This post presents five steps with tips to create an a great fall wardrobe without breaking the bank and without starving style-wise.
- Why to Plan Your Fall Wardrobe Early
- Step No. 1: Take Stock
- Tips How to Identify What’s Missing to Create a Great Fall Wardrobe
- Prioritize Your Shopping List According to Your Needs
- Step No. 2: How to Assess and Maintain Your Fall/Winter Shoe Wardrobe
- Replace Shoes with Shoes from the Same Category
- Do Some Pre-Shopping to See What’s Out There
- Assess Whether to Spurge on Your Footwear
- Avoid Affection Purchases
- Step No. 3: Outerwear Planning
- Make a List of Needed Outerwear
- Donate Good Pieces that Don’t Work for You Anymore to Charity
- Step No. 4: Get the Best Accessories for Style, Trendy Updates, and Insulation
- Consider DIY for New and Trendy Updates of Dated Accessories
- Identify What You Need to Buy to Create an Awesome Fall Wardrobe
- Step No 5: Putting It All Together (Outfit Ideas)
- Best Ways to Avoid Winter Wardrobe Fatigue
- Layer Warm Season Items Instead of Wearing a Heavy Coat on the First Chilly Days
- Inspirations How to Style a Summer Dress for Fall
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post.
Why to Plan Your Fall Wardrobe Early
Despite at the end of summer, you may still have short summer vacation outfit ideas on your mind, fall will soon knock at the door and announce winter. Because it is harder to find the items you want when the pressure to have them increases, start early on planning your cold season wardrobe. Doing so not only relieves stress, but also saves you money. Often retailers offer the first cold season pieces during the summer sales at lower price than when the season arrives. You can become a trendsetter and win style-wise. And yes, you have more time to makeover your wardrobe for fit, trends and style.
Step No. 1: Take stock
On a rainy weekend take stock of what you have, and identify what you need for the upcoming cold season. Get five trash bags and label them tailor, dry cleaner, charity, consignment, and trash. Also have the laundry basket handy for clothes that need ironing. If you didn’t wash everything before you put your cold season clothes in storage, have a second one for dirty clothes. After taking your fall/winter clothes out of the storage, pile them onto your bed (so you cannot bail out). Next go thru these clothes and sort out all items that
- You do not recall when you wore it last time.
- You hardly or never wore these clothes last winter.
- Are damaged and not repairable.
- You are sick off
- Are too small/tight/large (see how to identify too tight clothes).
- Are not the style you want to go for.
- Were last season’s Must-have trend, but now look old fashioned.
- Need dry cleaning (Tip: Save money by DIY at-home dry-cleaning)
- Have to be altered by the tailor.
- Need ironing
- Need washing
Put all clothes that fall under (1), (2) , (4), (5), (6) or (7) if they are still usable, in the bag labeled consignment or charity depending on their quality and condition, and otherwise in the bag labeled trash. Make sure you put the trash bag into the trash immediately after going thru the pile of clothes on your bed to ensure that you will not pull them out again.
Put the items that belong to the categories (8), (9), (10), and (11) in the respective containers. Take care of the tasks related to (8) thru (11) as soon as possible.
Now on your bed, you are left with what you will keep. Go thru the pile once more to identify what is missing. Write the items down on a list and always carry it with you.
Stylist tip: It’s best to store the list on your cell phone.
How to Identify What’s Missing to Create a Great Fall Wardrobe
Here are a couple of questions that help you in identifying your needs:
- Does my wardrobe miss color?
- Are there enough neutrals?
- Is a key item (e.g., blazer, coat, jacket) missing?
- What items would update the wardrobe I have?
- What did I wish last fall/winter to have bought and would I miss this item this season too? Why did I want it? What would it add to my wardrobe now?
- Do I have enough work clothes/weekend clothes?
- Is there a trend this A/W that makes sense for my wardrobe and would make a great update?
If you are on a budget, revisit the list. Add your upper limit of what you can afford for the items to stay in your budget and/or put a priority on them. You may use this easy-to-use fashion budgeting tool to do the math.
Set dates to shop for just one item on the list. Focus your search on that item. However, if you see an item that is on your list, and you still like it the next day, by all mean go buy it the next day if it fits you and into your wardrobe. Cross items off the list when you bought them. Adjust your shopping schedule and the budget. When you spend less on an item than planned, you can splurge on another. Just know when to splurge and when to bargain.
Prioritize Your Shopping List According to Your Needs
Shopping for wardrobe needs differs from dreaming up a fall wardrobe. Start with the most needed item first. If a coat or shoes are on the list that would be it. Have fun shopping, and
Stylist tip: You can save time with my seven tips how to dress for clothes shopping.
Step No. 2: How to Assess and Maintain Your Fall/Winter Shoe Wardrobe
Shoes can make or break an outfit.
Start browsing early. Especially, when you wear an average shoe size or you have a hard time to get your size. Furthermore, going early gives you the pick at the litter. Take a look at your shoes from last fall/winter. Identify which ones to replace, which ones to toss (unrepairable, out of fashion, not your style anymore), and which ones to bring to the cobbler. Do the latter on your next trip to the mall to have them ready when temperatures drop. Sometimes just up-cycling the heels of boots can make them look trendy again.
Replace Shoes with Shoes from the Same Category
When replacing shoes always go for the category that has to be replaced. If they are your go-to workhorse, you want to splurge on them. If they are the trendy item from last season, check the new new trends for your style. Determine how much this trend is worth for you. How often do you expect to wear the trendy shoes? Your experience with last year’s trend is a good first guess. Set an upper limit. A good ballpark is a $1 per wear.
Pro tip: Never buy a pair of statement boots, when you need a workhorse.
Do Some Pre-Shopping to See What’s Out There
Browse at the mall or online stores for the type of shoes you have to replace. At the mall, take photos and notes where you saw them; ask how many exist in your size and whether they would hold them for you for 24 hours. Once you have an idea what is out there go home. When online, bookmark the sites.
How to Assess Whether to Spurge on Your Footwear
Make up your mind what is most important for you in the kind of items you have to buy. Know your budget for the items you need to replace. If you are replacing your go-to everyday workhorse get the most “classic” and highest quality you can afford. Here “classic” means typical for the style you wear, i.e. your primary personal style type. In the case of Rock’n Roll Style, for instance, black booties with chains or booties where you can add shoe jewelry. In the case of Casual Style, sneakers or riding boots.
Not sure about your primary personal style type? Use this online style finder.
Avoid Affection Purchases
On the next day, when you still love your choice, go, get it. If not, keep on browsing. Repeat until the job is done.
Did you know that my style recipe book How to Dress for Success in Midlife is now also available on Kindle? Buy it now
Step No. 3: Outerwear Planning
Stylist tip: Always try winter items on over thick sweaters, not your top from summer.
Your outerwear wardrobe depends on your lifestyle and the weather of the region you live. Get all your coats, parkas, anoraks, etc. out of your closet. Inspect them for fit over a thick sweater or anything that you wear when it is cold outside. You don’t want to look like a sausage when you wear your outerwear under real conditions, right? 😉 Instead you want to create an awesome coat wardrobe.
When you just recently moved to this region of the country, use these tips how to identify the best down coat for your climate zone
Like you did when working on Step 1, get five trash bags, and label one bag trash, one bag donations, one bag dry cleaner, one bag tailor and one bag consignment.
Now look thru your outerwear answering the following questions:
- Do you still like the piece?
- Can you remember when you last wore it?
- Does it fit?
- If not, can you or a tailor make it fit?
- Are the bottoms of the sleeves and/or the collar worn out? If so, could it be fixed by sewing some faux fur on, exchanging some fabric or shortening the sleeves to the three quarter sleeve length that is so hip now? Is it worth the cost for alteration? If you go for the alteration, put some opera length lined gloves onto your shopping list. Without them, you will not wear the altered coat because it will be too cold. Moreover, it would look odd without long gloves.
- Does the piece look dated? If so, can dying, or an alteration update it for this season? Is it worth the effort?
- Does it need dry cleaning?
All pieces that do not get a yes on question 1 to 4, get the questions whether they are still in good condition. If not, they go into the bag labeled trash. If yes, medium and high brands/designer pieces go into the consignment, the others in the donation bag. Recall what you consign, can up you new clothes budget.
Need help with which designer brands are looked for in thrift shops?
If on question 5 and/or 6 you decided to have the item altered, put it in the tailor bag otherwise in the trash bag in case of 5, and in the donation bag in case of 6. A yes on 7 means it goes into the dry cleaner bag after you have reflected on what you are left with and need to capture all nasty fall/winter weather conditions.
Make a List of Needed Outerwear
Write the missing/needed items on a list. Prioritize them when you are on a budget. Add an uppermost price to each of them. Also think about which colors you outerwear should have to look stylish in them. A pink coat, for instance, is probably not a great idea when you own a collection of jeans in all colors of the rainbow. In this case, a neutral will work much better than a fashion color. The same applies for a wide plaid pattern on a coat, when most of your pants and skirts have some pattern too. When the majority of your pants is in neutrals, a bright color can make you stand out of the crowd if you dare. Adding a pop of color can improve the mood on rainy days.
Shopping is fun, but don’t forget to bring the items in the bags to the appropriate places.
Step No. 4: Get the Best Accessories for Style, Trends, and Insulation
Dressing is not only about style, but also about thermal comfort and hence health. This step addresses closing the cold bridges at the neck, head, hands, boots stylishly.
Look at the Accessories You Already Own
Take your accessories out of the basket, drawer, shelf or wherever you keep them. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it still in good conditions (no knots on scarves, hats, no wear marks on leather gloves, etc.)?
- Do I remember when I last wore this?
- Do I still like it?
- Does it look dated?
- Does this piece match to the outerwear wardrobe that you built when applying Step 3?
- Is it dirty?
- Is it pilled?
Get rid of all items that get a no on questions 1, 2 and 3. In case of 2 and 3, you may think about donating/selling items in good quality and condition.
Stylist tip: If you love a piece that is pilled, try shaving it.
Consider DIY for New and Trendy Updates of Dated Accessories
A no on question 4 should lead to at least one follow-up question on the item: Is it worth updating, and can it be done? Recall that in the 1940s and 1950s women brought their hats to the hat store each season to have the hat band and/or other hat accessories altered/updated. I remember my granny still doing this in the late 1970s.
There are hardly such stores anymore, but it is easy to DIY. For instance, exchange last season’s fashion color of the fabric flowers on your hat to this season’s It color. Take it off, dye it, and sew it back on. Or exchange it to another embellishment like feathers or a headband with a bow.
The pompom of your knit hat could be exchanged by a tussle or long braid, or the hat could be dyed if it is cotton or wool. You can also update last season’s accessories by adding something that is this season’s hip color. Sometimes adding a brooch or taking something off is enough to update a piece.
A No to question 5 may either throw the item in the DIY section for dyeing or alteration. If it is not possible or worth the effort, donate it.
Identify What You Need to Buy to Create an Awesome Fall Wardrobe
Now you should be left with what you’ll keep. Identify what is missing. Ask yourself:
- What pop of color or neutral would update my fall wardrobe?
- Is there a fall accessory trend that would up your wardrobe from great to fashion forward or right now without breaking the bank/budget?
Create the shopping list. DIY of hats and scarves are easy and typically cheaper than to buy. Another plus and style factor, DIY scarves and hats are unique, i.e. so your very own style.
Remember you can up your style factor with gloves. The same applies to scarves and hats. More on how to style your outerwear.
Drop off the donations and clean the dirty pieces. Stick to your list when shopping and assign time for the DIY project(s).
Step No. 5: Putting It All Together (Outfit Ideas)
It is about maximizing your fall wardrobe by putting it together.
Stylist tip: Store great outfit ideas on your phone or pin them to a dedicated Pinterest board or both.
Best Ways to Avoid Winter Wardrobe Fatigue
Most of us love the warm season :). Thus, we want to procrastinate on bundling up in our winter coats as long as possible without freezing to hypothermia. Or the cold season is very long and we want to start wearing the cold weather gear as late as possible to not be sick of our coat already by December when still five months of nasty cold weather are ahead. I am talking Alaska here. But it applies also to Canada, Scandinavia and parts of the East Coast as well as the Great Lakes area. A solution? Before you start wearing just fall/winter clothes, try these tricks to transition summer pieces into fall. It’s fun, it’s layering, it’s chic.
Stylist tip: Mix items from the warm and cold season to maximize your outfit options.
Towards the end of the cold season, avoid wardrobe boredom by adding spring fashion.
Layer warm season items instead of wearing a heavy coat on the first chilly day
Keeping things interesting is important when you create an awesome fall wardrobe for a climate region with a long cold season. Thus, let us think about how you can postpone wearing the down coat or shearling. On a cool fall day, you could wear a thick wool sweater over you indoor casual outfit and a vest. This vest could be either a down vest, a motorcycle vest, faux fur vest, your coat with the detachable sleeves taken off, a quilted vest, or denim vest. Whatever protects your chest from the wind and/or getting cold. More on styling with vests.
The look above presents an example how to wear a fall dress on a rainy September day. Wearing a traditional trench coat (definition) to stay warm on a day with temperatures in the upper 50s (12 to 15oC) and 50% chance of rain over a 3/4 sleeve denim shirt dress is enough to stay in thermal comfort. The ethnic belt adds style and shape. The combination of neutral tan, denim blue and dove is a fool proof Euro Chic color combination to try.
The example above shows how to use layering to create a cold wet weather outfit, and wearing a cardigan instead of a blouse or Tee to adapt a summer skirt for the first chilly days.
Inspirations How to Style a Summer Dress for Fall
You are so in love <3 with that summer dress that you nearly literally wore all summer? Then style the summer dress for fall. The jacket can be either a denim jacket, motorcycle jacket, bomber jacket, blazer, baseball jacket or cardigan. Which one works best will depend on the vibe of your dress.
Sleeveless sheaths look great with a Chanel type jacket, blazer, cardigan (see photo above) or motorcycle jacket worn as a blazer. Fit-and-flare dresses and printed or solid sleeveless dresses look adorable with a cardigan worn over it, but knotted at the tails instead of buttoning it or as a skirt wearing a sweater over it. A white peasant style dress would look cute with a brown leather jacket, brown tights, and brown flat oxfords. Your very short mini-dress could even become office appropriate when worn as a tunic over a pair of neutral matching pants or pants that repeat a color of the dress. If you find a look that works take notes. Then you have your go-to memo when you are in a hurry on a cold September morning ;).
Now you are ready for a stylish fall, but it is even better when the excitement of the wait lasts a bit longer ;). On this end, have a nice stylish rest of the summer and stop by for inspiration on High Latitude Style.
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Mölders, N. (2019) Outdoor Universal Thermal Comfort Index Climatology for Alaska. Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, 9, 558-582. doi: 10.4236/acs.2019.94036.
Photos of me: G. Kramm
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