Layering is a trick used to create some of the best put together looks. But the goal is to look effortless. You want to evoke that “I just threw this on” attitude, which can be tricky. Sometimes the process comes naturally—you just know that a white oxford blouse works well under your favorite sweater—but there is a science to it. The key here is to remember that it’s all about proportions, textures, and silhouettes. Here, InStyle’s Ali Pew perfected the anatomy of the perfectly layered look using chic cape coats, printed scarves, and a tights-and-pumps combo that will elongate your legs beyond belief. Read on to see how and shop the looks that she put together with style and ease.

Andrew Yee

Why It Works: A crisp white oxford—even with just the collar and cuffs visible—lays a polished foundation so the rest of your outfit can be more relaxed. Go for a lightweight sweater with slick finishes like calf-hair, which does wonders to dress up cotton or wool pants. To create the illusion of another layer, add a colorful scarf and allow it to peek out below your sweater. To take your outfit up a notch, add a chic cape coat. It imparts a sense of drama while streamlining the whole look.

Get the Look: 424 Fifth cape, $248, lordandtaylor.com; J.Crew sweater, $698, jcrew.com; Everlane shirt, $78, everlane.com; Steven Alan pants, $245, stevenalan.com; Sequin earrings, $42, sequin-nyc.com; Brooks Brothers scarf, $98, brooksbrothers.com

Andrew Yee

Why It Works: Start with a neutral palette and then inject some color with a soft pink—you’ll want to wear the color close to your face for a skin-flattering glow. Top it off with a boyfriend coat that will leave you enough room to accommodate anything you wear underneath. Length-wise, pick a silo that will hit just a few inches about your skirt. And to lengthen your legs, don’t split up proportions: Navy tights with matching pumps will look just as sexy as a pair of knee high boots. Last but not least, skip the plain old gloves for a furry hand warmer in a rich but versatile hue, like midnight blue.

Get the Look: Asos coat, $150, asos.com; By Malene Birger top, $395, net-a-porter.com; Alternative shirt, $128, alternativeapparel.com; Raoul skirt, $255, neimanmarcus.com; CZ by Kenneth Jay Lane earrings, $98 (left) and $165 (right), czbykennethjaylane.com; Donna Salyers’ Fabulous-Furs eternity scarf, $69, fabulousfurs.com; No Nonsense tights, $9, nononsense.com; Nine West pumps, $69, zappos.com

Andrew Yee

Why It Works: Rethink the cropped top: With a snug fit and curved hem, the right cropped sweater can rein in a loose menswear-inspired button-down. Plus, tone-on-tone pieces are slimming and keep the palette clean and concise. To top if off, continue the elongating (and super-flattering) waterfall effect with a coat that hits a good 10 inches below your shirt.

Get the Look: Trademark coat, $548, trade-mark.com; Thakoon Addition pullover, $330, intermixonline.com; Thomas Pink shirt, $350, us.thomaspink.com; Michael Michael Kors pants, $90, net-a-porter.com; GBGH rings, $50-$90, gbghjewelry.com; Lacoste sneakers, $70, zappos.com

—Styled by Ali Pew

For more how-tos, head over to our how-to page where you’ll find more GIFs and video tutorials on makeup (hello, perfect cat-eye liner!), hair, and fashion.