Could a 'Shirt Sandwich' Pull You Out of a Fashion Rut?

The styling trick looks as interesting as it sounds.

A Future graphic of shirt sandwiches from The Row, Victoria Beckham, Leandra Medine Cohen, and Miu Miu.
(Image credit: Future)

So, your style is feeling stale. To find some inspiration, you could read a trend report. Maybe scour street style images or peruse your favorite shopping site. For Leandra Medine Cohen, it was none of those things. Instead, she found her personal fashion revival in the form of a "shirt sandwich"—a layering technique consisting of “two shirts (typically a lightweight turtleneck and a knit layer) and a third shirt," as she explains to Marie Claire.

Some may have thought it impossible that the author of The Cereal Aisle, a newsletter “about how to get dressed,” could get stuck in a stalemate with her wardrobe. Medine Cohen is seen somewhat like a maximalist jukebox: Push "subscribe" to her Substack, and you're rewarded with outfit ideas so divinely fabulous that you'll feel moved to dance. Long before celebrities chalked up the nerve to go pants-free, Medine Cohen was strolling around the Upper East Side in sparkly tights, itty-bitty leather hot pants, and red hot Valentino pumps. Trendsetter feels too soft a term.

Leandra Medine Cohen in a shirt sandwich

One of Medine Cohen's many takes on a shirt sandwich—this one consisting of a red turtleneck and two blazers.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Leandra Medine Cohen)

But at the top of the New Year, when the holiday hoopla died down, Medine Cohen struggled to keep her fashion festivity alive. “There's this basic need to stay warm in the winter, and it often runs counter to the desire of retaining your sense of style through the darker days,” writes Medine Cohen in an email. Looking ahead to months of puffer coats and fleece-lined leggings, Medine Cohen found herself bored.

Then came Victoria Beckham’s Pre-Fall 2024 collection, where layered turtlenecks and knit polos appeared beneath checked blazers and silk scarves were nestled into button-downs; each look topped off with a trench coat. Upon viewing the designer's capsule, Medine Cohen felt her creative craving satisfied by the fascinating multi-layer combinations—or, as she's since dubbed them, "shirt sandwiches."

shirt sandwich in Victoria Beckham Pre-Fall 2024 consisting of a turtleneck, sweater, and blazer

Two shirt sandwiches from Victoria Beckham's Pre-Fall 2024 collection.

(Image credit: Victoria Beckham)

Inspiration—that fairweather feeling that's as precious as gold for someone who gets dressed for a living—had struck. “Something about the combination collapsed my wardrobe into a million practical but still inspiring outfits,” Medine Cohen writes. From there, the outfit ideas were plentiful. “The [shirt sandwich] I've been wearing most often includes a white crewneck T-shirt styled under a polo button-down shirt with a V-neck sweater over it. Earlier in the season, it was often a blue poplin shirt with a silk scarf inside, a sweater vest over, and a jacket [on top].”

Posh Spice wasn't the only designer with shirt sandwiches on the menu. Bottega Veneta’s Resort 2024 collection included cream-colored turtlenecks tucked under knit zip-ups and trench coats, and The Row’s Spring 2024 capsule featured double-stacked tonal knitwear paired with top coats. In Miu Miu’s Spring 2024 show, models wore button-downs beneath polo shirts and, on top, blazers that were two-sizes-too-big and faux leather lady jackets.

A feast of shirt sandwiches at Bottega Veneta and Miu Miu

At Miu Miu and Bottega Veneta, there were double-layered polos and sweaters worn on top of sweaters.

(Image credit: Miu Miu/Bottega Veneta)

However, the public's understanding of sandwich dressing has become open to interpretation and, as to be expected with any food-related trend, a little messy. (Fair warning: If you search the specific phrase, Google will give you vinaigrette recipes for Italian subs, not outfit inspiration.)

TikTok and other outlets define the “sandwiching” technique as a form of color-blocking: Wear matching colors at the top and bottom of your outfit (think: a red blouse teamed with coordinating cherry-colored pumps) and add a contrasting element in between (i.e. anything that’s not red). It’s an easy-to-follow formula that offers convenience and reliability.

The types of sandwiches that hot-wired Medine Cohen’s engine, however, are a more intensive recipe. With a shirt sandwich, you must be intentional and think through every top layer, ensuring your collars don’t compete, your turtleneck remains visible, or your three (sometimes four) shirts don’t swallow you whole.

Taylor Russell in shirt sandwich of a leather jacket, white knit hoodie, and red sweater.

Taylor Russell, another arbiter of cool, in a shirt sandwich you might find at a new foodie-approved spot with a mile-long waitlist.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It was the complexity that made it so appealing. “[A shirt sandwich] adds an interesting element of texture to the looks—you're playing with cotton, silk, various kinds of wool, sometimes leather, and softer knits,” she says. “It feels empowering, in a way, to push yourself to combine several of these materials and come out having nailed it.”

And over time, the more you work at your shirt sandwich, the more you'll get into a groove. “Perhaps it requires a little bit more thinking in the initial stage, but once you start layering in this way, it makes getting dressed so much easier because you have a formula you’re working within," says Jenny Walton, an artist and revered fashion darling. At their core, the instructions are straightforward: A base layer plus another layer plus one last layer equals a successful shirt sandwich.

Leandra Medine Cohen in a shirt sandwich featuring a leather jacket, jean jacket, and ascot.

A four-layer shirt sandwich from Medine Cohen, featuring a leather jacket, jean jacket, cream turtleneck, and white scarf.

(Image credit: Leandra Medine Cohen)

Walton, who's partial to tucking vintage silk scarves into her collars, adds that there's an inherent pragmatism in wearing multiple shirts, too. “The real benefit [of a shirt sandwich] is that this type of layering allows you to adjust your outfit throughout the day depending on the weather or your schedule,” she shares over email. The artist adds that the styling is particularly useful during the winter-into-spring transition when temperatures are unsure of what season it is.

And as the show notes of Victoria Beckham's Pre-Fall 2024 collection read: "Elegance is activated by real life," and ultimately, that ethos is at the heart of the layering trend.

Gigi Hadid in a shirt sandwich featuring a knit sweater, tee shirt, and trench coat.

Gigi Hadid in a more minimal approach: a dark gray polo sweater with a tan T-shirt and charcoal trench.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whatever your approach, Medine Cohen offers one key piece of advice: “What you wear on the bottom matters! I tend to style my sandwiches with pants or mid-length skirts because you want the weight to be equal across the top and bottom.”

Here, a few Maire Claire-endorsed essentials if you want to give the trend a try.

Work Sandwich

Stacked 9-to-5 basics, like a blazer, button-down shirt, and cashmere sweater, always yield a professional, put-together finish.

Weekend Sandwich

Your day-off combo: a neutral-colored turtleneck base layer paired with a brightly-colored sweatshirt and jean jacket.

Retro Sandwich

For a vintage vibe, pair a silk scarf in a colorful, psychedelic print with a crisp, cropped tweed jacket. Underneath it all, opt for a long-sleeved tee in creamy ivory.

Late-Night Sandwich

A shirt sandwich is not just a daytime meal—it can also be the perfect midnight snack. For going-out, layer a sheer turtleneck underneath a frilly, ruffled camisole, then throw on a leather trench.

Rainy Day Sandwich

Contrast against the gray skies with color-clashing layers—like a bright green hoodie and baby pink cardigan, paired with a waterproof rain jacket, of course.

Emma Childs
Fashion Features Editor

Emma is the fashion features editor at Marie Claire, where she writes deep-dive trend reports, zeitgeisty fashion featurettes on what style tastemakers are wearing, long-form profiles on emerging designers and the names to know, and human interest vignette-style round-ups. Previously, she was Marie Claire's style editor, where she wrote shopping e-commerce guides and seasonal trend reports, assisted with the market for fashion photo shoots, and assigned and edited fashion celebrity news.

Emma also wrote for The Zoe Report, Editorialist, Elite Daily, Bustle, and Mission Magazine. She studied Fashion Studies and New Media at Fordham University Lincoln Center and launched her own magazine, Childs Play Magazine, in 2015 as a creative pastime. When she's not waxing poetic about niche fashion topics, you'll find her stalking eBay for designer vintage, reading literary fiction on her Kindle, and baking banana bread in her tiny NYC kitchen.