Here’s what you’ve been waiting for: the ever-popular Budget Fashionista fall clothing checklist. Consider it your inspiration for trend pieces that are wearable, affordable, and versatile enough to keep wearing long after this season’s over.
Read on for a download on the best apparel trends this fall plus curated pieces that won’t break the bank and advice on how to wear them.
What’s trending this fall
The AW 23 runways were bursting with fun stuff, from all-over sheer dresses to oversized coats paired with oversized bottoms. Those avant-gardes outfits make for interesting runway shows and magazine photos, but they’re less useful for everyday life. Personally, I can think of no occasion where I could/would/should wear a sheer dress or pasties.
So, my list of trending fall fashions focuses on the pieces we can use and enjoy regularly. These are also the trends that inspired the garments on the fall clothing checklist below:
- Scoop necklines: They were hot last year and they’re back for another go in 2023/2024.
- Peplum tops: You can wear peplum tops for work and play.
- Plaids: The plaid scarf is an obvious interpretation and a useful fall accessory, but how about a checked blazer?
- Turtlenecks: I say hooray for fall turtlenecks. This may be the most useful of fall trends.
- Ankle hemlines: Whether you like denim or flowy skirts, you can easily make the ankle hemline part of your rotation.
- Off-shoulder: Rock a bare shoulder this fall if you dare.
- Big sleeves: If your neighborhood is too cold for bare shoulders, go big with statement sleeves.
- Sweater dress: I love it when a fall classic turns trendy.
- Two-piece leather: Wear a two-piece leather set as designed this season, then use the pieces as separates next season.
Fall clothing checklist
Now let’s translate that list of fall trends into real-life, mix-n-match pieces that can step right into your wardrobe to make an impact.
1. Scoop neck t-shirt
A long-sleeved, scoop neck t-shirt in a neutral color like this one will get tons of wear. Throw it on with your best fall denim and cute sneakers on casual days. Add a pretty scarf and blazer for workdays. You could also wear this top over a relaxed midi skirt or a more structured pencil skirt. It’s truly an all-purpose addition to your closet.
Also, this is an easy piece to shop. The one shown above is from Chico’s Off the Rack, but you can find many more options on Amazon with different colors, sleeve lengths, and sizes.
2. Knit peplum top
As a quick refresher, peplum tops have a ruffle or extra strip of fabric below the waist. They might also have a waist-defining feature, such as a tie or smocking. Some peplum tops have a childlike vibe, which may or may not be your thing.
Thankfully, Venus brings us a grown-up iteration of the peplum top. The knit construction hugs your curves softly, defines the waistline nicely, and has just enough flair. Pair this top with straight-leg jeans or trousers and Chelsea boots. Or play up your shape by teaming the peplum top with a pencil skirt and tall boots.
3. Checked blazer
Plaid is trending, particularly red plaids reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands. The trend is so hot that J. Crew will have you buy a two-piece wool suit in the eye-catching pattern.
This is a look that will turn heads, but it also has a short lifespan. Opt for something more practical, like a checked blazer in a neutral color.
Gap has an option that will earn its keep if you buy it on sale. The blazer is made of 41% recycled wool. It plays into this season’s oversized trend, but not in an over-the-top way. This wool piece will go over almost anything — take your pick on using it as a blazer or a light coat.
If a checked blazer doesn’t feel trendy enough, try H&M’s double-breasted jacket dress. It has a great price point and falls right in line with the season’s plaid trend.
4. Oversized turtleneck
What’s better than a big, cozy turtleneck in a pretty golden mustard? Not much. You can wear a white button-down underneath this sweater and let the collar and sleeves poke out as shown, but you don’t have to. I’d team it with leggings and boots for running around town in comfort and style.
This is a trend you can tailor to your style. If you don’t like the oversized, boxy look, a sleek, knit turtleneck is a worthy alternative. I like to shop for those kinds of basics at the fast-fashion stores and Amazon.
5. Ankle-length anything
The ankle hem trend also lets you customize. You can choose nearly any ankle-length garment and wear it confidently this fall. Here are some ideas:
- Straight-leg, ankle-length trousers paired with a button-down top and loafers
- Wide-leg, ankle-length trousers matched with a curve-hugging knit top and mules
- One-piece ankle-length jumpsuit
- Knit maxi dress with sneakers
- Distressed hem ankle jeans with a surplice top and booties
For something different, try this olive green, straight-leg cargo pant from Lulus.
Or, go for a denim maxi skirt. Forever 21 has one with a nice price tag of $25.
6. Off-shoulder sweater
Off-shoulder tops often have a Boho vibe, with various ruffles and gathers. I don’t mind Boho, but this style can have limited utility. I mostly wear those tops with jeans and nothing else.
For more versatility, try something like this knit off-shoulder top by Tommy Hilfiger. It has polish and goes with everything from jeans to pencil skirts. The four-button detail on the left shoulder, and the bare shoulders of course, set this piece apart from the other sweaters you have on hand. And the pretty ivory also adds freshness to your winter rotation.
7. Ruffle sleeve top
You can chase the big-sleeve trend this season in a few ways. Puff sleeves and bubble sleeves would work — or any top you can find that goes big on arm volume. Take care not to overdo it, though. Choose a piece you’ll still wear long after big sleeves are no longer flapping in the spotlight.
This corduroy ruffle shirt from Gap nods gently to the sleeve trend with ruffles at the shoulder. Wear this piece as a top this season, then transition it to an outer layer next year. Try it with the vegan pants from Asos below or the denim maxi from Forever 21.
8. Bright sweater dress
The sweater dress is both flattering and always in style. Choose one that’s bold in color for the most impact. Add a blazer if this silhouette feels too racy, or — better yet — tap into your confidence and wear this clingy number with pumps and your best smile.
Nina Leonard’s ribbed dress is available at Nordstrom Rack in deep sapphire or a gorgeous red.
9. Leather on leather
Look fierce in this two-piece leather look set from 4th & Reckless, available at Asos.
Add a t-shirt underneath and more leather on top if it’s cold outside. You’ll also have fun experimenting with the vest and the pants as separates. The vest makes a great topper for many bottoms, from a straight-leg jean to a knee-length skirt.
You can team the leather-look trousers with nearly any top in your fall rotation — including the peplum, ruffle sleeve top, and off-shoulder sweater shown above.
Fall is for fashion
Fall is a great time to break out of your style shell and try something new. The cooler weather invites us to experiment with silhouettes and fabrics we haven’t worn in months — pants, maxi skirts, long sleeves, knits, and vegan leathers.
As you browse the racks and scroll the pages, look for mix-and-match pieces that have trendy and classic elements. That’ll ensure your fashion budget is well spent on garments you’ll wear again and again.