The Key To Cool Layering (Hint: Think Three)


Spring fever has hit pretty hard.  But despite our collective longing, Mother Nature rarely responds.  And if you are in Marquette, MI?  Hello, snow. 

Even if you are dealing with snowdrifts, the easiest way to deal with a bit of Spring fever is to infuse a little dose of Spring into your outfits.  We’ve talked already about gorgeous trench coats, and bright pops of denim…but one way to feel Spring-y and stay warm is by layering.

Layering, however, is not throwing a cardi on over your t-shirt.  Well, technically, it is…but a cooler way of layering is to follow the rule of three:  Wear three tops*.


*tops – a loose definition.  Tops can be dresses, vests, actual tops or even a big fun scarf.  Two tops and a scarf is kind-of cheating in this layering game.  But will still look great.

The rule of three keeps you a bit warmer, and…even better?  It makes any outfit just. so. cool.  It requires a bit more thought, however.  At least for me.  But the end result is effortless style.  Look at your fav fashion mags or bloggers – some of the coolest looks follow the rule of three. 

Wanna see?  I found some really great inspiration, and came up with a few tips to keep in mind:

Tip 1 – Keep The Thickest Layers on the Outside

In general, this is a good guideline.  But it’s only a guideline.  One way to break it?  Layer a wool cardi under a Spring jacket.  (see my pic above).

(Wearing in above pic:  Gap cowl neck tank, Flexees shaper cami, banana republic cardigan, wilster cotton anorak, chan luu necklace)

Tip 2 – Spoof a Three-Piece Suit

Borrow this outfit idea from the boys.  Spoof a three piece suit with a collared shirt, a soft vest (or boyfriend cardigan) and a blazer.  Using a knit blazer from our Keeping a Classic Style Youthful article would make this look soooo comfy.  For inspiration, see Stacy’s End-of-Winter outfit inspiration pic or checkout Streetstyle Aesthetic’s drool-worthy snap below. 


Tip 3 – Let a Hint of Pattern Peek Out

Do you have a plaid button-down shirt?  A striped (or floral) cardi?  Wearing these items as your middle layer is a fun way to make your outfit more interesting.  Bonus points for letting them peek out both at the sleeve and the lapel.

Bee from Atlantic-Pacific nails this look by keeping her pink plaid shirt open over her dress (and under her army jacket).  She was the inspiration for my striped look, also below.

Bee 88

(wearing: dress and belt from J.Crew factory store, striped cardigan from J.Crew, wilster cotton anorak from Nordstroms, Clarks booties, Tissot watch)

Tip 4 – Vary the Texture With a Silky Shirt

I know silky shirts are not mom-friendly.  However, slipping one on over a tee and under a cardi keeps the stains to a minimum.  And looks so cool.  I like Punky B‘s take, below.  I’ve also employed this styling trick in our Poochy Stomach Styling Trick: A Deep V article.  I’ve found that virtually all silk shirts are machine washable (delicate cycle), or a cheapy, Forever 21 interpretation will do the trick. 


Tip 5 – Hello, Sweatshirt

Sweatshirts can be tricky.  But if you’ve found a thin, drapy sweatshirt like we talked about in one of our Mom Style articles, layering it under a jacket and over a top can result in a cozy, comfy and so-very-cool mom uniform.

Karen from WhereDidYouGetThat layers hers over a pretty, lacy top, and Kelly from the Glamourai layers hers over a plaid collared shirt.  Both provide a nice counter-point to the casualness of the sweatshirt.



Tip 6 – Mix Styles

We’ve talked about the importance of mixing styles (casual, tailored, pretty, nerdy, man-style, feminine etc) many, many times.  If you are new here, check out our introduction to mixing styles in our New Style Rules For Moms series.  When you are going for the rule of three, this becomes infinitely easier (and looks much, much better) when you mix up the styles.  My favorite example?  Fashiontoast – below, she mixes a concert tee with a nerdy boyfriend cardigan and faux-fur jacket.  While faux-fur jackets are not for every mom, we did find some cool options/inspiration for moms in our Mom Street Style:  Amber’s Faux Fur Jacket article.


Sooo…to summarize, when layering, try the following:

  • Flowy top + wool cardi + Spring jacket
  • Collared shirt + soft vest or buttoned cardigan + knit blazer
  • Dress + Plaid Shirt + Army Jacket
  • Dress + Patterned Cardi + Parka
  • Collared Shirt + Sweatshirt + Pea Coat
  • Long Lace top + Sweatshirt + Flowy Jacket
  • T-Shirt + Silk Blouse + Cardi
  • Concert Tee +  Nerdy Striped Cardi + Faux-Fur Jacket

What are your favorite combos of three?  And as always, feel free to send pics…contactus (at) aintnomomjeans (dot) com.




  1. Unbelievably gorgeous pic of you!
    “Rule of 3” is SO true. The difference in the sweater/shirt staple with an extra layer is unbelievable. Personally, I’ve become fond of the tank/tee combo, probably since I’ve been living in nursing tanks for the last 13 months. The give me a bit of extra stomach coverage, provide a great pop of color, and just make the outfit look more cohesive. For example, I’m wearing an orange tank benath and ivory and yellow printed tee today, and you can see the hint of orange thru the tee–so cute! And a black cardi for the 3rd.)
    GREAT guideline!

  2. I agree that 3 makes the difference! I think that a statement necklace can also serve as a 3rd “layer”, especially in the hotter weather, when I might layer a tank, a dress and a necklace. That 3rd thing layered on top is what makes it an outfit rather than just some clothes.

  3. This is one of your best posts, I think. Awesome guidelines. I have to head to my closet to rethink my outfit. I only have two layers, and now I need another.

  4. I read this before getting dressed today and ended up wearing a silky white button-up shirt with small black polka dots (which I literally haven’t worn in years) under a red v-neck sweater with my yellow jacket on top & I felt so stylish! It was fun to be the best-dressed mom at the park for like the first time ever. Thanks!

  5. Awwww…thanks guys!!
    Amy – Nice point about the pop of color (a safe way to do see-through). Did you ever find colorful nursing tanks?
    Ann – Well said! A statement necklace could be the third…esp in summer.
    Maman – Love this!! And I’ve seen a pic of your fab yellow coat – I’ll bet this isn’t the first time you’ve been the best-dressed mama…

  6. Ah, helpful again. I’ve always been a two layer gal (tank and cardi, shirt and cardi, tank and long sleeved shirt), but I love the idea of three. I shall attempt!

  7. S – the best colorful nursing tanks I found were by Bravado, who have lovely eggplant, turquoise, and kelly green versions (and they’re the longest I’ve found, which is great for layering). And Glamourmom has a lovely deep red (I had a neon orange from them from last season).
    We just weaned this week, and it’s hard to believe I’m sitting here in a real bra and not a nursing tank!

  8. Ok, I need some tips for warm weather. I am from the north, but now live in Texas and absolutely can not figure out how to do summer layers. I live for winter and fall layers, but can’t get figure out how to beat the heat in style. I throw light sweaters and cardigans on, but end up shedding them by lunch time. I live in simple cotton tank dresses (playground and kid friendly) with flat sandals, or sleeveless tops and cute shorts, but I agree everything looks better layered. Any ideas??

    • As a Texas native, I completely understand. Try for a few cool necklaces. I like the Noonday Collection. Also, if you can find a nice, lightweight vest (maybe a crochet/lace type look; I have a solid cotton vest I bought thrifting once that I like), that will work wonders. Finally, for the layer closest to my body, I don’t wear an actual shirt. I wear crop bras. They have pretty lace ones like this: OR you could just go plain jane like this: It’s basically faking a cami or tank. I live in Houston, so the heat and humidity are brutal, and I’ve learned that style here takes a whole lot of thinking outside the box…

  9. Rachel – At the end of the day, I live for comfort, so when the temps rise, I rarely layer. Instead, I focus on finding interesting basics that stand on their own. That said, there are a few ways to layer in early summer before things get really ugly…I’ll work on an article on this topic.

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