Fall Essentials

Lately we've been out and about, enjoying the stream of soirees that September always brings, and all of this socializing means we're answering lots of inquiries about what we do. While some professions warrant queries about pharmacology mixology or spark requests for free legal advice ("for a friend, of course"), ours ensures a welcome barrage of styling concerns. Some want to know if shoulder pads are really in (yes), others wonder if they should try a red lip on a first date (no), but everyone is curious about one thing: what you need to update your wardrobe for fall. With so many exciting runway looks to choose from and directional silhouettes to try, we realize the idea of entering a new season can be overwhelming. While it is fun to flirt with the trendiest statement looks, we think well-chosen seasonal staples are truly the key to sartorial sophistication. But what is a fall essential you might ask? How do you determine the indispensable from the passing fancy? This conundrum, dear readers, can confound even the most fashion-literate ladies, so in this installment of Under $200 we've created a cheat sheet of the standout styles you need now!

For us, a fall essential is the sort of wardrobe-building piece that works with the beloved staples we already own. Unsurprisingly, this means we tend to pick up lots of carefully considered accessories; currently we're mad about chunky chokers (they instantly add pizazz to any outfit) and hardware-heavy booties (it's time to upgrade your moto boots). On-trend outerwear is also of paramount importance, as an of-the-moment jacket makes classic basics look modern. Just add these fun fashion flings to your favorite foundation pieces (meaning: jeans, tees, and tights) and you'll be well on your way to a fantastic fall look!

In case you're still a little unsure of what you should look for, simply check out Isabel Marant's Fall 09 runway show for ideas. While other designers might produce more exaggerated trends, such as strong-shouldered jackets or long-sleeve mini dresses that are ideal for occasional wear, Marant creates ensembles that are special, but still appropriate for real life. It's the perfect collection to use as a loose reference point for your fall shopping expeditions, as it's full of the sort of pivotal pieces everyone needs right now. Take a look at today's story, hopefully you'll agree!

Fall Essential: Chunky Choker / Fallon Mixed Deadly Pearl Necklace ($200)
If you've been keeping up with us since August, dear readers, you know that we've stressed the importance of investing in a chunky choker for fall. It's a truly versatile piece; for specific styling tips, just look at the way Rihanna works it into her daily outfits. The pop princess wears this exact necklace with everything from jeans and a tee to a gray cocktail dress/black blazer combo. We think its intoxicating mix of ladylike pearls, edgy gunmetal trinkets and lovely tangle of brass, rose gold, and sterling chains is truly enticing, which is why it's the first piece on our list!

Fall Essential: Faux Fur Vest / BB Dakota Faux-Fur Rachel Vest ($60)
Every girl likes a little luxury, and this silk-lined faux fur vest by BB Dakota is the perfect touch for a sumptuous look. Right in line with Marant's magnificent and nouveau bohemian offerings, this vest is an ideal piece of outerwear because it will infuse your basics with an air of sartorial savvy. We can easily see the stylish Sisters Olsen or the preternaturally chic Kate Moss throwing a vest like this over a vintage dress, or adding it to a simple tee and some ripped skinnies, for a quick trip to Starbucks.

Fall Essential: Leather Leggings / BCBGeneration Black Leather Skinny Pants ($148)
Although your skinny jeans are still functional for fall, black leather leggings are a great alternative to your daily denim. As seen on the runways at Gucci, Phi, and Alexander Wang, to name a few, these body-con pants are one of the season's key pieces. BCBGeneration's created a perfect non-investment version; we think they look amazing paired with a vintage concert t-shirt or styled with diaphanous layers. We could easily see a model/muse like Hanne Gabe Odiele pairing these with a killer pair of buckle boots for a fashion-forward fall look.

Fall Essential: Nineties Nude Lipstick / MAC Trend F/W Lipstick ($14) in Our Pick
Although we've been ga-ga for gloss in the past, right now we're excited to ditch that girly lip and welcome back more grown-up products. This semi-matte MAC lipstick particularly piqued our interest because it instantly reminds us of the all the fleshy nudes from the nineties (think Winona Ryder in Reality Bites). It's ideal for the workday if you keep the rest of your face basic, or you can wear it out at night with a more intense eye.

Fall Essential: Buckle Bootie / Nine West Iceage Platform Bootie ($140)
One of the best parts of seasonal shopping is searching for the latest footwear. Although there are a plethora of pivotal picks this season, if you can only select one shoe, this platform ankle boot is the way to go. The burnished, decorative buckles are right on the heavy-duty hardware trend and will give you a hint of that tough-girl edge without overwhelming the rest of your look. You can style these with your long-sleeved mini for a night out with the girls, or throw them on with your jeans and (faux) fur vest to upgrade a casual outfit. In short: they're multifaceted and well-priced!

Fall Essential: Chain Strap Bag / Deena & Ozzy Tweed Chain Bag ($42)
While nothing can surpass the iconic, quilted Chanel bag, this tonal tweed version is a great adaptation at a much more reasonable price. The quilt-stitch details and chain-link strap make it equally as elegant as any offering from Karl. Plus, the over-the-shoulder style is very practical, so it also fulfills your everyday bag needs with an air of refined sophistication. We could easily see someone like Diane Kruger, who seamlessly mixes the classic and the cutting-edge, toting a bag like this to fill out her fall wardrobe.

Fall Essential: Breton Stripe Shirt / H&M Striped Shirt ($13)
Long before we saw Christopher Decarnin's glittering Breton top for Balmain's Fall 09 collection, we were smitten with sea-worthy stripes. Although Decarnin's exquisite version may be worth the investment for some, we discovered this long-sleeved iteration from H&M for a fraction of the price. This top looks particularly cool when worn with jeans and a leather jacket for an off-duty look, or you can pair it with an A-line mini and a statement necklace à la Olivia Palermo for a little more polish. If you wish to mimic Decarnin's strong silhouette, simply add some shoulder pads to this classic top and create your own of-the-moment look.

Fall Essential: Metallic Skirt / Topshop Premium Jacquard Skirt ($80)
Lamé looks have been on our radar for quite some time now, and while our muse (Marant) opted for shimmery harem pants in her runway looks, we think a metallic mini is just as covetable. It's a great alternative to your leather skirt (also a swell investment!) and really channels the thrill of cocktail season and hot nights out. Of course, a little glitz does go a long way, so we recommend mixing the skirt with your more sober basics, and even opting for opaque tights when the weather turns cold.-Liza Kaplan