneath. That’ll keep your layers from looking bulky! No matter what you try, keep textures in mind when you’re layering, so you can put thinner knits over each other. 

Tip #4: Get the Right Outerwear

When it comes to layers, there’s nothing more important than the right outerwear. A streamlined silhouette on a sleek jacket can help your figure look slim and elegant, no matter what’s underneath. A drapey coat with a princess seam can define your waist without being overly clingy or boxy. And, if you find a piece with the right cut and fit, it can become the staple accent that stays your go-to for years.

Tip #5: Choose Classic Combos for Layering Pieces

When you’re trying to stack your closet full of great layering options, it can easily get overwhelming. Narrow it down to a few basics that are both versatile and flattering. We’re talking graphic tees, fleeces, cardigans, waffle-material tops, and effortless pullovers. Make sure, though, that you choose outer layers that have a looser fit so you can stay comfortable all day long.

Layering a button-up under a corded sweatshirt creates a preppy look that adds extra warmth and classic style. A sweater vest can also be a great option in and out of the office. Reach for a blazer if you’re looking for a structured piece to complete the outfit. Get inspired by style icons you follow on social media to see what combos always look good. 

Tip #6: Don’t Forget the Accessories

layer without looking bulky: a woman wearing a camel colored pea coat with a champagne colored scarf
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Sometimes, your accessories can make all the difference. Adding a chunky scarf might help with warmth, but it’s going to add a ton of bulk. That doesn’t mean you should avoid these cold-weather must-haves entirely, of course. A chic scarf in a complementary color can look great with your solid sweater and neutral coat. But a loud-patterned scarf might be too much with a brightly striped blazer. Just make sure you have the right accessories for your look. 

You can even wear the exact same outfit but have it look totally different when you switch up the accessories and shoes. Have fun experimenting with all the possible combinations! Classic metal tones for bracelets and earrings will look great with almost anything. Also, don’t forget about your shoes. Black or brown ankle boots can be a staple to match any outfit, but some sneakers in a statement color can provide that accent you need to complete the look.

Layer Up in Style

Whether you’re heading into this season with confidence in your tried-and-true wardrobe or you’re thinking it’s time to look for some new favorites, follow the tips above for how to pair your layers. You can stay stylish and warm without a bulky look. 


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