From Summer to Fall Fashion

Stretching Your Wardrobe

By Nichole A. Cavallaro

The easiest way to make your summer pieces more fall-appropriate isn’t to ditch them altogether, but to dress up new ways to wear them. Here are some of the simplest ways to stretch your wardrobe and make all your old favorites work until winter:

Keep your maxi dresses

Maxi dresses are easy and cool for those hot summer days and nights. Before you relegate them to the back of your closet, refashion your maxi dresses by adding long sleeves. Whether it’s a belted blazer, a chunky knit sweater or even a knotted chambray shirt, the trick to wearing a maxi dress in the fall is layering up and defining your waist to offer added structure. The end result is a beautiful and casual fall outfit.

Add tights or leggings

This can be a fun way to play with pattern, color and texture for the fall. By stocking up on tights — which generally cost an affordable $6 to $15 — you can extend the life of your favorite summer skirts and dresses. Look for opaque tights. I love cable-knit versions with tons of texture.

If you’re not into tights, try leggings. They’re perfect to wear under your summery tunics for more coverage, while still staying fashion-forward.

Layer up

Layered looks aren’t only fashionable; they’re also completely functional. As you layer up your summer clothes, you create new looks that will actually keep you warm in a brisk breeze.

Try this rule: Layer long over lean. Match up longerlength tops (think tunics or boyfriend cardigans) over leaner bottoms, such as tights or skinny jeans. The Long Over Lean rule helps you avoid bulkiness that can sometimes result from overenthusiastic layering. Then, just add a sweater or jacket, a light scarf and a pair of boots to finish your perfect fall outfit.

Invest in a statement-making jacket

My favorite place to spend my fashion budget is definitely in the arena of jackets, blazers and other toppers. They can eclipse summer fabrics and prints, making them more fall-appropriate.

My advice is to purchase one statement-making jacket that really stands out but goes with all your summer clothes as you transition into fall. I got my military green jacket from our local Urban Outfitters six years ago and, by now, it’s paid for itself.

Add deeper colors

I love the deeper colors that come with the changing of the leaves. The pastels and neons of the spring and summer give way to rich jewel and earth tones.

Don’t worry if your closet isn’t already stocked with turquoise, plum and oatmeal. You can add a couple pieces to extend the life of your lighter summer clothes. Stay on the lookout for low-cost pieces in jewel tones that can pull a summer wardrobe into fall. A pair of rust-colored skinnies, a turquoise statement necklace or a mustard scarf can all inexpensively add a pop of fall-appropriate color.

Buy boots

A pair of boots is an autumn staple that easily makes all your summer outfits warmer and more functional. While you can spend a ton of money on good-quality boots, by purchasing a few pairs of lowercost fashion boots (more about looks for the fall than function in the winter), you’ll extend everything from dresses to jeans to shorts. Boots are an ideal item to stretch your wardrobe, so allocate some of your fall fashion budget to scoring a couple pairs in different heights.

Ignore the rules

One of the reasons fall shopping can be so expensive is all the supposed “rules” that surround dressing in cooler weather. Whether it’s not wearing white after Labor Day, skipping tights with open-toed shoes or even pairing black with navy, these silly rules severely limit the scope of your fall wardrobe.

Feel free to wear white after Labor Day (a chic, yellow-toned winter white looks perfect with jewel tones) or wear your favorite open-toed booties with a pop of colored tights. Don’t spend too much time thinking about whether or not an outfit is fall-appropriate. Focus on what’s weather-appropriate and makes you feel great, regardless of the rules.

It would be really easy to blow your fashion budget on buying new clothes for the fall, especially with so many tempting displays and sales. But the turning of the leaves doesn’t require a completely new wardrobe.

By adding darker colors, richer textures and a little added warmth, your summer clothes can stick around for another season, while you save money to splurge on functional winter clothes. SWM

Nichole A. Cavallaro is a Syracuse-based fashion blogger. Read more of her work at

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