Winter and layers go together harmoniously; seasonal simpatico! The concept of layering is not exactly novel when cashmere and coats are on the brain. But what I hope to oh-so-delicately unfold in this article is how layers can not only enhance an aesthetic (artistically, as well as in personal style), but ultimately lighten it up. Yes I know, the phrases “adding layers” and “lightening up” seem like linguistic opponents and mathematically adding more can only sum up to greater mass. But there is an airy magic to layering that defies logic and possibly the laws of physics – though I wouldn’t be so bold to say I knew exactly how. Layers of gorgeous winter clothes when unexpectedly paired can come together like a Nutella Latte (it was precisely while drinking such an espresso at Petite Shell surrounded by flaky, feather-light sheets of pastry dough that I realized the enhancing power of layers) a single cup of coffee like a single cafe au lait hued-look can be earthy, subtly sweet and sumptuous all at the same time.
To better describe how layering can uplift an outfit, let’s look at Valentino’s slouchy ribbed knit turtleneck under a shimmering ballet-inspired dress – a fall look that was simultaneously celestial and cozy. Giovanna Battaglia (a personal style icon and W Magazine editor-at-large) wore the shimmering liquid gold dress on it’s own, sans sweater, to the Valentino couture show and although she looked stunning, the dress lacked the casual-cool element achieved by the sweater that accompanied it on runway. The dove-grey turtleneck not only provided a contrast in texture, warmth and contrasting edge, but it also elevated the look from intergalactic to insouciant in one fell swoop of a slouchy collar. That supple top ultimately lightened the sequined dress visually and the contrasting levels of formality screamed modern edge. Combining the comfy pullover with the tailored silhouette allows for a duo of modalities to coexist; one can be on and off duty at the same time. No need for shifting sartorial gears. Nuance becomes the true hero piece of this outfit.
One genre in which nuance is a natural given is Art. Ultimately, personal style is art. Style is self expression; a way we express our artistic muscles daily. A friend of mine recently recounted to me her impression of the Beauty and Truth: Agnes Martin exhibit at the Guggenheim. With my curiosity piqued (I had only seen one of Martin’s works IRL), I began to search the artist’s paintings and found myself enjoying them despite my initial reservations. There are almost imperceptible layers to her work. Her color-blocking technique is of course a form of linear layering, but in addition to that, the thickness of the paint is in random gradation – spots of the canvas are opaque and in some areas the first coat of paint or canvas peeks through giving the piece an alternating ethereal glow and cloudy-hued effect.
Another currebt art exhibit that highlights the effervescent effect of layering is Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion at The Met. The exhibit’s standout banner piece, a trompe l’oleil ballgown by Viktor and Rolf implemented layering in a way that enlightened viewers as it appeared to defy gravity. The dress, in all it’s dusty-cyan, chic-candy-floss glory, utilized layering to achieve weightlessness in two ways: a champagne-flute thin black gown is the foundation making the show-stopping tulle magically float mid-air like lingering puffs of perfume ready to ensconce the wearer in it’s weightlessness.
From a modesty standpoint, layering is an incredibly useful technique that can make any piece of clothing wearable without tailoring. But, it is also a method of dress that has become de rigueur thanks to Alessandro Michelle’s Willy Wonka like magic of mixing opposing elements to create a frenzy for his instantly-coveted designs at Gucci. He continues to floor the fashion world with his uncanny eye for layering dueling aesthetics: granny v. girlish, glam v. geeky. His fusion of different motifs doesn’t necessarily blend, they remain striated and yet the whole Gucci look has become instantly recognizable as a singular vision. Nonetheless, layering isn’t relegated to a look of lighthearted luxury. It can also be grown-up and sleek in an aerodynamic way. Infusing a very put-together look with a note of effortlessness; the “I just threw this on top of that – and, voilà! Perfection!” vibe. You can be enigmatic and down-to-earth without ever having to shift gears.
Turtlenecks and ribbed knits are excellent foundations that add interest to an outfit. A sparkly navy turtleneck by the fabulous new brand Tuxe can instantly glam-up a corduroy or denim jumper and a ruffled version can add street style soigné to a silky slip dress like ones by The Frock or even under that sequined Valentino ballet dress. I, for one, plan on wearing endless layers this season- including many mood-boosting sparklers. My mom, perpetually worried I will catch a cold, will definitely approve. Here goes double or nothing.