Fall/Winter Fashion

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.


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30 thoughts on “Fall Wardrobe Essentials 2020

  1. Glad to see I am not the only one shopping for fall/winter. Thanks for adding loafers to your list. Since our fall will probably include more time at home, I have decided to invest in a good pair of loafers that are both comfortable and stylish. 

  2. It’s not 98 degrees in Delaware today (it’s raining) so it’s a perfect day to think about fall clothing. I’ve donated a lot of my old fall clothes and have a list of items I’m looking for during the Nordstrom sale. Having this reminder of what I like to keep in my closet is perfect.

    I have a September wedding to attend that will be a small affair due to Covid 19 and am trying to find something suitable that I can wear for the wedding and then again later. I’m not a floral gal so it seems like the dress selections anywhere are limited– it’s flowers or sleeveless cocktail dresses. I’m checking out a couple of jumpsuits, but was thinking about wide or straight leg black Ponte pants (WHBM has a nice pair) and heel sandals. What kind of dressier top would you recommend to go with that, Jo-Lynne?

    1. I found some nice solid options for dresses in the #NSale, I thought. I put them together here, along with some of the jumpsuits and a couple printed dresses that I like for fall weddings: https://shopstyle.it/v/QYq

      With pants, I’d have to poke around a bit to get ideas. As much as I prefer separates to dresses, I never think about pants for weddings or formal events.

  3. I love Fall! The slightly cooler weather allows for more layers which take an outfit up a notch. Plus, I’m tired of my wardrobe by end August. I love seeing what’s trending for fall before I go shopping to fill in the gaps in my wardrobe. I can see oversized sweaters are trending but that is a look I’ll pass on. I’m small busted and tops that are too big make me disappear. I guess I’ll be downsizing in sweaters to get the fit I like. 

  4. Our county has pushed their start date back 3 days, while others in our part of GA has pushed theirs back several weeks due to positive cases in their schools.  This was a very helpful post.  Thank you for putting it together!  I need to go back and revisit the flat shoes, mules, etc., that are part of the upcoming Nordstrom sale.  Just maybe they’ll have what I’m looking for.  Have a fabulous day!

  5. Great post Jo-lynne! Going to be going thru my boxes of fall clothes to see what I have and what I may need. This post will help me stay focused. Here in California, our local schools are going back into the classroom, but we are in a rural area. My grandson’s schools in the Bay Area will be 100% distance learning which has calmed some of my fears. Meanwhile, their mother (my daughter) has some positive pregnant patients in her care. So my worries continue. Sadly, there’s no easy or single answer to any of these Covid decisions. Such strange times we are experiencing. 

  6. Hello Jo-Lynne. I love your blog and have three kids, the same age and genders of your three kids. Would you consider doing a Nordstrom sale post for high school age girls? I would love that and I’m sure there are others out there that would like it too. Or at least put together some “looks” for them on the Nordstrom site.

  7. I really enjoy your comprehensive posts like these, especially in the fall, my favorite season. I won’t be going out much, though, since I will mostly be staying at home due to my chemo beginning in September and the Covid virus not being a good combination. I have plenty of jeans/pants/sweaters, so for the Nordstrom  Anniversary Sale, I will probably look at cozy items/shoes and investment pieces such as handbags and jackets/coats/blankets. Thank you for all of your hard work putting this together. 

  8. Great job! Love this post, thank you! 🐆🍂
    I love summer soooo much in Colorado, I always dread the upcoming cold and snow, but gearing up with cute boots, sweaters and fall decor gets me thru! 🙂🧣🥾

  9. I am really liking the way you are handling the Nordstrom sale this year. Your posts have been so good, giving a person time to process and evaluate vs. the almost panic sensation is previous years. And, once again, you provide the rational behind what you are posting. I am amazed at the quality of your work in figuring this years NSale. Thanks for your hard work. It is appreciated. Deb

  10. This was a fun post.  Fall clothes are the best!  It’s nice to see some of the same styles as last year so I can keep wearing some of my favorites. But of course it’s always fun to add some new things in!  I just hope I’ll have somewhere to go to wear them this year!

  11. Let me just say that you are amazing! You do so much work so we don’t have to. I have to carefully go through this list, and then think of what I already have. Then see what I may want to fill in (I don’t shop Nordstrom as even with their sales, they are a bit pricey for me. But I love your lists as they give me great ideas. )
    I will be teaching online in the fall. The university will be face-to-face, but some faculty asked to teach online (health reasons, etc.), and some students may opt for online. For a foreign language class, zoom classes are pedagogically more sound than face to face, 6 feet apart, masks, and no board work for students (which they love). Hard to have students in small groups, 6 feet apart, trying to hear each other. I can do more on zoom, breakout rooms, google docs, etc. to make a more productive class.
    Enjoy your weekend! I am flying out to spend 5 days taking care of our new grandson as my daughter heads into the office more, and her husband, who is working from home but on the phone or zoom all the time, can put off daycare a bit longer. Twist my arm to come down and care for him. Cannot wait to get some kisses and snuggles in!

    1. Yes, I can see how language classes would be better on Zoom than with masks and social distancing. I hope things are getting back to some semblance of normal next fall! So glad you can see your grandson.

  12. Hi Jo-Lynne.  Happy Friday.  Thank you for all the hard work you’ve put into to the anniversary sale.  Curious if you or anyone of your followers are familiar with the All Saints brand of handbags.  I’m not familiar with it and thought I knew most good quality lines.  I love the look of the snakeskin clutch.  Thought I could use it on walks from my bedroom to kitchen this Fall, since that’s all we’ll be able to do😳. But seriously, I like the looks of it but unfamiliar with the quality.  Any advice would be much appreciated.  Love the look of the TB tote/hobo in cognac but kind of over TB when she went to the bigger logo on the bags. Still searching for another cognac option, if you have any input. Would like a higher end one for this since I would use more. Wish YSL carried the tote in cognac.  Thanks for your help. Have a wonderful weekend. 

    1. Hey Karon, AllSaints makes a nice leather bag. The ones I’ve looked at have all been rather stiff, pebbled leather, but they seem good quality. Comparable to Rebecca Minkoff, I guess. Does she still not have any bags in this sale? So bummed about that! LOL about walking to the kitchen this fall…

      So this one is calling to me. It’s not really cognac, but it’s a pretty color: https://shopstyle.it/l/bkWnP

      Is this logo too big for your liking? I like it: https://shopstyle.it/l/bkWob

      As far as a luxury designer, have you looked at the Valentino? Or are the rockstuds too much? https://shopstyle.it/l/bkWoq

      This Loewe is a great color, but I’m not quite sure about the shape. It could be a little awkward. https://shopstyle.it/l/bkWn4

      The price on this Fendi is way up there, but it’s gorg: https://shopstyle.it/l/bkWot

      I’m not finding a lot of good cognac bags… which is strange. I guess the rose-hued and light taupe colors are more on trend right now.

      1. Wow, thanks for all the info.  First, I didn’t get through all your posts this week until last night, so I missed your post Wednesday on the passing of your Grandfather.  I’m very sorry for your loss. And can’t imagine how hard it is to deal with during Covid-19, but agree with everyone that you made the right decision to not travel.  Sounds .like he was pretty amazing.  
        As far as the bags, haven’t seen any RM added to sale.  The Feni is nice but would have to fall in love with for the price. I love the Valentino but not sure if the studs would get dated??? 
        Found this, what do you think 

          1. Leaning towards this if I don’t find something else. Do you think the studs on the Valentino will go out of style too soon?

          2. Hm. Not sure. I feel like the shoes look a little passé. I heard really good things about the bag tho. I think if you like it, it’s probably good for a while, but I think it depends on your style. Do you like bling?

  13. I love black and gray denim pants, but the ones I ordered last year had an awful sulfur smell that didn’t come out with soaking in vinegar, washing in special detergents that were supposed to eliminate odors or laundry additives with essential oils. Do you know of any brands that don’t have this issue?

      1. I sent back Liverpool black denim in several styles (the smell was so bad, I knew it would never come out). I kept gray Liverpool jeans because I needed a pair that color, but I haven’t worn them yet because they still stink, I’ve even tried Febreeze spray with no luck. The black Kut jeans also smelled like sulfur, but it came out after multiple soakings and washes. They fit so well that I was willing to risk it.

  14. Thank you for this great post and the printable wardrobe check list.. I have so many of the items you posted.. I have been shopping.. Sales have been awesome!! is the handbags suppose to match anything, like shoes etc?? I have to shop the later part of NS I am not a credit card holder… Bummer..


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