In the book of fashion, the esoteric art of layering deserves an entire chapter – a long one. I was pondering this when I noticed a woman step onto the metro. She was wearing a cropped black tuxedo jacket, a white shirt, blue jeans and oxfords. Her outfit would have been totally unremarkable had it not been for the shirttail hanging out from under the jacket and the scalloped hems of her shirt sleeves folded over the outside of the jacket’s sleeves. Is this to say she was a slob? No, this was style. It illustrated the first law of layering: What most of us wear tucked neatly in, the fashion-enlightened know to leave artfully out. Exhibit A: Diane Keaton in
Annie Hall. I experimented with this axiom by going home and duplicating the metro lady’s look. I put on a pair of Levi’s, black Chanel oxfords, a Ralph Lauren Blue Label riding jacket and a thick white-cotton vintage man’s shirt, which I left untucked. I looked like a Friday-evening London investment banker desperately downing pints before last call. "You’d never let me leave the house looking like that," commented my husband. I conjured up the metro lady again and saw in my mind’s eye that she had been wearing a short jacket. So, I tried it again with a cropped black wool Chanel jacket and then ironed the shirttail.
Exultant with my first layering success, I plunged straight in, piling on a dizzying assortment of pieces and accessories: a Rag & Bone tartan kilt/miniskirt over blue motocross leggings and Jean-Michel Cazabat wedge hiking boots with wool socks peeping over the tops; a short mint-green angora Asos sweater on top of a blue J.Crew shirt with French cuffs sticking out from underneath.
(More fashion tips on layering graphic prints here). Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I threw a Band of Outsiders rabbit-fur vest on top and slipped on some fingerless grey Chanel gloves.
Find out some more fashion tips on how to wear the untucked trend on the next page…
I found a Brooks Brothers tie and hung it loosely under the collar. I dug out a hot-pink ski hat I had knitted last winter and fitted some Muji earmuffs over it. This was Polyvore Extreme-collaging on a grand scale. "Ahh, you’re feeling better!" cheered my friend Anne-Florence, who had watched me pick up my children from school week after week in the same depressing grey sweatshirt and jeans. But when my sister had to gently pry a pair of American Apparel leg warmers from my hands-which I had wanted to wear over the motocross leggings-I knew that I taken layering an accessory too far. It also makes you sweat. With regret, I nixed the fringed hip belt that would have been subtly visible under the rabbit-fur vest, as well as the gaily patterned Kenzo scarf. Maybe the cool Miss Teen Canada World beauty-pageant sash would have to go too. It was a hard lesson to learn, but, unlike happy hour, it’s not the more the merrier when it comes to layering. Verdict 8/10 in moderation.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's bi-weekly newsletter