The Most Powerful Styling Trick In The Book

While there’s a purely functional reason for layering, i.e. moderating our ever-fluctuating body temp (big thanks to our erratic heaters), there’s also something artistic, even emotional, about this approach to dressing. At the root of it, a stylish pileup is the ultimate form of style self-expression. Layering is a power move that leads to endless combos and, most importantly, allows you to take something as basic as a band tee or as mainstream as a moto jacket, pair it with polar-opposite pieces, and transform it into a look that's so you.

So to celebrate the vast styling possibilities of winter layers, we partnered with ASOS to kick off our Instagram video series, #R29StyleStalking, which is inspired by Refinery29's New York Times best-selling book about fearless street style. Titled “Layer Player,” the first episode takes layering to a whole new, clashing-but-cool level. It shows that a great outfit stack — and great style in general — is not formulaic nor scientific. It's achieved by taking risks and wearing what makes you feel like your best self, which is what Style Stalking is really all about.

To prove that anything goes when you’re wearing just about everything in your closet, we tapped style stars Mallory Merk, a 16-year-old singer-songwriter; Gabby Richardson, an activist, artist, and curator of Art Hoe Collective; and Stella Duval, an artist and curve model, to show how it's done. Check out the video above, then read on to get to know the cool women underneath all those coats.
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE HARRIET.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE HARRIET.
What message do you want your look to communicate to the world?

Mallory Merk (top right, right): "I want my look to communicate that you have to own whatever you're doing and be unapologetically you. I use my fashion to amplify my beliefs all the time. It's just ingrained. I don't think fashion is conscious; dressing myself is just [about] my energy and, most importantly, comfort."

Gabby Richardson (top right, center): "I want my look to say that I'm here. I love art and people, and I want my fashion to show it. I want to dress open and like I have something to say. Especially as a femme person, we are constantly told that we are to be smaller and more easily digestible. With my style, I can fight against that."

Stella Duval (top right, left): "My style is out of the ordinary, and I use it as a platform to teach people that being different is okay. Everyone should feel comfortable in their own skin, and I encourage people to dress how they want and be who they really want to be."
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE HARRIET.

Does living in New York City rub off on your style in any way?

MM:
"Being in New York naturally affects the way I dress: comfortable, fly. Every time I leave my house it's for a purpose, so I dress [for] it. New York is get-up-and-go and give-it-your-all, if you will. That's an occasion to dress for alone."

SD:
"I grew up in Southern California, and when I was a child my uniform was hippie dresses and no shoes! I moved to New York in high school, which altered my style a lot. I would say my style has become more grungy and vintage, and each article of clothing I own has a lot of soul to it. The fact that another person has lived in it sounds kind of weird, but to me it adds a lot of energy."

GR:
"The energy of the city and the many different groups of people in New York definitely translate into my look. There's so much culture and so much around you at all times. It'd be impossible not to be inspired by it all."
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE HARRIET.
What goes through your head when you see someone in a crazy-cool outfit on the street? Does it give you the courage to try that look for yourself?

SD: "Seeing another woman rock a style that I am nervous [about] trying is totally helpful. But personally, I believe the main way to overcome that fear stems from confidence. Every day I boost my self-confidence by thinking about one thing I love about myself. This helps a lot with trying new looks; I've become a lot less nervous about what others think about me because I love who I am."

GR: "It's like Shine Theory: When you see one person glow, it helps you glow. When I see a girl shining and succeeding and confident, how can I not feel like I'm glowing as well? I think anybody being confident with themselves is inspiring. Even if I'm not into the look, I can incorporate the energy and the confidence."

MM:
"When I see a confident girl in a really cool outfit, I can always tell she didn't try to be fly, because being herself looks the best. I like to interpret looks I see if I spot something that my wardrobe could benefit from — pockets, zippers, and functional things like that."
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE HARRIET.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE HARRIET.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE HARRIET.
In this shoot, layering was shown not just as a way to stay warm in the winter but also as the key ingredient to a badass outfit. How do you use layering as a way to create a unique look?

MM:
"Layering is always smart and cool. Layering can pump up a humble white tee into a look by adding a tank top or, like, two coats. Why not? Layering gives an outfit dimension and character."

SD:
"I am such a layer girl. In the winter when it gets cold, I like to put a turtleneck sweater underneath a shirt and then pair a long coat with it. I feel as if it makes me unique and adds a bit of spice. It can be hard to express style when it's so cold, but layering does the trick."

GR:
"Layering is a way to bring your favorite pieces from previous seasons into the winter. I can wear my favorite slip dress with a turtleneck and two jackets and not have to worry about freezing my ass off. It keeps me warm and allows me to integrate multiple looks that I wouldn't otherwise be able to. I can be versatile and wear some great pieces that are a part of me."
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE HARRIET.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE HARRIET.
Layered looks, by nature, break all the fashion rules through their unexpected pairings. How do you feel when you take risks with outfits like these?

GR:
"I love wearing layered looks. It's like looking into a kaleidoscope of who I am. I feel like I can be magic."

SD:
"Different patterns and textures can look really cool together. I feel that it takes a bit longer to put together, but when I have the right layered look, I feel so comfortable."

MM:
"Layering makes me feel badass and balanced, and it helps me to mash my masculinity and femininity into one masterpiece."
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE HARRIET.
What’s your secret to pulling off multiple styles — from hoodies to sequins — all at once?

MM:
"The secret to pulling off so many things at once is confidence. If you don't look in the mirror and want to dance, then the outfit didn't kill it hard enough. Layering allows you to slay multiple aesthetics and feel secure doing it."

SD:
"One thing I will say is don't be afraid of trying clothes together. If they don't work, then they don’t work. But it never hurts to pair things you never thought would work because, who knows? They really might look amazing together."

GR: "Being confident and having fun. If you're not happy with what you’re wearing, what's the use of wearing it?"
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE HARRIET.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE HARRIET.
What's your stance on trends — love 'em or hate 'em? And how do you translate a mainstream fad to a look that's more you?

SD:
"I tend to not focus on new trends because I primarily wear vintage clothing. If I do try a new trend, I'll pair it with one of my fave vintage items to give it uniqueness."

MM: "Sometimes I like to follow trends, but for the most part, I've already been doing the things that become trends. My mom taught me how to dress cool because she always did growing up. The trends that come about now sometimes reflect fashion trends we've already seen, just some years ago. A trend that I've actually been hooked on recently is a little thing called being myself. [It's] really easy with layering — each piece is special and unique, so you feel like what you're wearing is customized to you."

GR: "I like some new trends, but at the end of the day, it's still a matter of personality and what you want. Trends are important and a cue of change in both culture and people. And you can easily incorporate [trends] into your life. One thing I'm really into is cut-off mom jeans. But instead of following the trend and buying a new pair of pants, I can recycle a pair of jeans I already own into something made for me."
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE HARRIET.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JACQUELINE HARRIET.
What does fearlessness in fashion mean to you? And how we can we challenge ourselves and other women to be more fearless and confident in their own skin and fashion choices?

MM:
"Fearlessness in fashion means that you have created a perfect reflection of the woman inside of you. No one is more fearless than a woman, so if that is captured in an outfit, you win. Women can become more confident in slaying by realizing they don't live to impress anyone but themselves."

SD:
"It's about being confident and wearing whatever your heart desires. I think women like myself need to inspire other women to focus on self love. It's really important for all women to lift each other's confidence. I think this will truly help people. This leads to feeling, acting, and dressing the way you want. When someone compliments my outfit, it really makes me feel great. If you see someone on the street who has an outfit or hair or makeup you like, just compliment them — it could really make someone's whole day."

GR:
"I think having people, especially femmes, supporting each other more is the key to us being more fearless. There are whole industries made up of making people hate themselves and strive for some unrealistic standard. We have to let go of our egos and our beliefs that we're better than others for this and that, and just sit down with one another and have things level, equal, and full of support."

Let's see you layer, player: Tag @R29Fashion and #R29StyleStalking with your layered looks for a chance to be featured on our feed.

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