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Fall is the season when fashion trends made the most impact. Spring can be classic, nautical, preppy, and floral. Summer is a season to incorporate some trendy details to your hot weather basics, but fall is when the longer-lasting trends are showcased and you see the vibe for the coming year and beyond. There are many great trends this fall, but I am going to focus on the wearable fall fashion trends for women over 40.
While I believe a woman of any age can wear whatever the hell she wants, I am focusing on the fall fashion trends that are more achievable at a range of pricepoints, of sizes, and personal style aesthetics. Trends that may already be in your closet once they are remixed, trends that are comfortable, and trends that won't be a flash in the pan.
My hope this list of fall fashion trends for women over 40 will inspire you to shop your closet, and when you do buy, it's pieces that will remain in your wardrobe for many stylish seasons to come.
Fall Fashion Trends for Women Over 40: My Picks
If you, like me, are over everything being beige or the color of baby food, you're in luck. This fall is all about color, and it's highly pigmented and almost every color from goldenrod to cobalt to Barbie pink to rich pine green are featured.
Not only are saturated colors back, but they are also being mixed in unexpected ways. Pair that goldenrod with Barbie pink, cobalt with pine green, terracotta with orchid. If this seems too wacky for you, go small. Pair an orange belt with an olive green dress, a pair of yellow lucite hoops with a purple sweater. This is an easy and low-cost way to update your existing wardrobe.
Green is a big color this season, and it's not just one shade. Kelly, emerald, lime, forest, pine, olive… you'll likely see all of these in the stores over the next few months. This can be worn in a big way by being your entire pantsuit, dress, or coat. It is also a great accent color to pair with most any color. Green with purple shades is a safe bet as they are across one another on the color wheel.
A single color from head to toe (yes, including the shoes). While runways were showing neutral shades like blush, cream, or camel, this can also be done in saturated colors like red, purple, and blue. Think a merlot silk blouse with merlot wide-leg trousers and oxblood loafers. Or a cream fisherman sweater with cream joggers and cream lug-sole boots.
The tailoring aspect of this trend comes from the fit; last fall was all about comfy loose knits. While you don't need to go bodycon this fall, pants with a proper waist and fly, suiting that fits well in the shoulders and hips, pieces that are looser but altered to work with your figure are what to look for.
Pair your camel sweater with a camel wool midi-length skirt and brown knee-high boots, style your navy pantsuit with a navy button-front shirt or navy turtleneck sweater. Mix that pumpkin-colored sweater with rust-colored Donegal trousers and brown leather loafers.
Instead of buying new, consider taking some of your more relaxed fit pieces to your local dry cleaner, tailor, or alterations place to have them nipped and tucked to skim the torso, the legs have just a slight break over your lower-heel boots and brogues, and have those jackets hit at the right place on your shoulder, at your waist, and your wrists.
Menswear is a standard fall trend every year, but this season is amped up with the focus on tailoring and classic fabrics. It is also about layering.
Think a turtleneck under a button-front shirt of the same color tucked into belted wider-leg trousers. A crisp shirt under a vest with matching pants. A tailored shirt under a pantsuit which is under a car coat. Don't be afraid to finish the look off with a scarf or ascot at the throat or a proper tie under your collar.
Menswear-inspired fabrics are also on trend. Glen check, tweed, chalk stripes, Donegal wool, herringbone… they're all great this season. While last fall showcased some Clueless-inspired plaids in bold colors like yellow and pink, this fall the color palette is classic neutrals with a focus on warm tones.
A crisp white shirt is a piece this fall that can make most anything else in your closet look updated. As someone who is short, soft, and curvy and prone to spilling coffee on herself I understand if you have NO desire to own such a piece. No need to, fashion this fall is very flexible. However, I got this shirt from Chico's in my usual size and it fit well over my bust, shoulders, and stomach. It is completely opaque, doesn't require ironing, and isn't stiff. I plan to rock it with jeans and boots, under sweaters and sweater vests, and with blazers and sweater coats.
For a night out, the pantsuit still reigns supreme, but the blazer dress has also returned. This may feel very Ally McBeal to you, but fashion is cyclical, and it's actually a very wearable piece alone, over tights or faux leather leggings, or even over a longer lace skirt. It also will be found at most any pricepoint and size this fall and winter. I for one am celebrating cocktail attire for women that doesn't cause us to get frostbite!
The Fashion Coat
If you've been thinking about updating your outerwear, this is the season to do it. Coats are an important statement this fall and winter, and like with this season's footwear, most of the trends are practical and comfortable.
The puffer coat is still a hot look, and many brands are making them puffier than before, calling them cloud coats. While previous seasons such coats have usually been black or a practical color, this year you can find them in most any color as well as prints, unexpected fabrics like faux leather, and metallics. Along with the bomber, the varisty-inspired jacket has also had a resurgance.
The dress coat is hot, from wool lady coats to plaid and tweed suit coats. These too are available in most any color you can imagine. While a classic tailored silhouette is on trend and a classic, you'll also find tailored yet oversized silhouettes that will fit your chunkiest knits and modern silhouettes emphasized by shoulder pads.
Faux fur is back, as is shearling. Bomber jackets have returned; if you have one from a few years ago pull it out and wear it with confidence. Another trend return I think many of you will be happy about is the return of the leopard coat. The majority that I see are a bit more tailored and hit low hip to knee length.
Leather (real and faux)
Leather is always a popular textile for fall and winter, but this season is it more popular than it has been for a while. And it doesn't have to be real leather; faux leather and coated fabrics to replicate leather are also popular. I have also seen several brands carry recycled and upcycled leather pieces.
Think leather jeans, joggers (I will be wearing my Spanx ones this year), full-leg or ankle pants, midi skirts, shirts, and coordinated sets. You can rock your pencil skirts, pleated a-lines, and faux leather leggings, but leather this season is embracing the same silhouettes of other looks.
A pair of faux leather pants can elevate the sweaters already in your wardrobe. A pair of leather jeans are an elegant alternative to denim. And a leather blazer can be just as versatile as your favorite moto but with added elegance and sophistication.
While black and shades of brown are always classic, colored denim is hot this season. I've had my eye on cream and ivory leather, shades of red, and purples.
Again, this may seem obvious but sweaters are making the statement this fall, instead of being a practical replacement for lighter-weight knits. Bold cable, shaker, popcorn, and textured knits, statement sleeves, Kurt Cobain-inspired cardigans, and sweater coordinated sets with matching joggers, pants, and skirts.
If you have a neutral-colored cableknit or shaker knit sweater in your closet, you're ready for fall. Tuck it (full or half tuck) into jeans and trousers, belt it over midi-length skirts, pair it with bottoms of the same color. Chunky knit cardigans, especially if they are waist to hip length with larger buttons are also on trend in most any color. If you bought a pair of sweater joggers and a matching pullover during the pandemic, they are still stylish this year.
Turtlenecks are hot, whether they are a chunky knit making a statement on its own or a slim merino worn under a button-front shirt or blazer. Sweater dresses are back, and they are often seen cinched with a black or brown leather belt.
The newest (or recycled) sweater trend for fall is the sweater vest. My GenZ kid already has two she's wearing over t-shirts and bike shorts and all the designers are showing sweater vests worn alone, over camisoles, button-front shirts, turtlenecks, slim-fit tees, and more. Embrace your preppy or punk side with an argyle sweater vest. Go vintage with a Fair Isle print. The most modern look is a soft solid-colored sweater vest in black or a soft neutral. This one from Madewell would look cute with jeans and a tee on the weekends, or with trousers and a camisole or silk shirt for the office.
While cream and other neutrals are front and center on the runways, sweaters are a great way to embrace the saturated color trend. Pair a bright pink cashmere crewneck with your dark red work trousers and oxblood loafers; style a camel cableknit with a camel skirt, if you wear blazers over band tees for the weekend consider replacing them with a chunky v-neck cardigan that hits at high hip.
Sparkle and shine for daytime. Richly colored florals and vintage-inspired prints. Romantic lace. Leather and suede. Shearling and faux fur. After a year at home in sweats it's time to celebrate the moments we can get outside.
You will see metallics used in unexpected ways, mixing of richly colored prints, prints trimmed with black lace or velvet, lots of sequins and pailettes. Remember the '80s-'00s are back in style so you'll see a mishmosh that reminds you of Anna Sui, Vivienne Westwood, Gunne Sax, Stevie Nicks, and Courtney Love.
I think the easiest part of this opulent trend is lace. Think Stevie Nicks meets Daisy Buchanan. Think high necks, puffed sleeves, lace trim on tiered skirts, Victorian-inspired pieces with a goth edge, and flapper-inspired dresses. If you usually wear a silk camisole with a black pantsuit for evenings out, consider a black lace turtleneck instead. For a night out, switch out your shiny black top for a blush-colored ornate top or a white blouse with lace. Since this is more of a trendy concept; check out ASOS where I found budget-friendly lace pieces in straight, plus, tall, and petite sizes that are right on trend.
Patterns and Mixing Patterns
Fall is always a time for moody floral dresses and Fair Isle sweaters, but this season, prints are powerful. Sweaters are in graphic prints that may remind you of the '80s and often are in coordinated sets (known as co-ords). Dresses are lush with layers of chiffon and the occasional bit of leather or lace between panels to break up the print. A lot of these dresses are seen with large leather belts; I know my ADA Collection obi belts will be getting a lot of wear this fall! See how I've styled my favorite ADA Collection obi belt at this link.
While we're used to having our base layers like pants and turtlenecks a solid, this season you may want to add a patterned one to update your current wardrobe. Your favorite pantsuit will look modern with a printed turtleneck, your sweaters will feel fresh with a patterned pair of wide leg trousers. And for work, consider taking that dressier printed dress and making it office-friendly with tall boots and a boyfriend blazer.
But don't be afraid to mix prints in the same color story. Think a camel and rust tweed jacket with a rust watercolor print tissue-weight turtleneck and a camel, red, and brown floral skirt. This can be tricky, I wouldn't be surprised if this fall we'll see a lot of dresses and looks with the pattern mixing built right in for one-step trend styling.
What are the Denim Trends for Fall 2021?
Denim is always a classic, but the looser fits and vintage vibes from this spring are continuing. In fact, the looser fit isn't just for jeans. Relaxed and longer denim jackets and denim safari and other styles of jackets, denim jumpsuits and coveralls with fuller sleeves and wider legs, and plenty of denim on denim (AKA the Texas Tuxedo).
If denim is your thing, this is your season. There is a lot of upcycled and the look of upcycled denim with patches, paperbag and crossover waistbands, different washes of pockets and trim, and some painting and artsy embellishments.
Acid wash denim is back… but only if you wish to embrace it. Tears and distressing is still hot… only if you like it. Black denim is popular; both saturated and faded. There are no extreme denim trends you must embrace to look chic this fall. Wear what makes you happy, but don't be afraid to try something a bit outside your comfort zone.
While brands are still producing skinny jeans and I doubt the silhouette will be completely out of style any time soon, this season's sweaters, jackets, and footwear work better with a looser cut of denim. I don't recommend buying any more skinny jeans unless they are a necessary part of your personal style aesthetic.
you may also like: the three 2021 denim trends that will last more than one season
What are the Footwear Trends for Fall 2021?
The menswear trend extends beyond the apparel. Forego the classic pumps or sneakers for a pair of loafers, monk straps, or oxfords/brogues. Don't be afraid to choose one with a more solid sole and menswear details like tassels and perforation and don't be afraid to try an unexpected color (or mix of colors and prints). I am really loving cream-colored leather shoes for fall, and pops of color like these green loafers, these blush loafers with a bold buckle detail, and these fun patterned brogues.
Last fall we embraced the comfort and practicality of sneakers and clogs. This fall we take that low-heel roomy comfort and elevate it with footwear with sturdy lug soles. Loafers, oxfords and brogues, lace-up boots from ankle to knee, and more are a comfortable height, have roomy toeboxes, and a chunkier sole that will give you more grip on wet leafy walks and icy paths this fall and winter. I purchased a pair of Doc Marten Leona boots in brown, which break in more easily than traditional Docs and have a subtle heel making these cute with jeans, cargo pants, and also dresses and skirts. This burgundy lug-sole oxford from Fanco Sarto would look great with jeans as well as wide-leg work trousers.
Boots are a fall and winter staple and continue to be so in 2021. If you're looking to add a pair of tall boots to your wardrobe this season, consider a pair with a pull-on shaft. They can be slouchy or straight but most tall boots this season aren't fitted at the ankle.
The relaxed fit of a slouch gives a vintage vibe while making them a great pairing with leggings or skinny jeans as well as dresses and skirts. The boot can be flat, have a sleek heel of most any height, a block heel, or a lug sole.
A straight pull-on style is more utilitarian and will be a great choice whether you pull over skinny jeans, leggings, or trousers (gives a bit of an equestrian feel over looser pants) or wear with shirts and dresses. Black and brown are classic, but camel and cream are fresh choices that can elevate staples existing already in your closet.
As mentioned above, a really modern look is to have your shoes match the rest of your look. Look at your wardrobe, see what colors stand out, and consider buying a boot, loafer, brogue, or even a sneaker in that color. Even when not wearing that color head to toe, a colorful shoe can be just the pop of color needed to brighten up classic menswear fabrics, luxe neutrals, or add that unexpected color mix that is so hot this season.
Sneaker Trends for Fall
As for sneakers, they are still popular but have also gotten the luxe upgrade. This fall there is a trend of neutral-colored sneakers. White is fine and your Adidas Stan Smiths are a classic, but if you're buying new sneakers consider colors like cream, ivory, blush, tan, and camel to elevate your leggings but also pair nicely with your wool trousers. A perk is they are low-contrast and will not cut your leg line when wearing shorts and skirts.
This is great for those who need comfort sneakers as you can find many of your favorite brands in beige, cream, and tan colors and they look very similar to the trendy styles on the runway. For example, I like these from ECCO, these from Naturalizer, these from Propet, these from SoftWalk, these from Vionic, these from TRAQ by Alegria, and these from Birkenstock.
Retro-inspired sneakers are still in style, with hi-tops and '70s inspired retro sneakers leading the pack. While bold colors were hot this summer, this fall sneakers are still colorful, but the colors are more muted and give a vintage vibe. I like the look of the Nike Blazer Mid '77 which is retro but sleek and will look chic with jeans as well as dresses. The New Balance 996 is also a great choice; I'm partial to the rosewater/white mint colorway but they're all great.
Punk- and skate-inspired sneakers are also. ontrend. A pair of Converse “Chucks” are classic; if you're looking to buy a pair this fall consider a high-top in natural or white or the low-top version in black. To add some whimsy to your weekend looks, consider a pair of Vans checkerboard slip-ons or the brand's hi-tops in black. The Comme des Garçons PLAY version of Converse sneakers has been considered cool for several years now and is still chic this year. If you are thinking of buying a “fancy” pair of sneakers, this is a great option.
Super Trendy Footwear for Fall
Chunky platforms, wedges, and 2000's inspired sneakers are on trend, but proceed with caution. Such shoes require more careful styling of the rest of the outfit to look cool and not like a leftover from the back of your closet.
What are the Handbag Trends for Fall 2021?
The hottest trend for handbags this fall is the tote. Yep, the item you likely already have in your wardrobe! The totes are big, usually stiffer leather, in neutrals, black, and statement colors. Some are open top, some have a flap, some you hold in your hand, some will go over your shoulder. If you have a great tote-style bag already, it will work this fall. If you're looking for a new tote, I really like this one from Portland Leather Goods.
Chain straps are also a hot trend. Think the classic Chanel quilted bag, but chains are also thinner like necklaces (clearly just for show) but also big and bold of metal as well as wood and lucite (again usually for show). The Chanel-inspired bags have been around for a few years; if you don't have one you likely can find a nice option on an online reseller like Poshmark or at your local consignment shop. Keep the color neutral – black, camel, and ivory are great choices. For a budget-friendly bag that is perfect for brunch to a night out, this bag from House of Want comes in a great range of colors.
Frame bags have returned, and it's totally on trend this season to pull your old ones out of storage or thrift/consign for this style. These are very classic in smooth leather or python print; if this fits your personal style aesthetic it may be worth purchasing as this trend is timeless and never goes out of style, just becomes more popular from time to time. I really like the Brahmin ‘Emmy' which is already selling out most places (here it is in stock in a gorgeous bronzy brown color) and for everyday, this frame bag from Tory Burch is both chic and also incorporates the chain strap trend.
A hot trend this fall and winter for novelty handbags are ones with texture. Shearling, teddy, faux fur… this is a popular look for smaller accent bags and crossbodies. I'm really digging this Mongolian fur one from Love, Cortnie.
And like the shoes of this fall, bags are more practical. Crossbodies with separate pouches for your phone and other essentials, tote with plenty of pockets for everything, belt bags and harness bags to keep your hands free… again there is a good chance such pieces are already in your closet. If not, I suggest elevating the belt bag with one out of leather to wear around your waist or across your chest. This convertible belt bag from Cuyana comes in a variety of color and is big enough to hold your phone and ID; purchase the additional pouch for extra space and an on-trend multitasking crossbody. For a subtle belt bag with room for everything, this one from Longchamp comes in black and red.
Fall Fashion Trends for Women Over 40: What's Worth Buying?
These are the items that are on my radar and some are on my personal shopping list for this season. I think these are pieces that can update your existing wardrobe without a lot of money:
- A leather wrap belt. Dresses, sweaters, and blazers are often belted this year. A wrap-style belt in the color of the majority of your bags and footwear will be a quick way to update your wardrobe. Etsy is a great place to find such belts. Doing a quick search I was drawn to this belt which comes in two sizes and a variety of colors and hardware, this one which comes in three widths and sizes up to 5XL, and this one that looks luxe and will be made to your specific measurements.
- A new pair of jeans. If you didn't get some looser denim this spring, I encourage you to check out my Spring denim guide for inspiration and consider a different silhouette than skinny. Don't get rid of your skinny jeans, but try something a bit different. This is a category where you can find great success from thrifting, or maybe even a dig through your attic!
- A lug sole shoe or boot. It will look great with your new jeans and will add a modern touch to everything from work trousers to midi dresses. These Steve Madden boots are under $100, come in the three primary leather colors for the season, and are a style that will work with dresses, pants, and jeans. A chunky lug sole loafer will look great with your faux leather leggings, ankle jeans and pants, as well as skirts and wider trousers; these from Nine West are also under $100 and come in the three must-have colors of the season.
- A fitted turtleneck. This can be lightweight, it can even be sheer. But a turtleneck, especially in a pattern, will be a way to really make an impact on your wardrobe. Wear it under dresses, under button-front shirts, suits, vests, and more. J. Crew has a tissue-weight turtleneck available up to 3X in a range of solid colors. ELOQUII has a layering turtleneck in three neutrals available up to 26/28. The brand AFRM has a range of sheer patterned turtlenecks in straight and plus sizes.
The Most Stylish Tip for Women Over 40
Fashion is not as strict as it was in years past. There is no must-have bag, must-have cut of denim, must-have height of heel. After 2020, fashion got even more forgiving, understand we are living different lives with different needs. You do not need to purchase a single item this fall to look stylish.
The most stylish tip I can give you is to wear what makes you feel good. Whether that is literally with a certain type of shoe or waistband, or figuratively with silhouettes and colors that make you smile. Confidence is the most stylish thing you can wear.
Clothes that are tailored to fit your body (not as expensive as you think, most dry cleaners can do minor alternations) will up your style quotient more than a new frock; consider shopping your closet and seeing what can be improved with a little nip or tuck. You'll find that if your clothes work with, not against your body, they will be more enjoyable the wear.
Style comes from not how much you have in your closet, but how you wear it. The most chic accessory this fall is confidence, which goes with every personal style aesthetic!
Love your last paragraph! I rarely follow trends but might incorporate something here and there to upgrade my look. Shopping my closet is always my first stop! I loath the menswear look ( at 5’ tall and kinda chunky it does me no favours) As my feet age real comfort usually comes at a price so I don’t do ‘trendy’ shoes. I am constantly getting comments from friends and strangers admiring my style. It’s taken years to build the confidence to branch out and try some things but also to just say no to others…even as the hoards are racing to the stores.
This was a really well done post, thank you!
Nicole Kowalski says
So much work went into this and it was fun to read! I’ve vowed not to buy anything new this coming year. I kind of bought too much out of boredom during lockdown. And with work from home, etc. and COVID not being over, my reasons for wearing outfits are few and far between. Sadly.
Thanks for your perspective Alison. You always have some way of looking at fashion that gives me new ideas!
I was literally thinking about how I wish there was a round up of wearable fall trends and of course this post popped up! Thanks for the hard work that clearly went into this post.
A veritable buffet of choices; some appeal and some I’ll leave on the table. But much to like in all categories. Thanks for your hard work. This post is getting pinned.
Linda M says
I can’t figure out what is up with brown. I’ve looked for chocolate jeans the last 3 seasons, and if I find them they are sold out in my size very early in the season. In general, I can find cognac, khaki and tan, but chocolate is hard in almost every item of clothing. If everyone is buying these to the point where they sell out at full price, why aren’t they making more? I see leather pants are on trend; does this include faux suede? I have both camel and black faux suede pants in my closet and find them cooler and more comfortable than leather looks. Besides the jeans, lug soled loafers in tan or cognac are on my wish list. While I’m ready for more color, I am not ready to return to more tailored clothes. As a newer retiree, I’m adding the comfort back into my wardrobe that was lost after many years of more professional clothing.
If you’re looking for a color of an item that often sells out quickly, consider searching on resale sites like Poshmark for new items from previous seasons!
I love this! The trends this fall are so up my alley. I’ll get to wear a lot of favorite pieces, and my chunky handknit sweaters are actually trendy this year! Maybe I will start on one in bright colors!
Excellent post. Thank you!
Great compilation, thank you. As long as some of this color actually makes it down to the mainstream clothing I buy and wear, I’ll be happy. So far, I’m not seeing it. Eileen Fisher, for example, has the most boring assortment of “pastels for fall,” which just leave me cold, no pun intended.
I LOVE that fashion is getting away from athleisure. But I still find myself in the same hole as I do every fall… living I. Central Florida makes it so hard to embrace many of these ideas. It’s just too darn hot for sweaters. I wear sleeveless for Thanksgiving and put up my Christmas tree in shorts some years.
How does one embrace the trends (because some of these are my jam) without her menopausal self literally cooking in her attire?
I’m also in Central Florida, so I get excited when I can finally wear denim and closed-toe shoes without dripping sweat. Changing out my bags, wearing loafers and fun sneakers, and trying the occasional overpiece are “cold” weather gear for me.
Denise Walker says
I love your blog! You are so detailed and give so much information that spans the ages of your readers! Thank you for your hard work!
Wow, this is fantastic and informative – and clearly was a lot of work to put together. Thanks, Allie! It’s very interesting that fashion appears to be leaning toward the dressier and more tailored after a year of leisure wear. I’m not sure the world is ready, but *maybe* by the time these ideas filter down to the mainstream, we will be going out more! I love a lot of these looks but, probably like most of us, don’t have many places to wear them (working from home, no formal events, casual tendencies). I will be incorporating a few ideas into my wardrobe though — I LOVE the fact that color is coming back and I hope to find some non-beige and not-black to add. Chunky boots, check. Looser jeans, yes. Chunky sweaters, of course. And I’m glad we can still dish about fashion – it’s fun and we need more of that. Thanks again!