Fall Wardrobe Essentials 2020

One of my most popular blog posts each year is my Fall Wardrobe Essentials, so today I’m posting an update for 2020 in preparation for the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale that starts next week!

When putting together a list like this, I always hesitate to use words like “essentials” and “must-haves” because each woman is different and has different wardrobe needs. My best advice is to take this list with a grain of salt — consider your climate, lifestyle, and personal style aesthetic when determining what you actually NEED to add to your closet.

Okay, let’s get started! Here’s my list of wardrobe essentials I think most women should have in their closets this fall season.

2020 Fall Wardrobe Essentials

Let’s start with shoes. After all, our footwear really sets the tone for an outfit, and it’s a great way to transition our looks with the change of seasons.

1. Boots

Ankle boots (or booties) are still trending for 2020, but tall boots are nice to have as well — especially when the weather turns cold because they provide an extra layer of warmth.

Last year I noticed a shift from the over-the-knee styles that have reigned for the past few years to more knee-high styles, and this year knee boots are definitely taking over. I think we will still see some of each, but this year I’ll be buying knee-high styles.

Be sure to take your climate into consideration when purchasing fall boots. Fall and winter weather can be messy here in Philly, so while suede is definitely trending, I like to have some leather options as well. Also, more and more brands are making weather-proof suede boots, and they are well worth the investment if you live in an area with messy winter weather.

Neutrals are always a safe bet, but animal prints are having a moment right now, with python still leading the pack. I realize not everyone likes snake print, but if you do, you can definitely continue wearing it this season.

SHOP FALL BOOTS: (Use the arrow to scroll to see more styles; more colors are available than what is shown.)

2. Flats

When you’re tired of wearing sandals but it’s still too hot for boots, ballet flats or loafers are the perfect shoes to transition you from summer to fall.

I’ve always loved a good ballet flat, but right now I’m really enjoying loafers and mules. They tend to look a little more modern and sophisticated, but it also depends on your personal style aesthetic.

The same color trends that are going for booties also apply to flats — neutrals are great, but it’s always fun to add a pop of color with your shoes, and animal prints are particularly hot right now.

SHOP FALL FLATS: (Use the arrow to scroll to see more styles; more colors are available than what is shown.)

3. Fashion Sneakers

Fashion sneakers have become a huge trend as of late, thanks to Golden Goose  and Gucci. But there are lots of lower priced brands with great looking sneakers that are also excellent quality.

I prefer leather, especially in the winter because they tend to be more weather proof, but suede and canvas styles can be lighter and cooler on the foot.

Slip-on sneakers are the most convenient, but you can also tie your laces in such a way that you can slide your lace-up shoes off and on as well.

Prints are big as well — not just animal print, but I’m also seeing a lot of camo and other patterns. It’s a great way to add pattern and texture to a simple outfit.


You may also need other shoe styles as well; this list is not meant to be exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start. If you work outside the home, you may need some dressier options.

I always have some heels in my closet, and during the fall I wear my pumps a lot for date night looks and church outfits. I also like to have some transition sandal/bootie styles, but those aren’t essential for everyone.

Okay, moving on to clothing!

4. Jeans

Even if you work in a professional environment and only wear jeans on weekends and the occasional date night, a great fitting pair of jeans is a wardrobe item almost every woman should have in her closet.

Denim trends are in transition right now, but I’m seeing a little bit of everything. I recommend wearing the style(s) that looks best on you and experiment with the newer trendy cuts if you enjoy doing so.

While I like to have a variety of blue jean washes in my closet year ’round, I also wear grey and black jeans a lot in the fall and winter. A good off-black wash is super on trend right now and a great style to add to your closet if you don’t have a pair.


5. Non-Denim Pants

If you work in a professional environment or just don’t care to wear jeans every day (I can’t imagine!) then you will need a few pairs of pants to mix and match with the tops in your wardrobe.

I always have a pair of basic black trousers in my closet for dressier occasions, and I also like to have a couple pairs of twill cargo pants to mix in from time to time. And let’s face it, some days are made for leggings or joggers.

Especially with so many of us staying at home right now, you may want to add a few more comfy pants to your rotation. I’ve never been one to wear leggings or joggers other than to work out, but I finally succumbed last spring when we were on lockdown for so long and bought a few for casual wear.

I have to admit, they can be really cute in an ultra-casual way, and there are a lot of great options nowadays.



6. Chunky Knits

After boots and jeans, sweaters are my very favorite clothing item to buy for fall. There is nothing, in my opinion, that beats a cozy sweater on a chilly fall day. I’m a huge fan of cashmere, and I own a fair amount of it, but I also like to have some other options that don’t require dry cleaning.

(I know some people hand wash their cashmere, but I prefer to have mine dry cleaned.)

If the inventory in the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is any indication, chunky knits and oversized sweaters are going to be huge this fall. I’m also seeing a lot of different lengths. The shorter styles are perfect for pairing with high rise jeans, and the longer styles tend to look best with skinny jeans.


7. Base Layers

Base layers include anything from tanks and tees, to camis and blouses, and even thin sweaters if you live in a colder climate. Most of these can play double duty — wear them alone with a skirts or jeans for now, and then add a completer piece when the weather cools down.

Here in Philly, it can be downright hot well into October, so I often wear short-sleeved tees and tops with a completer piece (denim jacket or cardigan) on top until it gets cold enough for chunky sweaters.


8. Completer Pieces

My favorite part of fall fashion is all the layering options. When the cooler temperatures start to set in, that’s the time to bring out all of your cute moto jackets, blazers, denim jackets, and cardigans!

Moto jackets are fun for date nights and for toughening up those feminine blouses and dresses, cardigans are nice for the office and for throwing on over a tee or tank with your favorite blue jeans on the weekend, and denim jackets are perfect for wearing over dresses and with colored pants and jeans.


9. All-Occasion Dress

I’m not much of a dress girl, but I still like to have one or two in my closet for each season. In the fall, I recommend transitional styles that you can wear now with bare legs and open toe booties, and continue wearing with tights and boots (and maybe a layer on top) when the temperatures drop.

Jumpsuits are a good alternative to dresses, and they are definitely trending at the moment.

Trends at the moment are florals grounded on dark backgrounds, which I love for fall, and animal prints, of course; but a solid dress in a rich fall shade is always a classic.


10. Outerwear

If you live in an area with a distinct fall season, a lightweight jacket to throw on over your t-shirts and sweaters is pretty much an essential.

I love a good quilted jacket for fall, and an anorak or rain jacket is nice to have. Leather jackets and utility jackets are great outfit makers.


11. Neutral Handbag

A fabulous handbag for the season is always a great accessory. If you’re going to carry one main handbag all season, I recommend going for a neutral like taupe or cognac. Black is nice to have too, but it can be harsh and isn’t as versatile as a lighter neutral.

Think about your footwear and choose a neutral tone that goes with most of your shoes and boots. I tend to wear a lot of cool colors like grey, plum, burgundy, and blush; so if I could only choose one handbag, I’d go with grey or taupe. If you gravitate to warmer tones, you may prefer cognac or a warm beige.

I like to have some of each, personally, but it’s not necessary to change out your handbags with every outfit to be chic and stylish. To each her own!


12. Seasonal Accessories

Finally, don’t forget to update your accessories for the season. In the summertime, like to keep my accessories minimal because it’s so hot, but as the temperatures cool down, I start to bring out my scarves and heavier jewelry.

Accessory trends right now are layered looks, chunky necklaces, and… wait for it… animal prints. Statement belts are also trending right now.


Okay, so that’s a wrap. I hope this post is helpful as you start to fill out your fall wardrobe.


Did you like this post? 

Subscribe to get email updates! In addition to my most recent blog posts, you’ll receive exclusive newsletter content like special sales, my newest favorite finds, and an occasional peek behind the scenes — all delivered right to your inbox. PLUS you’ll be automatically entered for a chance to win a $100 gift card each month!

This post contains affiliate links. When you shop through my links, it helps support my business (at no additional cost to you) so thank you!