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As spring semester kicks off, long hours in freezing classrooms and psets galore are bringing us back to earth after the good times of IAP. We all would love to show off the fruits of our holiday bargain shopping, but the cold is forcing us to cover up with the usual MIT sweatshirts and baggy sweatpants. Isn’t it frustrating that cute, affordable clothes in the winter seem to come only in short sleeves?

We refuse to settle for bland, unflattering winter layers and want to pack some punch with lively, practical outfits for every day tooling.

So we here at Figuring out Fashion decided to take a long trip to the mall, and a long, hard look at what works and doesn’t work in the world of layering.

This weeks’ goal: To gain the fashion knowhow to always be able to take off our coats in class no matter how cold it is.

The key to sophisticated layering is being able to actually see every layer — otherwise, how can anyone tell you’re dressing so ingeniously? We found that the best way to make this happen is to use the brightest colors on the inner layers and to work out to neutrals in outer layers. This way, you can buy fewer thick outer layers (which tend to be more expensive) and change up the inner layers more often. A little strategically placed color will make your neutrals look chic and fun without seeming too serious and dull.

We started with a tight tank top or undershirt as the first base layer. Not only does it protect the most important part of you (your chest) but it also smooths over flaws to make them less visible.

What next? If it’s not too cold, wear a warm sweater that buttons, zips, or has a low neck that shows off the under layers while still covering up. For ladies, if you’ve made your under layer long enough, now you can play around with shorter lengths.

For extremely cold days, insert another layer. Try a grownup short-sleeve over long-sleeve look. Guys, this means rich, unusually colored T-shirts or polos. Ladies have more options — for example, a short puff sleeve over a fitted long sleeve (a great way to use short sleeved sweaters from the fall). Also, we found a simple, fitted collared shirt layered great on both genders.

For a final layer, you could go for a less fitted sweater, again the kind that shows off under layers. An even more exciting choice is a warm vest. We recommend a tighter style, though poofy or not poofy is personal choice. A spring jacket also works well sometimes, as long as it’s tight. For a sportier look, go for a short track jacket.

If you don’t feel like layering up so much, brighten up your look simply with a bright turtleneck underneath your jacket and add a bright belt. Sorbet colors are perfect under just about anything and they add a pop to neutral pants, jackets, and suits. Even a bright colored scarf can brighten up the dullest of outfits in a flash.

Also for guys, the bright and more embellished clothes should be on top. Perhaps choose a neutral colored thermal top over a graphic tee or button down. In fact, a nice button down with a cardigan is a great combination as well. We are all geeks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a cool geek. Unlike its name, geek chic is very flattering for guys. Layering a button down shirt with an argyle cardigan or sweater vest not only makes you look intelligent; it lets you feel stylish at the same time. Avoid the ‘stuffy’ look by keeping the buttons undone and exposing the collar and cuffs.

We hope our ventures have given you some ideas on how to put together layered outfits. We’ll join you in your layering adventures this semester, and we’ll see you around campus trying to Figure out Fashion!