Whether you’ve been primed for sweater weather since Labor Day or are holding out for October to layer up, the season of colorful leaves and everything-pumpkin is now officially upon us. If you’re shopping for a fall refresh, filling in the gaps of your wardrobe or even starting from scratch, here are this season’s top-10 takes on the essentials.
1. The Crisp Blouse
An outfit can’t go wrong with a quality blouse as its core. Anna Wisniewski, Director of Content Strategy at Trunk Club, recommends silk; if that’s out of budget, consider a cotton poplin. “It’s typically what men’s dress shirts are made of,” she says, noting it’s a structured cotton with a bit of stretch. “You can wear them with a skirt, with denim, with wool slacks, under a blazer — you can wear them even under a sheath dress.”
This is also a good place to play up current trends. “Our biggest category is tops, so you can imagine the variety we have — styles, sleeve length, color, print, things like that,” says Ruth Hartman, Chief Merchandising Officer of Le Tote. Look out for fall iterations of ruffles, frills, bell sleeves and other feminine details.
Hayes Printed Button Up, $43, Le Tote; Who What Wear Ruffle Poplin Blouse, $28, Target; The Relaxed Silk Shirt, $88, Everlane
2. The Tailored Slack
Wisniewski recommends looking for a wool, polyester or cotton blend for more stretch and comfort. A neutral like black or navy keeps things versatile.
If you’re not into the wide- or straight-leg look (coming from someone who lives in skinny jeans), consider the cigarette pant, which Hartman says is popular with Le Tote users. It’s tapered in the leg and cuts off at the ankle, so it transitions easily to cooler temps.
If something off the rack isn’t fitting quite right, invest in a tailor — especially for an item you can wear over and over again.
“Consider spending more on staples when you add in the cost for tailoring and premium on fit and fabric,” says Jessica Dvorett, VP of Merchandising with Gwynnie Bee. “You’ll wear them frequently, so think of this more as an investment in quality than a splurge.” Given a good fit will make you want to wear a piece more, the upfront charge could be well worth it over time.
3. The Cashmere Sweater
Fit is less of an issue with sweaters, but not all fabrics wear equally.
“I always advise people to spend what they can for the nicest material,” Wisniewski says, meaning if you can invest $100 for a nice cashmere sweater, go for it. However, “not everything has to be a splurge.” If cashmere is out of budget, Merino wool is another great option, she says.
And don’t let dry-clean-only tags be a deterrent. Try hand-washing in cold water or on a delicate cycle in your machine, then lay flat to dry. “The chemical process [of dry cleaning] really wears your clothes and takes a toll on them,” Wisniewski says, so save money between cleanings *and* preserve your clothing. Win-win.
4. The Dark Denim
Casual Fridays anyone? With the lines between formal and casual blurring in offices everywhere, a quality pair of jeans can go a long way, Hartman says. Not to mention, the sheer number of denim styles means you can personalize to your heart’s desire.
“I go for a nice, slim, skinny dark denim,” Wisniewski says, “but that doesn’t mean someone who loves a flare jean shouldn’t pick a flare.”
5. The Sheath Dress
This silhouette hugs the body, especially around the waist and hips, and hits just above the knees. The classic sheath is an easy way to look polished while putting in minimal effort (it’s literally just one garment!). But that also means a good fit is essential. When trying it on, check the shoulder, the bust, the waist and the hips, Hartman suggests. A good tailor can work wonders here, too.
Go for a wool, polyester or cotton blend. “A good sheath dress should last a long time if it’s taken care of and it’s well-made,” Wisniewski says.
6. The Well-Fitting Blazer
For Dvorett, a well-fitting black jacket is a must, though other neutrals like navy, gray or even a rich burgundy (it is fall, after all) can pull a casual look up a few notches. This one will need the most work with a tailor. A solid fit will not only make your look more polished, it can literally mean the difference between being able to move your arms and, well, not.
Check fit at the shoulder, arm, wrist, bust, waist and hip. “Investing in a tailor to fit the garment exactly to your shape is the secret ingredient to pulling off any look,” says Dvorett.
A New Day Plaid Boyfriend Blazer, $35, Target; Jete Caroline Jacket, Gwynnie Bee
7. The Wool Overcoat
If you’re anything like me, the majority of your outerwear trends toward black or gray. To step up your fall fashion game, consider the wool-blend overcoat in a softer camel color. “That’s definitely a trend right now we’ve been seeing for the past couple seasons, and it’s still going strong,” Wisniewski says.
8. The Classic Pump
Look for a black, nude or other neutral here. Wisniewski suggests leather for durability and longevity. Keep leather goods looking sharp at a low cost with a drug-store leather cleaner to keep damage and scuffing at bay. “It can really add years to your bags and shoes,” she says.
Nine West Flax Pointed Toe Pumps, $69, Macy’s; Sam Edelman Hazel Leather Pumps, $120, Lord & Taylor
9. The Reliable Flat
For casual days, you’ll want a classic flat for the office. And again, Wisniewski recommends opting for leather if it’s within budget. Trendy options abound — ballerina, loafer, slingback, mule, pointed-toe, d’Orsay, ankle-wrap ... the list goes on — and a gel sole insert can maximize comfort, especially if you’re on your feet a ton.
Courtesy of Trunk Club
10. The Structured Leather Bag
This is the essential accessory investment. Whether you need a messenger bag or a cross-body, you can’t go wrong with a classic black, brown, grey or nude, though Dvorett notes that a solid handbag in a bright hue can really bring an outfit full-circle.
The Transport Tote, $168, Madewell; Dana Buchman Tote, $56, Kohl’s