Published on december 14, 2018

No Bulky Cold Weather Outfits: The Ultimate Winter Layering Guide

written by Team thredUP

The winter blahs are real and so are blah winter outfits. When you’re feeling uninspired, it’s super tempting to grab all the layers you can fit on your body to fight the cold. It’s hard to know how many layers you should be wearing in winter, and how to layer them! 

Thank goodness for our style pro staffer, Cassandra! Follow along as she breaks down her go-to layering formula for a fab not drab winter outfit that has all the warm winter layers you need, without the bulk. Learn how to layer a winter jacket, the best accessories for a winter outfit, and more!

Hiya, Cass here! I don’t know about you, but I’m already over this cold. Sometimes (aka all the time) I just feel like walking out the door wearing my WHOLE closet (à la Joey from Friends). It’s hard to feel excited about dressing for winter when all my outfits look so bulky. The winter frump is real, you guys, and we need to stop it.

It’s not that I don’t like layering. I love layering! I get more mileage out of my winter closet and, if you have an unpredictable body temperature like me, layers make it easy to adjust throughout the day.

To help you fight the frump, I’m sharing my go-to winter layering guide as a warm-up for you (ha ha), from how to layer a winter jacket and what to wear underneath to how to make it all look polished and tricks for avoiding a bulky look. This is a good winter work outfit AND it’s perfect for the weekends too. I typically pack my day full of as much stuff as possible, so it’s nice to be able to change up my outfit throughout the day depending on temps.

The Base Layer: Thin Turtleneck Top




For my first layer, I choose a thin cotton turtleneck. It stays close to the body for extra warmth and it’s a great layering piece that I love to wear under sweaters and jackets. It’s also perfect as a standalone item that can be worn tucked into a pair of jeans. I chose a patterned top to add a little zhuzh to my usually solid-colored winter wardrobe. Prints can make a stale outfit look brand spanking new!

The Cozy Layer: Thin Pullover Sweater


My second layer is where I add softness and warmth to my winter outfit. I picked a knitted V-neck sweater. It’s a bit heavier than the long sleeve but not super chunky, so I can still add on layers for more warmth. The V-neckline also lets me show off my striped print top underneath.

The Even Cozier Layer: Thin Cardigan



Every girl needs a soft cardigan in their closet! I treated myself to a cardigan from our Remade line (good for me, good for the planet, y’all), and I love it so much! That’s partly why I’m doubling down on the knits, really.

The key to all of my knit items is making sure they aren’t too chunky and are thinner knits like a tight rib knit. Rib knits also have a texture I really like. Thinner layers allow me to wear every piece and still lift my arms up! Also, if I get a bit chilly after I peel off all of my layers, I can throw on this trusty cardigan.

The Top Layer: Light Jacket or Coat



I usually break out my light anorak jacket for rain, but it’s weather-proof material works great for sealing in warmth as well! Like every item in my formula, it’s something you can to wear by itself on warmer days, AND it doubles as a layering piece over all of the knits that I’m wearing. For super cold days, I’ll opt for a thicker wool coat or a puffer jacket. Wool coats have great structure so you won’t look bulky, and puffer jackets are thin enough to slip on!

Feeling like all these layers are getting a bit bulky? I cinch the jacket drawstrings around my waist to add definition. You can do the same with a belt.

The Accessories: Beanie & Scarf


Accessories are super important for winter styling. Your face needs coverage too! I topped my outfit with a beanie to keep my ears warm and my hair down from flying everywhere in the wind.

For added warmth, I threw on a big wooly scarf that I can wrap around my neck and face when it gets super chilly. You can also carve out some definition to your silhouette with a belted shawl. You can see how to execute that look and more ways to make your scarf look different from day to day with my handy guide that takes you through 5 creative ways to tie a scarf!

When the temperature drops, the number of layers skyrocket! None of us want to step (roll) out feeling like a snowball, so thin knits are our little styling secret. Share the creative ways you layer up for winter in the comments below.