Fall Wardrobe Essentials

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I was pregnant with my 4th child, sitting in a McDonald’s playland, watching my older three boys play. I looked around me, eager to meet a friendly face in the new community we had moved to. The other moms were much more fashionable than I, lots of leather, make-up, and salon hair styles. Who knew that was what I was moving to in Kansas City?

This California girl was woefully out of place. 

I glanced down at my own clothes and saw that my maternity shirt sported a number of stains. And the pants? They were threadbare! I could see glimpses of my skin through the fabric. I was mortified.

I share this vignette for a number of reasons:

1. It’s easy to get so caught up in the busy-ness of life and keeping children fed and clothed, that we moms forget to look out for ourselves and our wardrobes. I get that. There are seasons for everything. Sometimes we’re lucky to get a shower. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

2. While I didn’t feel a need to keep up with the Jones girls in that kiddie playland, I found that I had gone below some basic standards for myself. Stains and holey pants? How did I get here?

3. Pregnant women need some nice clothes. My husband read this rule in a marriage book long ago, and the lesson stuck. It wasn’t his fault that my clothes were shabby. I had simply neglected myself. And any pregnant woman knows that growing a baby is hard enough without having to worry about what to wear.

4. While I don’t think that we need to (or even should) spend a lot of time or money on our clothing, I do think there’s some truth in “clothes make the woman.” If you feel good in what you’re wearing, your attitude, productivity, and disposition usually follow.

That’s why it’s important to have a wardrobe that works for you.

Finding the Basics

A few months ago I recounted my wardrobe debate as well as the outcome: making a mix and match wardrobe. If you’ll remember Hallie from Bloom Personal Shoppping helped me find a few key pieces that I love.

Recently Hallie and I talked about how to transition into a fall wardrobe. I pulled out all my clothes, not just the summer ones, and sent her picture after picture to critique. My question for her: What are the basics that we could have in our wardrobes to build a mix-and-match wardrobe?

Here are some of the fall wardrobe essentials Hallie recommends:

Jeans – Every woman should have at least one pair of jeans that are comfortable and that make her feel beautiful and confident. They’re like a loyal friend. They’ll never let you down no matter what the circumstances!

Warm Slacks – A pair of heavier weight, nice slacks is a Fall must-have. I happen to love wool but tweed, velvet, or even a very fine flannel are also good options.

Button-Up T-Shirt – I love button-up shirts. They can be worn underneath cardigans, pull-over sweaters, sweater vests, or all on their own. Plus, they look just as fantastic with an adorable pair of casual pants as they do with a stunning skirt.

Long-Sleeved T-Shirt – T-shirts have a reputation for being uber-casual but if you can find one made out of high quality cotton with a cute neckline you can dress it up or down making it a very versatile piece.

Skirt – Skirts are another item of clothing that I love for their versatility. You can pair them with a cute pair of colored or textured tights and boots for a fun, funky look, or hosiery and heels for a more elegant look.

Little Black Dress – If you don’t have a LBD that makes you feel like a million bucks stop everything and start searching. You deserve it.

Cardigan – This is a must-have if there ever was one. Cardigans can be paired with a matching shell, a camisole, a blouse, or a t-shirt. Slipping one on over your lighter-weight tees or tanks is a great way to transition your warmer weather wear into the cooler months.

Coat – I happen to love Pea Coats, but there are endless styles of cute coats to pick from. Just make sure that at least one of your coats is in a neutral shade so that it can be paired with anything and everything.

Boots – Ankle, mid-calf, knee-high, high-heeled or no, take your pick but–as with a coat–try to choose a basic color.

Tights – I adore tights. They allow me to wear skirts and dresses during the chilly months without getting cold and the wide varieties of colors, materials, and textures available make it easy to create a lot of different looks out of just a few basic pieces of clothing.

Scarves, Hats and Gloves – Keep your eye out for these accessories in your favorite colors and in playful patterns. If most of your Fall staples are in neutral colors, accessories are a fantastic way to add a splash of color!

I consulted my friend the Closet and here’s what we came up with, based on Hallie’s advice. In fact, this is what I packed for a week in the mountains.

  • Jeans – I have one pair of Levi’s that I really love, dark rinse, skinnier leg. I’m contemplating dying some more faded pairs to give them new life.
  • Warm slacks – I found a pair of khakis on clearance at old navy. Even though they are “short”,  I still need to find a belt to keep them in the right spot.
  • Button up shirtIn my pinning, I found that I was drawn to white button-ups. Hallie found me a few great ones. I’m waiting for a great sale to make the purchase. In the meantime, I have a cranberry button-up that I love to pair with the cranberry camisole.
  • Long sleeve tshirt – I have several, but the two I packed on vacation were a black turtleneck and a white boatneck. I have several short sleeved shirts to use on warmer days as well.
  • Skirt – Hallie helped me find the black knit skirt in the picture. You’ll recognize it from our summer shopping trip. Love it!
  • Little black dress (not pictured) – A carry over from my summer wardrobe to be paired with tights and a sweater.
  • Cardigan – I love sweaters! I have three cardigans (black, green, and mocha). The mocha is my favorite. I also have a few pullovers in green, red, and striped. Believe it or not, two of them are maternity that I still use!
  • Coat  (not pictured) – I have a black wool pea coat from our Kansas days. Love it!
  • Boots – Just a few short years ago, short boots were not cool. But, if you keep something long enough, it’ll come back around. My brown boots, though in need of a polishing, are holding strong and look great with many of these pieces. (The snow boots are just for the snow.)
  • Tights – I mainly have black, but I’m thinking of testing out some of these ideas that Hallie suggests.
  • Scarves, Hats, and Gloves – I have a vast collection of scarves, just waiting for the weather to get a little cooler. Two are pictured, green and black. Black knit cap and a blue rain hat can top my head. And black leather gloves are my choice. Yes, even in San Diego.

Most of us prefer to have more than a dozen pieces of clothing. But, when push comes to shove, we really don’t need a lot more. It’s amazing what you can mix and match – and look great.

I’m not saying you should ditch all your clothes. I am saying, “go shop your closet.” I feel so much more energized and happier with my clothes now that I’ve cleaned the closet, ditched the things I dislike, and been a little more intentional about what I wear. I want to avoid that shabby feeling whenever possible.

How ’bout you?

What are your fall wardrobe essentials?

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  1. Ah, how timely. I’ve just been shopping to replenish my fall essentials–two years ago I was pregnant, last year I was too postpartum to want nice stuff for fall, so I realized this year my cold-weather wardrobe was seriously lacking!

    I hate to shop so I try and get things I really love and are well-made so they don’t need to be replaced soon! Essentials for me are tops (that aren’t just t-shirts), pretty cardigans, dark denim, and flowy scarves. And boots and my dansko clogs!

    This year I want to experiment more with tights–I need to go read Hallie’s guide!

  2. Here’s my dilema – I am ALWAYS cold. It can be in the 60’s outside and yours truely is bundled up like it’s -30. I see all these cute little outfit pictures on Pinterest and blogs and all I can think is, “I’d be numb if I wore that.” For example, now that we’re heading into November, you’re not going to find me in skirts and tights very often because my legs FREEZE. Staples for me are wool and corderoy pants (finally found a style in those that I like and got them on clearance from LLBean), thick cable-knit sweaters (often turtleneck style), and basic brown, black, and white turtlenecks. Any thoughts or advice for those of us who are too cold natured to be warm in a simple long-sleeved t-shirt and a thin cardigan (even if you DO add a scarf – which I always feel stupid when I try that trend, I admit)?!

    1. I think “a wardrobe that works” is one where you’re comfortable. So, you have to make sure you are warm. I have been mocked at my choice of footwear when in snow country, but I’d much rather wear snowboots every day than go around with cold, wet feet.

      I have heard that silk long johns are really helpful. Do you have some? You may be able to layer with those without adding bulk? I dunno…. what did Rose end up wearing in Rose in Bloom that made her “warm as toast”? 😉

      1. Thanks to our stint in Lesotho, I actually have (and wear) silk long johns (L.L.Bean comes through again). But even though they are so thin, I still end up feeling bulked up. If only I could find that magical “warm as toast” garment! 😉

    2. How about a heavier cardigan or a fleece vest? The later isn’t very dressy but you still could add a scarf to class it up a bit. I also saw some quilted vests at Kohl’s the other day. I have a quilted and a fleece vest and they’re great for adding warmth without much bulk.

    3. Carrie, I’m the same way – always cold. It doesn’t help that I live in a part of Canada that’s almost always freezing (that’s only slightly an exaggeration). Anyway, you say you won’t be found in tights and skirts, but have you tried? Because cold though I usually am, my “uniform” is a skirt (denim for casual), tights (thicker ones when it’s really cold), camisole, sweater, and scarf. And leather knee boots. That keeps me warm, comfortable AND feeling chic (I love wearing my jeans too, but a skirt somehow just feels prettier). You say you feel silly wearing a scarf, but please, try it! No need to feel silly – they’re all the rage, it’s winter, and there are so many pretty options. And they really make a difference in keeping you warm. Try it!

  3. My closet is over ran with things that I find okay but don’t love. I really need to shop my closet. I might do that this week. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. I have no style and a closet full of stuff that I don’t want to wear. This article is very encouraging to me for reasons you might not realize… I don’t need a LOT of clothes, just a few loved pieces.

    Pinterest is actually a huge help to me too. I can see the pieces I have already in my closet and the accessories I can mix with them to make them more fashionable. I am looking to add scarves, boots and jewelry to my wardrobe this year and maybe I can abandon the fruppy-mommy look at least a few days a week.

  5. I hope this is okay to admit…

    I just scheduled an appointment with a fashion consultant to come give my closet a very much needed clean out. I cannot wait to see what she finds right there in the clutter.

    The last time she came out (about 4 years ago, she unearthed some great outfits I would have never thought to put together and then took me shopping for a few add-ons.

    I like to wear comfy clothes that look nice… and she helps to keep me on the right track.

    Otherwise, I’d be in exercise clothes 90% of the time!

  6. I spend more time than I probably should thinking about my clothes. 🙂 Last fall I did a HUGE wardrobe overhaul and replaced a ton of stuff from before I was pregnant with my first child.

    What I’ve started doing is keeping a few items I only wear for a short time during the year. Brighter colors for the late winter/early spring and more earthy tones for the fall. When they’re not in use I take them out of my closet. Having them keeps me from feeling bored with the same old things year round, freshens my look during transitional times of year, and will hopefully prevent me from buying more than I should. Like rotating kids toys.

  7. Ratts Jessica, I was hoping you had another discount to offer from Hallie. What a great Christmas gift for my daughter to offer a wardrobe help!!! Thanks for the input.

  8. I had to smile after reading your opening story. When I left the full-time work force when my second child (of four) was 6 months old, I promised myself I would not let myself go, i.e.; turn into a sweat pants baggy tee shirt wearing drudge. Twenty-one years later I can say I stayed true to that promise. I wear light make-up, earrings, attractive casual clothes and perfume (but not in summer) every day. My husband still finds me attractive after 25 years of marriage and I feel good about myself.
    Now your real question about Fall wardrobe essentials – I agree with all of your choices and have been enjoying purging my wardrobe of clothes I really don’t need or don’t look good on me. Thanks for the inspiring posts about wardrobe minimalizing the last several weeks.

  9. I love these kinds of posts.

    Does anyone else have a problem finding jeans to fit a figure like mine? I have a smaller waist with a well endowed rear. : ) I’m 5’3″ and have had a problem with this since a teen, it doesn’t matter what I weigh, the waist is always huge on me unless I go with elastic waist and the below the belly button kind feel like my pants are falling down.

    I’ve gotten to the point where I wear only workout pants when I do need pants and just made an adorable simple corduroy skirt that I can wear with fleece lined tights for the fall and winter. And maybe that will be all I need…But it is awfully nice to have one pair of jeans that we feel very good in.

    Thanks and blessings! ~Amelia

    1. Amelia, jeans are such a useful, important part of a wardrobe, I’d hate to go without them. Have you thought of getting some tailored? I have a friend who has the same figure as it sounds like you do, and that’s what she did. Find a pair that looks good and fits well from the hips down, then take them to a tailor to have the waist taken in to fit you properly. It shouldn’t be very expensive, and you’ll be glad you did!

      1. Thank you Lina! I do a bit of sewing so maybe I could put some darts in…Thank you for the good idea! I may be able to make do with the ones I have and give it a try! Thanks again! And thanks Jessica for hosting. : ) ~Amelia

      1. Carrie, Thank you so much for the link! I love L.L. Bean and I am going to go look at those curvy jeans! I’m going to show my daughters too. Alas! A store is finally helping us girls! Thanks so much Carrie for taking the time to share the link. I didn’t know about these. I hope this helps others too. Thanks again! : ) ~Amelia

        1. I hope they work for you, Amelia! 🙂 I know my sister has been extremely pleased with the pants and capris that we purchased in the curvy fit. If you call L.L.Bean and talk to them about the fit, they may be able to offer even more insight as to which style (above waist, at waist, below waist) will work best for you – their people are always super nice!

          1. Thanks Carrie! : ) That is a wonderful idea to just call them up. Sometimes we forget we can do that with online service. I will definitely give that a try when I order. Thanks so much for the tip!

            Thanks Jessica for the forum too. These help me so much. We live in the country in a new area so sometimes it’s difficult on these topics.

            This is a blessing for me.

  10. I did the closet thing a few weeks back because I realized I was wearing the same things over and over. Why? Because I couldn’t even SEE the rest in my closet. So, out it all came and I tried things on, thought hard about whether to keep or throw. The decision I made this year was to keep my casual style but put together some really nice outfits for those times that I want to feel GREAT. I bought a couple of pieces this year and you know what one of those purchases was? 2 pairs of gorgeous high heels! I haven’t worn heels in YEARS. But they are very, very in fashion this year (over here in France) and I tried them and they change everything! I decided to buy them and even wear them whenever I wanted instead of always feeling like a casual mom of five. Sometimes dressing up just feels so good.

    1. Dressing up does feel good! Especially in comfy dress-up. (I hope those heels are comfy!)

      1. One of the pairs is ok, but not the other. That’s why I haven’t worn heels in years. Just not comfy. But oh so pretty.

  11. I love my jeans … I have a casual pair and a dressy, straight leg dark denim pair for “nice” outings. I never used to wear jeans, but motherhood was too hard on the rest of my pants!

    And I love my layers. I have several nicer tee shirts, long and short sleeve and they go under everything.

    And then I have long sleeved sweaters/jackets.

    That’s it for the most part. Although today our thrift store ran a 50% everything sale and I bought a gorgeous “date night” blouse for $2 … in stunning fall tones!

  12. Yay for streamlined wardrobes. My fall essentials are pretty similar to what others have been saying- a nice pair of jeans, layering shirts, scarves.
    But I also really like my pea coat and fingerless gloves!

  13. thanks for the great tips, i need to go to wardrobe i have way to many clothes and so many i have i say i may wear it someday

  14. I have recently added two pair of the knit “starfish” pants from Land’sEnd – one black and one gray. My mother also gave me a “dressy” knit jacket in a beautiful shade of pink. I wear these with a white t shirt or turtleneck and some black crocodile loafers and feel very put together even though I feel as comfortable as if I had on sweatpants. I do have one pair of “good” jeans but I like these combinations better for my full figure.

  15. I so appreciate this post. I was here last spring; I’d realized that between two pregnancies, two years of breastfeeding and three years of my husband’s un/underemployment I had not bought clothing for nearly SIX YEARS. And I was in a professional setting. I watched for deep sales and rebuilt much of my wardrobe. Now, I look for things I can layer, as I can create more looks with less things.

  16. I have all these items.. TOO MANY!! So many it’s overwhelming. I went through a day of just winterizing my wardrobe and put together outfits before they went into my closet. I took pictures of all of them, loaded them on a Pinterest board titled MY CLOSET. Now everything in the closet can at least have 3 outfits put together with each item which makes it versatile for those not so inspiring mornings.
    I take a picture of my outfit on my phone each morning and post it on my board also. Helps me visualize how I look in the outfit and allows me to not wear the same thing over and over and over again..