This Is How to Take Dress Layering to the Next Level

Feb 20, 2015


We've all had those days where we've looked in our closet, shuffled a hanger or two around, and then, stepping back, decide with much gusto, I  need to go shopping. You've made every outfit you could possibly make, repeated every look you could get away with repeating. There's nothing there left for you. Someone- quickly- take it away from your sight!

But what if, before all your grocery money gets exchanged for cropped sweaters, I bring your attention towards the workhorse pieces of your closet that you didn't necessarily know are workhorses? What if we look at a few items and notice, with some surprise, they can be layered and mixed in ways you weren't aware of before? Think of all the new looks you could create! Think of all the non-Ramen meals you will get to eat! Read on and see just how. 


That one piece that you've overlooked in your wardrobe is a sneaky one for sure: it's the sleeveless dress. Plain, simple, unassuming; you'd never think of the exciting styling potential behind this number. While my usual go-to move with this type of piece is to add a long sleeve blouse underneath for a splash of color or pattern, my world opened up after I discovered another use for it: to wear it as a vest.


It completely changed my skirt-game after the breakthrough. No longer did I have to rely on cardigans and blouses to mix and match and make my bottoms feel different- I could completely change the feel by adding a sleeveless dress underneath. Take this plaid skirt and white collared shirt combo as an example. It's sweet, but in a summery type of way. To darken the tones and add more winter-appropriate layers, I added this navy Lone Pony Vintage dress (seen in this post) to give a sense of more coverage and warmth. The extra layer helped nudge the look along towards the realm of chillier months.

The sleeveless dress also changed the vibe of the outfit, where it gave it a more of a '60s college kid feel, what with its color-blocking and now-accented shirt collar. Give me a pair of penny loafers and knee highs, and I'd be ready to head to my noon Philosophy class on campus. If I took off the dress, I'd have the same look but the tone would come across completely different, giving me two outfits without all that much thought or effort. 

You see? No need to overhaul your whole closet just yet. I don't know whether to say you're welcome or I'm sorry.


Want more dress-as-a-vest layering inspiration? Why don't you read:



  1. You always have the best layering ideas! Since the weather isn't getting any warmer (Hello East Coast!) this is a great way to winterize some of the clothes I keep shoving aside. You're layering posts are really helping my wallet!

  2. Ou yes,I'm all about the re-purposing of the clothes you already have in the interest of saving etc. ;) This outfit is so cute! Now I'm thinking I need some more skirts to cover up the bottoms of my long dresses... ok so thats still a shopping opportunity i guess hahah!

  3. I'm sure I've said it before, but Marlen, your layering is always so on point it's ridiculous. I definitely want to try out this type of layering with the dresses, it seems like your wardrobe options would at least double when you utilize pieces like this. Oh, and thanks for the congrats on the job! I'm working as a graphic designer in a company's communication's department :) Yay for being an adult (kind of).

  4. Ahhh how are you standing out there in a t-shirt?! You're brave! I see the snow in behind there :)

    Loving the layers and the wool skirt.

    Have a great weekend!
    Something About That

  5. Marlen, you just have the best fashion sense! I do love the idea of using a sleeveless dress as a vest - and it's something I probably never would have thought of on my own. I feel like I need to embrace layering a bit more, especially in the fall and winter months.

    x Kathryn
    Through the Thicket

  6. This is super cute and clever! I would never have guessed there's another whole skirt hiding under there. When it's so cold, it is tempting to wear everything in your closet all at once; this lets you get a couple of great pieces in there without looking even remotely homeless or like Joey that time he put on Chandler's whole closet (see here if that escapes your memory:

    Speaking of the cold, I spy some snow on the ground there, and yet you look completely comfortable--are you hiding a Superwoman costume under all those layers??!!

  7. definitely say you're welcome, haha! i hardly ever wear dresses under skirts, but i'm gonna try and change my ways:-) although it might be because most of my dresses either have a waistline that wouldn't go with a skirt or are too puffy to fit with anything nicely. i love this, though! the dress with the shirt is my favourite. xx

  8. I love this outfit and your hair! You are just so cute!
    Melanie @

  9. This is just the inspiration I need as I'm bored to death with wearing the same four outfits every week... Thanks!

  10. I love your plaid skirt, great layering

  11. Randomly found your blog and can’t express how I like it!
    It was so interesting to read your posts and also I’d like to say that you have beautiful photos!
    I’ll be happy to see you in my blog!)

    Diana Cloudlet

  12. I say it all the time, but you're a layering wizard. I can't usually layer all that much for most of the year but I always enjoy your tips! Also this skirt you're wearing here is wonderful.

    Jamie |

  13. "Think of all the non-Ramen meals you will get to eat! " Hahahah I love your way with words :-)

  14. This look is so perfectly you, and your writing, as always, made me smile!

  15. Such great colours and textures, you work it girl!

  16. this look is so multifaceted! it has great play on color and texture and layering. you nailed it all! :)

    C's Evolution of Style

  17. I love what you did here <3 Actually, I always dig unconventional uses of dresses. :D The skirt, though! Love love love! The fringe on the hem is such a nice little accent.

    - Anna


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