6 Perfect Fall Outfits to Wear Back to Work

Fall makes me sublimely happy for all the reasons you might expect: cool weather, cozy wardrobe staples. But topping the list, even though I'm a decade post-graduation, is that autumn still makes me achingly nostalgic for back-to-school season. That's why I make sure to honor this time of year, grown-up style, with a fall wardrobe refresh. And that goes doubly this year, when I'm planning out my fall back-to-work outfits after what seems like a lifetime away from an office.

Eager student that I am, I've already restocked supplies (Pilot FriXion erasable pens — trust me) and filled my snack drawer (I practically live off this bar saves and KIND protein bars). But there's no refresh quite like a fall wardrobe refresh, so I'm making sure to treat myself to some new fall-weather outfits to head back to work, too.

Do I really need more sweaters? No. Do I need yet another pair of knee-high boots? Also no. But I don't shop for back-to-work outfits because I technically need them. I do it because it's my favorite season to dress for, and nothing's more fun than adding new components to my collection that I can mix and match a million different ways.

That being said, shopping your closet is just as exciting when you're switching over from summer to fall attire. New or old, clothes can be worn in so many different ways, and every year brings a fresh perspective on how to style them. Read on for how we're putting together fall outfits for back-to-work this month and beyond.

Elevate Your Basics

Your basics are your foundational items — think simple, typically monochromatic T-shirts and tank tops, bodysuits, a button-down, swing dress, your favorite pair of jeans, trousers, etc. These are items that are meant to be built off of in order to create a stylish outfit, so make things easy on yourself come Monday morning and gravitate toward your minimalist staples and experiment with add-ons for maximum effect: Once you have your foundation, dress it up with statement-making accessories like a patterned scarf, chunky headband, or a handbag with intricate detailing. You can also incorporate pops of color throughout the ensemble with your outerwear (i.e. an eye-catching cardigan) and footwear.

Make a Statement with Your Outerwear

Outerwear is often associated with functional pieces that serve to keep you warm in the cooler months. But according to the Oxford dictionary, "outerwear" is defined as "clothing worn over other clothes," which means everything from duster coats and puffy jackets, blazers, knit ponchos, oversized blanket scarves, shackets, and even just a plain button-down are all fair game. So if your back-to-work style is mostly minimal and monochromatic, spice things up with eye-catching outerwear on top. If a loud hue or funky pattern isn't appropriate for your place of work, no worries: You'll shed the layer once you get to your desk anyway.

Lean in to Nostalgia

Fans of '90s style, listen up: In an email exchange with InStyle, co-founder of JLUXLABEL Christina Jaide revealed that soft, layered classics are forecasted to be a huge component in back-to-work wardrobes this year. "We are seeing basic pairings that exude minimalistic effort," Jaide says. Think: Julia Roberts then and Emily Ratajkowski now. "Try grabbing your favorite basic jumpsuit and throw on a structured finishing piece such as a blazer or trench coat."

Layer Up

Layering can feel less like a fashion technique and more like a method of survival once temperatures start to dip. However, in recent years I've learned how to layer clothes in a way that's both practical and cool. The secret really is to just experiment with whatever's in your closet. Mix and match smoothing items with textured pieces, wear your favorite spaghetti strap minidress over a turtleneck, and remember that sweaters can be worn over pretty much anything — button-downs, dresses — or nothing at all.

Bring Back the Belted Blazer

Consider this my personal call to action. Belted blazers had a moment in 2019 before the pandemic hit and I am determined to bring this staple back. Partially because anything that cinches at the waist makes an outfit look and feel more tailored to your body, and therefore more put together, but also because blazers, in general, are a comfortable, functional piece we can all appreciate with new eyes in a post-pandemic (post-workday-sweatpants) world.

Reinvent the Three-Piece Suit

Co-ords and matching loungewear sets will still be relevant going into fall 2021, but if you were keeping up with the runways this past fashion week, the three-piece suit is coming in hot for the cooler seasons, just with a twist. Like outerwear, exactly what makes up a three-piece suit is up to the wearer's discretion. You decide which clothing items make up the set. Of course, traditional suits are still welcome at the office, but consider trying asymmetrical jackets over blazers, leather over wool, crop tops and bralettes instead of button-downs, and biker shorts under skirts with a vest or blazer on top. The world is your oyster. The "not sure what to wear this with" shelf in your closet is now your suiting store.

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