Layering Tips

One of the best things about the changing seasons is that I can start to layer again. I am most comfortable wearing a third piece. It might be a jacket or a scarf or a vest, but the second layer on top gives me added confidence and makes me feel more well dressed.


A vest is an excellent option if it is still too warm to wear a jacket. I have several vests that I have held onto for years. This one is from Chico’s. The lightweight tunic was a gift from Purple Poppy, and the brand’s name is Comfy. I wore it earlier this year here.


The bag is old by Calvin Klein via T.J.Maxx. The shoes are by Charles Jourdan via Saks Off 5th. The leggings were a gift from Svelte, and I wore those earlier here.


When I wear layers on top, I am careful to create different levels: one high, one low, for example. If the two layers end at the same place, you lose the effect, and it cuts your body in half instead of in thirds. My goal is to try to make my legs look longer than they are.


To illustrate my point, I put these two pictures side by side. Notice that adding the denim jacket over the long tunic divides my body into thirds visually. Three is always more pleasing to the eye than two. The pink tunic and white pants were gifts from J.Jill. I purchased the Ralph Lauren denim jacket from Dillard’s. This handbag is old from T.J.Maxx. The flat shoes are several years old from Macy’s.

  1. Thank you for this tip regarding different length tops. It makes sense and gives me a different perspective on it. I think I’m so old school I’ve had a difficult time grasping the varying lengths. I really adore your outfit today, it is so pretty on you.

  2. I love your style and particularly this outfit. I have a question. Do you wear your white pants all thru the year. Some of my favorite pants are white and I don’t want to put them away. Thanks.

    1. If my white pants are made from a heavier weight material that keeps me warm, I do wear them even in winter. I don’t want to ruin them with wet spatters from street gunk, so I don’t wear them on rainy days no matter what season it is.

  3. What a great idea! If I hadn’t seen this, I wouldn’t have thought about it. I throw on a jacket at school quite often (I’m a teacher) and I never thought about it dividing me in thirds….thus lengthening my body. I’m only 4’11” so you can imagine how difficult it is. No heels for me since I’m on my feet all day. Thanks so much!!!! I always love your posts.

  4. Hi Susan, love the outfit and details about using the thirds ratio. I find that I wear a jacket a lot as my third piece but having something hanging below really does not suit me. Any advise how to make this ratio work for women like me?

    1. Wear a shorter top with a longer jacket and slim fitting tailored pants to get the same benefits. The main thing to remember is that your top should not end at the same level as your jacket.

  5. Great advice about the third piece! I strongly believe that this is the difference between just getting dressed and looking great.

    I think that the ‘Third Piece’ should kick into effect especially after the age of 35. I see so many women dressed in just jeans and a t-shirt that would look great on their daughters but not so great on them.

    Also good tip on making your legs look longer. Your side by side photos were worth a thousand words. Thanks Susan, I normally don’t comment on your blog BUT I always take time to read them.

  6. Thanks for all your blogs and pictures,. Makes everyone want to run to their closets and create, I do anyway ! I am 70 and dress for style also. You can look good at any age. Like you , I feel great when I feel I look good.

  7. I’ve been slow to understand the thirds dressing, but this post really explains it perfectly. I needed it in kit form to truly get it and these two pictures have finally sent home the message to me! Thanks, Susan.

  8. I recently started following your blog and this is the first time I have left a comment. I retired at the end of last year and have been struggling to find an appropriate style. I’m still able to wear much of my current wardrobe from my former life as a teacher. Now I have more time to put outfits together and I’ve used some of the valuable advice you provide on this blog. Layering items works well for me, but I still need to be careful that the proportions are right for my 5′ 4″ plus size frame.
    It has always been tremendously frustrating to have income to spend on clothing and to be unable to find good quality clothing in my price range. Buying on-line is difficult, I am able to buy basics however the quality of the fabrics is not always the best. So I went back to sewing basic items for myself after many years of not sewing at all. I really like the Covered Perfectly range of basics, but I live in the Southern Hemisphere so the freight is prohibitive.
    It is spring moving into summer and I nearly always find it challenging to wear clothing that covers appropriately without over heating; upper arms and tummy area. I enjoy wearing scarves, but it can be far too hot here. I would really appreciate any suggestions you may have for a third piece for a spring transition/summer wardrobe?

    1. My friend Pauline (who owns and designs the Covered Perfectly line) wears the cascading vests all summer long in her southern California heat. I wear them too but resort to a lot of Clara Sunwoo tunics and other loose fitting tops with a long bold necklace when the heat of summer is here.

  9. I do like the denim jacket added to your outfit. I just honestly think you look terrific both ways! I am soon to be 57 and am enjoying your ideas for a simplified, classic wardrobe with mix and match pieces.

  10. I am so happy to have found your blog. I just turned 66 and have recently lost 55#. I don’t want to look frumpy either so your blog gives me so many great ideas. It’s nice to see how to bring together pieces so each one complements the other. I love accessories which to me are the icing on the cake. Thank you for helping us all to look more fashionable and feel good about ourselves. Keep those ideas coming. Brenda

  11. The side to side pictures are a really good visual aid for me…..I really like the longer vest, it’s different and very eye catching. This Fall I purchased a 3/4 tunic/vest. I had no idea how I was going to dress it up. Thanks to your fine blog I am happily mixing and matching….

  12. Congratulations, Susan, for liberated yourself from the lure of product reviews that stem from “free” products sent your way. Nothing is really free, and accepting these items does tend to slowly erode the freedom, joy and Ownership of your body of work on the blog that is your creation.

    Independence like this restores you authentic voice!

    You go girl!

  13. Oh my gosh, I never thought about layering a short jacket over a longer top. The idea seemed wrong for some reason, but seeing your two pictures side by side I’m sold! That looks great and makes you look slimmer and taller! Thanks, Susan….that’s an awesome look!

  14. Hi Susan, Love the new look of your blog and I so appreciate the ease of it and the absence of pop up ads etc to distract from the information that you are so sweet to give us. I love your sense of style, inspiration, and tips which are so very helpful to me at 68! Your simplicity and elegance are so perfect! I also appreciate your sharing your trips with us and the restaurants, places you stay, etc. I live in your area so it is wonderful to get some new ideas for trips. Thanks again!!!

  15. Thanks for the example Susan. Its clear to me now and it does make a big difference! I also try to make my legs look longer.

    1. Pants for women look best when they stop right at the ankle bone to show the foot and the shoes unless you are wearing those wide leg pants. The wide leg flares should almost touch the floor and cover your shoes. Pants should never puddle on the top of your foot.

  16. I appreciate you explaining things like this Susan! I sometimes am not sure WHY something does or doesn’t look that good. It often takes me a long time to come up with an outfit in the morning. And this is beyond frustrating!!
    Have a wonderful day,

  17. You are such a good teacher! Love the two pictures side by side as a perfect illustration of dividing the outfit into thirds. I think it was you who also suggested when wearing a long scarf, do not make the ends even, as that chops the outfit in half making you look shorter.

  18. Did you just purchase your RL denim jacket recently? I just bought one only. It was much darker, and I like yours better! Thank you!

  19. Love your style and your advice. I first found your Fifty, not Frumpy blog on YouTube, and did not realize you were the same person as Susan at 60. Love, love your silver hair….can’t think why you did not embrace it earlier. Living in Phoenix presents special challenges in the fall. I am thoroughly tired of summer clothes, and the morning and evening temps are now in the low 50s. But our afternoon temps are still in the low 90s, and jeans with a vest are just toooooo warm. But I keep trying. Janet K.

  20. I love all your clothes. They are very testful and look expensive. I am not good at putting things together like you. I have yo copy some of your outfits. Love the last one, white pants, pink long sleeves and wear jean jacket. They look so comfortable. Thanks for Sharing!

  21. Thanks for teaching about thirds, Susan. I kind of knew about that, but showing those 2 pictures side by side helps me know exactly what you are talking about and why I didn’t like the way certain things looked on me!

  22. Susan, I recently discovered your website and enjoy seeing your photos and comments. Your photos are always beautiful. Your comments are always interesting and informative. You should write a book!

  23. Thank you for all your tips . I absolutley love your style and would love to follow your programe. Kindest regards Patricia.

  24. Thank you Susan for all your wonderful posts. I have learned so much … the “third piece” absolutely works!

    Kind regards,

    Kerry Wilson

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.