Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the days of summer are coming to a close. There's still time to eke a little bit of life out of those linen dresses and flowing shorts, but we'll all be reaching for things with the words "knit" and "wool" as their descriptors before you know it. Now for a bit of good news. These last few weeks of blistering weather leave just enough time to get a head start on figuring out your fall clothing situation.
If you didn't realize already, the best closet is a well-curated one, and that certainly rings true when it comes to autumnal dressing. Before you end up with racks of blazers and pants you don't need (and hardly ever wear), a wise course of action is to plan out the key pieces you'll reach for over and over again and build from there. If planning isn't your thing, I've laid out all of the essentials needed for a seamless wardrobe for the cooler months ahead. Comprised of timeless items, this capsule is like a shortcut to flawless outfits every time.
Another key point is that everything is on the affordable side, under $125. Ahead, keep reading to check out the full guide. Full disclosure: You'll want to bookmark this page.
Light layers should be number one on your fall shopping list. I'd argue that blazers are the king of them all. They're just so practical that it's worth investing in more than one to keep your outfits feeling fresh. The familiar method for styling a blazer is the fashion set's holy-grail T-shirt-and-jeans combo, but a slouchy one looks equally cool with a basic slip dress and, of course, all of your work outfits. It's easy to spend a small fortune on a quality blazer, but thankfully, brands like H&M and Mango have options up to par aesthetically with the expensive designer versions.
How big is your button-down? In this case, it should be huge, to almost dress-like proportions. In a throwback to minimal '90s styling, brands such as Valentino and The Row have popularized the oversize collared shirt. It's especially poignant for fall given that it can be used as a thin layer for unpredictably warm days. I consider it a key piece for the endless number of ways it can be worn—either with trousers or styled as a dress with tall boots.
Shop big button-downs:
Don't forget the accessories. A tailored bag makes the cut into this affordable fall guide for obvious reasons. Adding one to the mix helps lift an entire look to a place of sophistication and effortlessness. Stick with an interesting shape in a neutral color. That way, it's guaranteed to coordinate nicely with anything.
Shop fall handbags:
It's not officially fall until boots enter the chat. I'm sure you'll be accumulating more as the season progresses, but a neutral, high-heeled pair will do a lot of the sartorial heavy lifting until you get there.
Shop ankle boots:
But you can only wear boots so often. You'll have the rest of the winter to wear all of the boots to your heart's content, so when your feet need a break or if you want to add some coolness, throw in a sporty pair of kicks.
Fashion's love affair with loose tan trousers isn't over yet. Even outside of their current cult status, they're still a piece worth investing in, as they never really go out of style. Pair them with a plain white shirt and one of the many blazer options above, and you have a no-brainer office-ready outfit in 10 seconds flat.
Shop tan trousers:
The sweater-vest is back for another season and is a much-welcomed familiar face in our closets. Forgo the traditional sweater (it's a bit too early) for a vest version, as you can layer it over thin shirts, and it won't keep you sweltering in the mid-September sun.
When the dress code requires a touch of sophistication, I can't endorse a figuring-hugging knit dress enough. Stick with a midi to maxi length for more leg coverage—you'll thank me later when the mercury starts to drop.
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Jeans will forever be a part of any useful capsule wardrobe, but the key to maintaining their longevity is to choose timeless silhouettes that will always feel fresh. Loose jeans hit that sweet spot between trendy and classic.
No surprise here that a trench coat should be a vital part of your fall capsule wardrobe. Immediately jumping into wool coats from summery tank tops can feel like a shock to the system, so consider a trench coat that transitional middle ground. Wear it with a crop top now, and squeeze in a sweater underneath later.
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Because a closet full of basics can feel like eggs with no seasoning, I suggest throwing in a flash of metal to spice things up. A gold necklace is the perfect finishing touch to a crew-neck sweater or a knit dress.
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Indya Brown is a fashion editor, stylist, and writer living in Los Angeles. While going to school at Columbia University in New York City, she got her feet wet in the fashion industry interning at Elle magazine, Harper's Bazaar, and New York magazine's The Cut. After graduating in 2016, she joined The Cut as a fashion assistant, eventually working her way up to fashion editor. There, she worked on a multitude of projects, including styling inbook feature stories for New York magazine's print issue, writing and pitching market stories for The Cut, and serving as fashion lead for The Cut's branded content. While New York has been her home for over 10 years, she moved to Los Angeles in the midst of the pandemic in 2020 for a new chapter. Now she is a fashion market editor for Who What Wear, focusing on emerging designers, rising trends on and off the internet, interior design, and BIPOC creatives and brands. Aside from her duties as a fashion market editor, Brown is also a freelance stylist and writer, working on national print and video commercial campaigns for Sephora, The Independent, and Cadillac. Her bylines also include Harper's Bazaar, Vox, and The New York Times. But once the computer goes down and the emails turn off, she's likely eating her way through Koreatown, hunting down vintage furniture, scoping out new outrageous nail designs to try, or taking a hot cycling class.