Fall/Winter
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Fall Wardrobe Essentials

One of my most popular blog posts each year is my Fall Wardrobe Essentials, so today I’m posting an update for 2023. I republish this post every year around this time, and while our fall wardrobe essentials don’t change a lot from year to year, I like to update it with current links and fresh thoughts.

To be clear, this is different than a fall trends list. Those are the styles, colors, and silhouettes that are popular this season, and you do want to keep those in mind as you re-assess your fall wardrobe essentials. But these are the fall wardrobe pieces and clothing categories that provide the foundation for a functional wardrobe and make it easy to get dressed in the morning.

2023 Fall Wardrobe Essentials

As always, you should take into account your personal style as well as your lifestyle and wardrobe needs when reading a list like this. My wardrobe essentials may not be the same as yours, but this should be a good starting point for most of us.

1. Base Layers

cashmere crewneck (S) // MOTHER denim (29) // ankle boots (39) // sunnies

Base layers are the tops you layer under cardigans and jackets, but they can also be worn alone. Think plain t-shirts, white button-up shirts, woven shells, even thin sweaters if you live in a colder climate.

I’ve never owned a white button-up shirt, but I like to have a variety of plain t-shirts in neutral colors for casual wear as well as a few woven shells and camis in solids and prints for church or date nights. I also like to have a good variety of classic crewneck, turtleneck, and v-neck sweaters to wear under leather jackets and lightweight coats when it gets chilly.

This year, we are seeing a lot of shorter, more body-con tops, which work well with the wide leg jeans and trousers that are trending, but there are plenty of other options out there if that’s not your thing.


2. Transition Tops & Sweaters

cable vest (S) // PAIGE denim (29) // Sam Edelman heels (8) // AllSaints tote // earrings

These are the stand-alone tops that inject your personal style into your wardrobe. Think lightweight sweaters, graphic tees, blouses with fun sleeves, etc. They usually have more details than your base layers, and they’re interesting enough to wear without a top layer… although they can sometimes double as base layers.

I love thermal tops and cotton sweaters for casual looks and printed blouses for when I want to level up. If you like to be on trend, consider adding a sweater vest to your closet this fall. Johnny collar necklines on both tops and sweaters are big right now as well.

As far as colors go, neutrals are still on trend, but we’re seeing more color coming into play as well, and of course autumnal colors are always on point at this time of year.


3. Jeans

Ribbed Crewneck Cardigan (M) // Mid Rise Kick Fit Jeans (29) // old Tory Burch shoulder bag // Kork-Ease clogs (8)

I wear jeans almost daily so I have a variety of styles and washes, but even if you 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 styles are in transition right now, so we’re seeing a little bit of everything. Straighter, more relaxed silhouettes are definitely here to stay, and wide-leg jeans and flares are coming in strong this season.

I’m seeing a mix of ankle and full-length styles, and mostly medium or light washes, but faded black washes are also big right now. Colored denim is also starting to come back this season.

Read more about the Denim Trends for Fall 2023 and how to wear them.


4. Non-Denim Pants & Skirts

Spanx wide leg cropped pants // denim jacket // Caslon Rounded V-Neck Tee // similar wood heels

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. Barrel leg trousers are fun for a change, and very much on trend if, you like that silhouette.

As far as skirts go, denim midi and maxi skirts are trending big time this season. We’re also seeing a lot of cargo details, satin slip skirts, and ribbed tube skirts. There are also lots of plaids and tweeds and and preppy styles out right now.


5. Top Layers

leather bomber (S) // silk blouse (S) // PAIGE denim (29) // Marc Fisher boots (8)

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 your leather jackets, blazers, denim jackets, and cardigans!

Leather jackets are fun for date nights and for toughening up those feminine blouses and dresses, blazers and 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 and utility jackets are perfect for wearing over dresses and with colored pants and jeans.

Take into account your life and personal style when deciding which styles make the most sense for your wardrobe. I usually stick to the more casual styles because they suit my lifestyle and fashion preferences, but maybe you need blazers and more tailored pieces for the office. I rounded up some of each below.


6. Boots

Franco Sarto boots (8)

Fall is when I break out my boots, and ankle boots are still going strong this year. They look great with every style of denim as well as dresses and skirts, but of course styles will vary based on the current trends and your preferences.

Lug soles and Western-inspired styles are still relevant, but we’re seeing more refined styles taking hold again, as so many are returning to the office this fall. Think sleek, low-heeled, tall black leather boots with with long dresses and skirts… that’s the vibe this season. Pointed toes are

Take your climate and lifestyle into consideration when purchasing fall boots. I love a suede boot, but fall and winter weather can be messy here in Philly, so I make sure to have leather options as well. Also, more and more brands are making weather-proof suede boots, and they’re well worth the investment if you live in an area with messy winter weather.


7. Sneakers

AllSaints Low Top Sneakers (9)

Sneakers as a fashion item are here to stay, and pretty much anything goes right now. I always love a sleek white leather low top sneaker, like the AllSaints pair pictured above, but if you want to stay on top of the trends, the Adidas Samba is having a moment right now. Metallic sneakers are also coming in big this season.

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


8. Transition Shoes

Vince Square Toe Ballet Flats (8)

When you’re tired of sandals but you aren’t ready to break out the boots, or even as an alternative to sandals and boots, a versatile transition shoe is a life saver. Think loafers, ballet flats, mules, etc.

Ballet flats and Mary Janes are making a comeback this year, but loafers are still very much on trend, and clogs are also a hot topic this season. We’re seeing more refined styles and sleek pointy toes, but the square toe is still around.

With so many options, there’s definitely something for everyone. I wrote a whole post about fall 202d shoe trends if you want more details.


9. Versatile Dress

Eliza J sweater dress (L) // Sam Edelman boots (8) // AllSaints tote // Jenny Bird earrings

I always like to have one or two versatile dresses in my closet for each season. I don’t need them for work wear, but I do wear them to church and out to dinner occasionally. In the fall, I recommend transitional styles that you can wear now with bare legs and open shoes or booties, and continue wearing with tights and boots (and maybe a layer on top) when the temperatures drop.

I’m so happy to see the boho florals on their way out and more streamlined styles making a comeback this season. Ribbed midi dresses are popular right now, as are more feminine silhouettes, such as the sweater dress pictured above.


10. Neutral Handbag

AllSaints Small Allington Tote // MOTHER denim (29) // Paul Green boots (8)

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, but it’s not necessary to change out your handbags with every outfit to be chic and stylish. To each her own! (If you like to stay current, see my post on Fall 2023 Handbag Trends.)


11. Seasonal Accessories

cashmere scarf // denim jacket

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.

We aren’t seeing scarves as a fashion accessory trending so much this season, but it’s always appropriate to break out your knit scarves to add to your outerwear when it gets cold outside.

Jewelry trends right now are layered looks and link styles, and gold seems to be the primary metal, although I like to have a mix of gold and silver in my wardrobe.

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

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8 thoughts on “Fall Wardrobe Essentials

  1. I haven’t noticed scarves as an accessory so far this year. You mentioned breaking out the wool scarves if it gets cold. Does that mean wearing a lighter scarf when it’s not very cold is Out? It can lend that pop of color to a neutral outfit or bring two colors together. 🤔

  2. I loved wearing scarves when they were supper trending but once they faded out I got rid of all my infinity ones and only kept a few regular ones. I haven’t reached for them for a long time….. before Covid hit. I do like how they add to a Fall or Winter outfit. I’m looking for a light grey sweater with no wool and not full of acrylic. Since my hair has transitioned to more grey I like cooler tones better than outwhite/beige neutrals. I’m actually feeling better in colors. It’s been hard to go back as I’ve had so many neutrals for so long.

  3. PS missed your post yesterday of course, but just glad you are ok and just busy. I hope you can resolve your shoulder and ankle problems. Any MRI results yet?

  4. I struggle with this transition season with activewear, I work from home so I wear alot of athleta leggings or Vuori joggers and try to elevate the look somewhat. But as the weather gets a little cooler, I always struggle finding tops to wear with them that are lightweight but maybe long sleeve or short sleeve (not sleeveless). Would love your recommendations.

    thanks!

  5. The closer we’ll get toward December, I’ll find myself practically going everywhere in a sweater dress/Spanx tights/and boots outfit! Between rotating the sweater dresses in grey/plum/maroon/camel, I can always change either the scarf color detail (like you show in the last photo) or my handbag that day (so, lol!, people will think I have at least SOME fashion sense and don’t look like some frumpy substitute teacher).

  6. Can you give me some feedback on the Spanx pants you modeled Jolynne? Do you wear a lot? Comfortable? They look like they’d be a very good alternative to jeans, as you said. Thank you!

  7. Jo-Lynne,
    You work SO hard! This is a very helpful post- I’d never have known it wasn’t the one you intended all along. I/we appreciate your hard work and insights!

  8. I LOVE that cowl neck blouse, but $325 is way out of my price range. I would love it if you did a post on budget-friendly cowl neck or sleeveless turtleneck type ideas! I am always hot at work, so I tend to wear sleeveless a lot even in the middle of Winter.

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