There is a filthy 6 letter word that I do not wish upon anyone.
If you listen closely in the deadened stillness of a winter evening, you can hear its hollow voice calling out…
“LAYERS!..............precious, precious layers!”
And if you hear that voice, and it seems many people do, you likely do as you are told – strapping yourself in layers upon layers of winter garb and saunter about as a sexy human marshmallow for the season.
But I have found that prolonged wear of this neutral style palette is a lethal cocktail that leads to style narcolepsy and what medical professionals have diagnosed as the eventual dead brain. While neutrals make layering simple and wearable for the winter, I have found that style becomes much more about utility than expression in these bitter months.
To offset the pending dead brain and style narcolepsy that overuse of neutral palettes induce, I have a Sharon Horgan “Catastrophe” style-inspired layering experiment that I hope you will join me in this winter!
If you are unfamiliar with this series, Sharon plays an endearingly dysfunctional spitfire who happens to have children and a behemoth of a husband in tow while she navigates the world of foot in mouth disorder, affairs, wet desks and all other unconventional plot deserving scenarios under the Irish sun. She is the exact replica of all that I hope a mother to be and she does all of this in marvelous “No I won’t shut up, so look at me” style.
So in honor of Sharon, the colors will be bold, the fabrics will be mixed, and onlooking pupils will be dilated by the pattern and color high these looks evoke. This is an ode to the middle child, to the diva, to all who don’t mind being a little “extra” in the glum and bum of long winter stretches.
Romper + Tights + Cream Jacket
A romper, also appropriately known as a “Playsuit,” is a one-piece combination of shorts and a shirt. And while you will have to manage a bit of hand-eye coordination to ensure you don’t pee on yourself during the first wear, it’s adorable… and quite frankly, a little drizzle of pee on the skin is good for you and your emotional fortitude. The instant you put this on, you will feel like 10 years have been shaved off your life and you will have the predilection for wiggling your backside and splashing around in puddles. It’s true this playsuit really does make you want to play. To make it a winter staple, I have added a pair of black opaque tights to it to keep the legs warm and finished it with an open cream winter coat.
The tribal pattern of this romper is bright and bold and is the diva on my style stage. The opaque black tights bring dimension to this outfit with slight lace detailing. And to make sure that we still look like a polished grownup, the boyfriend coat brings a bit of structure and warmth to the outfit. My goal here is to be a bit wild with the pattern of the romper and throw caution to the wind when it comes to the color and texture of the tights underneath. But to bring balance, and to really make the romper pop, it needs a sophisticated neutral. Don’t have a neutral wintertime coat? Fret not: any mid-length or maxi cardigan will look just as marvelous.
Floral Kimono Blazer + Orange Dress
You just cannot trust the floral.
It either loves you or hates you, making you look like a gorgeous countryside sprite or like grandma Gertrude’s best friend. To avoid being grafted into grandma and her friendship circle, I recommend choosing floral patterns that are housed in a navy or black backdrop. This ensures that no matter how crazy the pattern, the neutral back drop will bring balance. When choosing your pattern, smaller is better. Choose a pattern as you might a bouquet of flowers, with varying sizes and shapes, longer vines and longer leaves paired with a few larger flower heads. The more the pattern resembles what you might actually see at a florist shop, the less fear you need to have that you look like an ancient tablecloth.
Because the floral pattern is so feminine, I prefer the pattern on structured and tailored pieces like this fitted blazer that has the slightest bit of shoulder padding and is outlined with a gorgeous black trim. To finish the look, I have paired it with a VERY bright (sorry, not sorry) orange dress with an asymmetrical hem. In this ensemble, the black backdrop of the floral blazer paired with the dark hues of the flowers makes it tow the line of being classified as a neutral, so that’s what I will call it. To push away wintertime gloom, I encourage you to pair a floral pattern blazer or kimono with an unapologetically bright mid length dress. In the gloom and grey of winter, this outfit is admittedly a little “Extra,” but come 3 PM on a Wednesday workday, I guarantee one look at your flamboyant colors in the bathroom mirror and you will find yourself giggling like a rotund school boy who just got ahold of his snack.
Green Chunky Sweater + Striped Dress
If there is a midi or maxi dress that you lived in all summer, I promise there is a winter sweater in your closet that wants to be its friend for eternity… or at least for this winter season. The glorious reality of 99.92% of maxi dresses is that they bare an empire waist that sits just above the natural waist line, highlighting the narrowest part of any woman’s body. Even better, this magical dress then proceeds to flow out against the leg line, ensuring that any loose or wobbly bits you have underneath go undetected by the masses. The thoughtful skirt also allows you to sneak a bulky pair of fleece leggings underneath without observable bulk.
When pairing a maxi dress with a sweater, I like to choose a vibrant and “Hello World, I’m Here!” type dress with a muted neutral slightly oversized sweater. Balance is the name of the game here, and it is instantly achieved with the pairing of the two. There is freedom in the sweater that you choose. While I have gone the route of boyfriend-esque, you can opt for a cropped sweater that hits at the waist for a more tailored look. When choosing a color of sweater to go with your colorful dress, I have opted for a forest green, which is a distant cousin twice-removed from the bright yellow lines. The key to choosing a great neutral accompanying sweater while avoiding overmatching is to stay away from varying color gradients that are already on your dress. If you have a sky blue and white paisley dress, do not reach for navy. Instead, reach for a distant cousin of the white palette - a charcoal grey. Staying away from obviously matching hues keeps your look sophisticated and far away from the grasp of Bee Arthur and friends.
Tell Winter Who’s Boss
In the coming weeks, you will inevitably hear the menacing hollow voice of winter summoning you to enter into neutral human marshmallow mode:
“Put on that grey hoodie with that “gorgeous” tan jacket and life changing pair of khakis…. DO IT NOW.”
However, stay strong, and remember - no one feels sexy for long in marshmallow mode. Instead, pull out your brightest hues and experiment with me. I am convinced: come 3 PM on any cold winter day these pupil-dilating combinations will make you feel better than a portly child who just got wind that there will in fact be a second snack!
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