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The More Layers, the More Chic

Creating New Autumn-Winter Styles with Layers

The orthodox layering of a simple sweater over a dress is now out of style. Layering has moved to the next level. "The more layers, the more fashionable" is the motto this season for stylish young Japanese women.

Layers are a great way to protect against the cold during the autumn and winter months, and young women in their own distinctive layers brighten up the streets of Japan. This sophisticated style of layering is seen, for example, in a white blouse worn over a long-sleeved black t-shirt and topped off with a grey fur vest. Or skinny jeans worn under a white shirtdress, and a knit vest and stole in autumn colors. Or the height of layered fashion—a denim dress worn over a striped t-shirt and lace undershirt, paired with a knit parka, white tights, and patterned socks.

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Artfully coordinated outfits layer vests, dresses, parkas, and stoles.
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Colorful shawls and vests as accent layers

No Taboos in LayeringJapan has four distinct seasons, and the key to dressing here has always been light clothing to stay cool in the hot summer and multiple layers to keep warm in the cold autumn and winter. Around the end of the 1980s, though, the routine formula of layering an undershirt, shirt, jacket, and coat lost its appeal. The new cool was to deconstruct these rules, and a new fashion idea took root among young people in Japan. The popular musicians of the time brought in a new trend with a short-sleeved t-shirt layered over a long-sleeved t-shirt, waking young people up to the fun of layering.

This trend was followed by the unprecedented fashion of wearing pants under skirts, which has been particularly popular among those women worried about their bodies, since they are able to wear skirts but cover their legs at the same time.

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Petticoat and cotton dress worn over jeans in the "natural style."

Stores today are stocked with items made specifically for easy layering. Tops are designed with sleeves of various lengths and necklines of various widths, and skirts are made of fabric that is easy to pair with jeans or leggings.

Layer upon Layer for Natural StyleAlthough layering is accomplished with every type of fashion, it is particularly striking among those who go for a "natural style." A natural style is created with relatively loose-fitting blouses and dresses made from cotton, wool, and other natural fabrics in combinations of white, unbleached off-white, brown and indigo. When the layers are well balanced, without being overly bulky, this style offers the advantage of hiding the body's lines.

Part of the appeal of layering is having fun by playing with differences in the length of each item. Wear a petticoat under a skirt, leaving a band of lace peeking out from beneath the skirt hem. Or pair two dresses, one over the other, the outer layer unbuttoned down the front and worn coat style. Outfits that emphasize small, carefully calculated differences in length between each individual item achieve an airy lightness despite their many layers.


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Colorful layers create a vibrant, dynamic mood typical of the "outdoor style."

Layers of Bright Color for Outdoor StyleThe "outdoor style" is another fashion type where layering is emphasized in putting together an outfit. In Japan, outdoor activities like hiking in the mountains are increasingly popular among young women, and outdoor wear is trendy at the moment. Looks that add a sense of style to the practicalities of warmth, water resistance, and ease of movement needed for hiking clothes have now become urban fashion and a prominent part of the layering trend.

Japan's urban outdoor style is most strikingly colorful. Artfully combining items like shorts or leggings in jacquard patterns with down vests, nylon bags, stoles, and leg warmers creates vibrant, dynamic fashions.

The test of today's fashionista is the ability to layer your apparel like young women in Japan do. Why not try it out for yourself by creating your own autumn-winter style this year? (November 2011)

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