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What goes with what

Guide to midlayers

Guide to midlayers

We talk a lot about layering at Thread. That’s because when the weather’s unpredictable – or you have to navigate a sweltering train, freezing walk and someone’s-been-playing-with-the-thermostat office, all in one commute – layering gives you the flexibility to heat up or cool down as required. The unsung heroes of this technique are the midlayers. “They’re the things you wear in the ‘middle’ of your outfit,” says Thread stylist Luke McDonald. “Over a t-shirt or shirt, but under your jacket or coat.”

This positioning means they need to play defence and attack: when it’s warmer, you’ll lose the coat and they get promoted to outerwear; when it’s chilly, they need to be light enough not to make you look bulky, but still keep you warm. “As a bonus, they should add a bit of visual interest to your outfit,” says Luke. But remember – less is more.

The challenge is to find something that looks good but doesn’t hog the spotlight. “Choose colours that add something to your wardrobe,” says Luke. You’ll wear midlayers with a variety of outfits, so they need to match almost anything. “But that doesn’t have to mean boring. A burgundy or burnt orange gilet can be a simple way to add flair to an otherwise classic look.”

If colour seems too tricky, then fabric is a more subtle to way to add depth to any outfit. And to amp up a midlayer’s cold-fighting capabilities. “Wool or flannel trap heat and have beautiful, soft texture that contrasts beautifully with cotton,” says Luke. “Or, if you’re wearing richer fabrics everywhere else, then nylon or padded down add some sheen, which can make an entire outfit look brighter.” Handy for fighting off those particularly grey days.

Midlayers are so versatile that the biggest risk is going overboard. “Four layers should be your maximum,” says Luke. “If you go for any more you risk looking like the Michelin man.” And you’ll cook, even if it’s snowing. Try this quartet of midlayers, broken down in order of warmness, to best the elements in style.

Cardigan

Cardigan

Photographed: MVP navy cardigan (£28)

What is it?: “Originally, it was a sleeveless sweater worn by cavalry officers to keep warm during the Crimean war. But modern versions have sleeves and a fastening – either buttons or a zip – up the front.”

How to wear it: “This is all about picking the right weight of fabric. Heavier knits can double as a jacket, so you can experiment with pattern or colour. But lightweight versions – particularly in fabric like merino or cashmere – look great layered under a blazer or suit jacket. Which means you’re best sticking to neutral shades like black, navy or grey.”

Flannel shirt

Flannel shirt

Photographed: MVP shirt (£30)

What is it?: “Flannel refers to the fabric, not the checks. It means cotton or wool that’s been brushed, which raises the fabric and makes it soft and warm, as it traps air. It became popular with workers in the 19th century because it’s hardwearing and cosy, which is why it’s still associated with lumberjacks.”

How to wear it: “The less you think about it, the better. Because of its workwear roots, it looks great with rugged fabrics like denim, but it’s just as good with chinos or cords. Just avoid anything too formal. If you go for heavy fabrics, it even works as a jacket, worn over knitwear.”

Denim jacket

Denim jacket

Photographed: A.P.C. denim jacket (£189)

What is it?: “The clue’s in the name – it’s a cropped jacket, made from the same material as your jeans. Most have pockets and they’re all single-breasted. Which makes them lightweight but very hardwearing.”

How to wear it: “This is a heavy-lifter in any wardrobe. It’s great over a chunky knit or hoodie – or even a t-shirt when it’s warmer – as a transitional jacket between seasons. But it can also be worn under a coat as an extra layer. Just make sure to nail the fit – big enough to layer something under, but not baggy or shapeless.”

Gilet

Gilet

Photographed: Reiss padded gilet (£185)

What is it?: “It’s like a waistcoat that’s been upgraded to outerwear, or a coat that’s had the sleeves cut off. The idea is they keep your body warm but keep your arms free, so you get the benefits of down – which traps air and is incredibly warm – but can still add a coat because the fabric won’t bunch up in the sleeves.”

How to wear it: “The simplest look is over a shirt and under a jacket, although it works just a well with a hoodie. If you can find one in a matte, refined fabric, then you could steal a move from the Italians and wear it over your suit, with a scarf tucked into the collar.”