When I posted this year’s What to Wear to School posts, I mentioned how the kids like to layer their pieces, and I’ve been getting emails asking for layering advice. So I thought I’d write up a little guide on How to Layer Like the French and share what I’ve learned.

It’s something we didn’t do before we moved to France, but I have no idea why, because we lived in places like Colorado and New York where the weather changes frequently and layering makes good sense. I think it’s partly that we kept our house at a warmer temperature than we do here, and I think it’s also partly just old habits.

Since we arrived here and started observing the locals, layering has become our daily way of dressing. To show you what I mean, I built the outfit above. And, because horseback riding lessons are currently part of our life, and riding boots are on my shopping list, I tried to work in an equestrian vibe just for fun. : ) Here are the sources: 1- scarf, 2- cardigan, 3- blouse, 4- pants, 5- boots, 6- bag, 7- cape.

And here’s what I’ve learned about layering from the French:

– It’s never just a top and a jacket. You start with a blouse or button down, then you add another layer — like a cardigan or pullover. Then, you top that with a jacket or coat. If it’s mid-winter, you can add a t-shirt as a base layer and then put the blouse, sweater, coat on top of that.

– But you’re not done yet! You still need a scarf to complete the outfit. The only time I’ve seen French women not wearing scarves is at the beach. Not exaggerating.

– The women I observe choose layering options in classic conservative colors (like navy, brown and black) and they wear the items frequently and expect to get a lot of use out of them. Notice that almost everything in the outfit above is in gray or black — and would be easy to pair with other pieces.

– The bold color of the shirt looks especially bold in this layout, but really, only a bit of the color would be peeking out when the outfit is actually on a person. A little color seems to go a long way in France.

– And speaking of color, another place my French friends are more likely to add in a bit of brightness is a scarf. Because it’s an item that can be easily switched out (or removed if it’s not making the kind of statement you want to make), it’s a good place to try something new.

Have you tried layering? Does it work for you?