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Mix-and-match your wardrobe for spring

Updated: March 29, 2011 03:17 PM EDT
© iStockphoto / Thinkstock © iStockphoto / Thinkstock

By Claire Coghlan
From Bright Smile Beautiful You 

Layering: It's a concept that all covet, but only a few can carry off between seasons.

With spring right around the corner and the temps still hovering on the low end of the spectrum, our style team can help make the most of this transition time.


Get a Handle on Proportions

While we love some "dumpster chic" (thank you, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen), head-to-toe baggy is a look best left to pint-sized Hollywood starlets.

For the rest of us, there's one golden rule for layering: Portion control.

For example, if you go big on top, keep it small on the bottom. Try a fitted leather miniskirt with a boxy, off-the-shoulder sweater over a fitted tank; balance roomy boyfriend chinos with a slim crewneck sweater and a shrunken blazer.


Create a Color Scheme

To avoid looking like an extra from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, try to create a cohesive color scheme that revolves around -- and complements -- your central clothing piece.

Let's say you pin your look to a blue floral-print frock with cream undertones. Warm up the dress with a creamy-colored cashmere cardi and snood (also called an infinity scarf), caramel-toned knee socks and tan leather boots.

A tan leather belt pulls the look together and magically whittles your waistline.


Mix Fabrics

Now that you've mastered proportions and colors, it's time to have fun with fabrics.

The rule here is that there are no rules. Create a richer look by donning a variety of textures and weaves. Combine silk city-shorts with ribbed wool tights and suede booties, for example. Or, jazz up slouchy wool trousers with a sequined tank, satin heels and soft leather motorcycle jacket.

The trick is to remember tip Nos. 1 and 2.


Choose Comfortable Undergarments

We're all for high-tech fabrics that magically suck us in for a night out on the town or a workout at the gym. But for all-day wear, it's best to stock up on underpinnings in natural weaves.

These let your skin breathe by allowing air to circulate around it, therefore making them less likely to irritate. Think lightweight camis, tanks and tees in silk, linen, cotton, bamboo, hemp or tencel; and leggings boasting a hefty mix of cotton and tummy-tucking Lycra and/or spandex.


Shop Your Closet

Layering is a great way to reinvent all those underutilized pieces in your bottom drawer.

Case in point: Maxi skirts are big news for spring. Breathe new life into a floor-length bridesmaid dress you paid good money for by topping it with a shawl-neck cardigan that hits at the waist. Scrunch up the sleeves, add a waist-defining belt, gladiator sandals and a pile of stacked bracelets -- voila, instant spring 2011 style.


Now Work Backwards

The finished look should be polished, pulled-together and figure-flattering, but don't forget that the main point of layering is to be able to add and subtract as temperatures rise and fall. Make sure your layers underneath are a great standalone outfit.

An easy day-to-night combo is a fitted pencil skirt and silk cami. For a cozy office-appropriate look, top with a cardigan (it can look great tucked in or belted) and a fitted blazer. Peel off the outer pieces for instant cocktail-ready glamour.


Claire Coghlan is an NYC-based writer and editor who has covered fashion and style for magazines such as InStyle, People and Life & Style Weekly, and websites including TheKnot.com, DailyFrontRow.com and EverydayHealth.com.

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