Sartorial Observer: Layering flirty pieces for mercurial spring weather

The night before I returned to campus from spring break, I stared at the pile of shirts, pants, polos, blazers and coats laid out on my bed that I was planning on bringing back to school.

Jeanelle Augustin ’15, excited for spring, paired a tangerine cardigan with her floral tank top in order to be prepared for inclement weather.

The scarves had been safely tucked away, and I was celebrating the spring by switching out my wardrobe. The problem with spring, though, is that in terms of temperature, it’s the most fickle time of the year. The morning starts out at a brisk 30 or 35 degrees, then reaches 60 by midafternoon and then plunges again by the evening. Even I wouldn’t plan three costume changes a day to accommodate the temperature –just think about how many times you’d have to do laundry every week! I’d rather spend that money on a cappuccino at Tunnel City Coffee. The key to mastering the art of sartorial success in the spring is through layers.

I have found that the optimal number of layers one should be sporting is three: a shirt, a sweater or some sort of cardigan and a lightweight jacket. This way, you can adjust your outfit as the day goes on and give yourself three different levels of temperature comfort. Today, I only wore a shirt and a jacket and found myself deeply regretting my decision to leave out a cardigan when the wind was whipping in my face on my way to Paresky. That sweater layer is surprisingly effective at adding an extra layer of warmth. This strategy works much better than wearing a heavy coat over a lighter spring outfit. It gets too hot to wear a winter coat by noon, and it’s still too cold to just be wearing something better suited for a late April afternoon. You’ll be left shivering whilst holding an unseasonal garment. Nobody wants that.

This is a trick that I have found can be applied to both men’s and women’s fashion. I remember in late 2007, long cardigans were trending in the world of women’s wear. Why not bring that back? Think about how great an elongated cardigan would look over a pair of cigarette jeans and a t-shirt. Adding a shorter, lighter-weight jacket over the look creates a play on proportions that will make you seem trendy and chic – and all you had to do to achieve the effect is read this column! I also love the idea of a cropped cardigan over a full sundress. If you haven’t checked out the Jason Wu for Target collection yet, I strongly suggest you do before they sell out completely. Great, playful sundresses that top out at $45 – can’t beat that.

As we move into spring, don’t be afraid of color and pattern. If you’re at a loss for inspiration, just look around at all of the vibrant colors literally popping out of the ground.  Bright blue, green and yellow and soft white are all around us on campus. Why not shake your look up a bit and try mixing them into your daily outfits? There’s even a metallic trend going on, as if we are so excited to see the sun that we want it bouncing off our bodies. If you’re scared of featuring a strong color or pattern in your outfit, try accessorizing with them: Pick a cool bag or a great pair of shoes.

And on that note, don’t be afraid of wearing white – specifically white denim. I know the rule is no white after Labor Day and before Memorial Day, but contrary to popular belief, I really dislike those sorts of rules. I find them limiting. When I was abroad in Rome, I saw many people wearing white jeans, and they didn’t look unseasonal. These outfits succeeded because they didn’t pair their jeans with a summery top; they wore them with a top that fit the season. This is where the three-piece layering trick can come in handy. The jacket and sweater over your shirt will let people know that you realize that it is not yet summer, but the white will add a bit of surprise, shock and excitement that warmer weather is not too far away.

We are moving out of one season of fickle weather into another, but hey, at least it’s getting warmer! So let’s celebrate by donning something bright and cheerful – but don’t leave your cardigan and jacket at home. That way, when the sun ducks behind the clouds while you’re eating lunch on Paresky lawn or Chapin steps, you’ll be prepared.