How to build an autumn capsule wardrobe, with everything you need for the season

These are the 21 items you need an autumn capsule wardrobe according to a fashion editor

Autumn capsule wardrobe: selection of items for fall season
(Image credit: Various - see article body)

With September underway it's time to get your autumn capsule wardrobe together, so you're ready for the season ahead. Categorised by layering, thanks to the changeable autumn weather, having an edit of pieces specifically for the season will help you get dressed with ease.

While the weight of the clothing in your autumn capsule wardrobe might be similar to that of your spring edit, as the nights become longer, you might find yourself leaning towards slightly darker and moodier hues, whilst also taking into account the latest autumn/winter fashion trends for 2023 to give your look a boost. 

As with any capsule wardrobe edit, this way of dressing is about helping you organise your closet and getting the most wear out of any purchase. Waving goodbye to summer, while the biting cold of winter hasn't quite swept in, autumn weather can be incredibly volatile, meaning your autumn capsule wardrobe has to be one that is prepared for all eventualities. We've pulled together 21 items that will help to form the building blocks of your autumn outfit ideas.

How to create an autumn capsule wardrobe

There is no set number of items that should be in your autumn capsule wardrobe and this is a rule that applies across all seasons. If you want a minimalist capsule wardrobe, due to space, or simply wanting to keep the amount of choice down, you may wish to set yourself a fixed number of items, based on your hanging and folding space, but essentially what you want to end up with is a number of interchangeable items that means you can create multiple outfits for fewer pieces. 

Regardless of whether it's a winter capsule wardrobe or an autumn one, you should think of this selection of pieces as the building blocks of your outfits. That means that they form the base for the majority of your outfits and are generally classic enough that they can carry through from one year to the next. Into this you can, if you so choose, interject a few more trend-led items during the season, to give your look a more directional feel. 

  • Tops: A key building block for your autumn capsule, a strong selection of tops will help in the quest for ultimate layering. Long or 3/4 sleeve designs offer warmth as temperatures start to dip, although having camisoles or t-shirts for slightly warmer autumn days can be carried over from your summer capsule wardrobe for maximum cost per wear. Opt for the neckline that suits your silhouette most, with crew, round and V-necks all great options for everyday wear. 
  • Denim: The denim trends 2023 will offer guidance on refreshing this part of your autumn capsule wardrobe, although essentially, denim in this context should straddle a selection of your best jeans - straight leg jeans will always look a little more polished, as well as trend-led styles if you want added style direction. Try slotting in a denim shirt and/or a denim jacket for a great early autumn outerwear piece.
  • Trousers: Due to the drop in temperatures, trousers can be the perfect solution before moving into tights season later in the year. As we leave behind linens, cotton and cotton blends will still be breathable and warm enough for the early autumn period. As we move further into the season, opt for wool, or wool-blends for a cosy and polished finish. Crossing over with a work capsule wardrobe, for a smarter finish, select tailored designs in straight or wide legs. 
  • Skirts: Another key separate for your wardrobe, select your skirt shapes based on what suits your body type best. Pleated skirts at a little more interest and swoosh to your look, while an A-line design skims hips, stomachs and thighs, making it generally quite a universally flattering silhouette, delivering an hourglass shape. For work opt for smarter fabrics, while weekends, a denim skirt will add a directional '90s feel to your ensemble. Don't be afraid of print here either, with some moody blooms going a long way in updating your autumn look. 
  • Jackets: Integral to autumn, thanks to changeable weather, you'll need everything from light layers - such as leather jackets to the best waterproof jacket so you're prepared for both end-of-summer climates and early winter snaps. 
  • Coats: As with the jackets above, it's about being adaptable when it comes to the types of coats you need in an autumn capsule wardrobe. The best trench coat will double up as a wet weather day fave, while one of the best parka coats will bridge the gap before you need to drag out your puffer coat once more. Take a look at this season's best John Lewis coats for further inspiration.
  • Dresses: The best autumn dresses offer one-stop dressing, ensuring you look put together in a flash. Block-coloured, neutral iterations in classic midi dress silhouettes will never go out of fashion, but a new season darker floral will add a refresh to your wardrobe for work or play.
  • Shoes: Footwear for the autumn season is one you can largely pull from across your closet. The best white trainers offer a casual spin for non-wet weather days, while the best loafers will offer a polished finish to workwear ensembles. The best new in autumn boots will help you put your best foot forward, but you can also draw inspiration from your existing winter boot collection, as many styles will be wearable for the next six months. For added fashion points, reference this season's autumn winter shoe trends to add newness. 
  • Bags: The latest autumn winter handbag trends 2023 will instantly update your whole autumn capsule wardrobe, however, for maximum wearability and longevity, opt for a neutral coloured bag that will carry the day to day items - a tote or crossbody style is ideal. 

Your autumn capsule wardrobe should still reflect your personality and the 21 items we have chosen are here to act as a guide to the journey of ultimate wardrobe organisation. This means you may want to be inspired by the silhouettes and layering ideas below, but choose to put your own spin on it. 

Neutral-coloured items are fantastic for an autumn capsule wardrobe, as they'll go with most things, making switching up your look a cinch. However, don't be afraid to play with colour to add your own spin and make the look feel like yours. You could even reference the latest fashion colour trends to add a seasonal refresh. 

How to start an autumn capsule wardrobe

As with every capsule wardrobe, start by sorting out what you have, so that you can clearly divide, conquer and declutter clothes. Starting off by organising your closet will allow you to assess the gaps in your wardrobe and where you actually need to shop for new items. Try styling as many outfits as you can together from what you have, taking pictures of each look as a record, so you can refer back to them, making getting dressed on an autumn morning super easy. 

Once you know what you're missing, make a comprehensive shopping list - don't be distracted when out, as forming the building blocks of your capsule wardrobe will allow you to buy additional items later on if you so choose. Each new item should really go with three existing pieces to make it a worthwhile investment. 

Autumn capsule wardrobe: Investment styles

Above we have listed the 21 key items that we feel belong in an autumn capsule wardrobe. Use this as a guide, tweaking silhouettes to suit your frame and lifestyle. When it comes to investment styles for the autumn, a great pair of boots and a water-resistant jacket are worth spending as much as you can afford on them. Just remember to look after these key pieces, keeping them in good nick throughout and at the end of the season so that they're ready to be packed away and brought out again next autumn. 

Is an autumn capsule wardrobe a good idea?

An autumn capsule wardrobe is a great idea for a number of reasons. Creating a tight edit of pieces for the season will allow you to declutter your wardrobe and minimise the amount of space you need to dedicate to your clothes. The remaining items should be ones that you can wear in at least three ways, really maxing out the cost-per-wear theory. In addition to this, collating an autumn capsule wardrobe should aim for you to buy less and buy better, investing more in higher quality items, making this method of wardrobe editing better for the environment in the long run. And although you might invest more in a coat this season, is it lasts you for several years, you will save in the long run, as opposed to replacing items new each season. 

Rivkie Baum
Fashion channel editor

Rivkie is a fashion editor, writer and stylist with over fifteen years' experience in the industry. Having studied design and pattern cutting at the London College of Fashion, Rivkie fell in love with styling and journalism, covering fashion weeks in London, Paris and New York. 

Specialising in plus size fashion, Rivkie has long championed that style is for everyBODY and has been a regular talking head on a host of radio stations and television shows, pushing for greater representation for plus size women and fashion throughout her career.