Hasn’t it been glorious to have a blast of summer this week? The mid-20s temperatures up here have been absolutely perfect, just what we needed to lift everyone’s mood before the season really starts to shift. The leaves are turning, the hedgerows are heavy with berries, the boughs on our pear tree are so heavy with fruit that they’re almost breaking which means it’s time to start adjusting to the big move on… not in terms of ‘buy it now’ but just in a strategic way. And so I thought I’d ease you in by running through AW23 – the trends and thoughts about planning your wardrobe. You see there’s a continued shift going on, away from the loose and comfortable looks of lockdown towards a sharper, more pulled together silhouette. It isn’t surprising really, I think everyone’s keen to have a little more feeling of control right now, of being in charge of their lives even if it’s a trick of self-delusion. So let me talk you through what you’ll soon start to see around you. I’m not for a second saying you have to buy into it all – or even any of it, but I do think it’s good to feel you have your finger on the pulse and that you understand the mood of the moment. So here we go, a quick run through of the crazy world of fashion.

AW23 – the trends and thoughts about planning your wardrobe

Well actually as we launch into it, it isn’t quite as crazy as it sometimes is. ‘Wearability’ continues to be the buzzword and it was seen all over the catwalks when the AW23 fashion weeks were held back in March. Jeans, trousers, coats, jumpers… it all made sense and as I walked through the high street’s AW press shows in July, John Lewis had encapsulated it particularly well. This is a really strong illustration of the principle mood. I’m going to pull out some of the details you see here as we go through but you’ll notice checks, zebra, browns, elegant boots and wide, smart denim. So this kind of streamlined look is probably the most accessible and easy to achieve. As always though there are other options so let me talk you through the key themes.

AW23 - the trends

AW23 the trends – colours

Although brown is finally hitting the high street after at least two AW seasons of appearing on the catwalks, the world of high fashion has already moved things on. That’s because the standout colours of AW23 have been easier ones for mainstream retailers to sell in than brown (it’s always difficult getting customers to move their wardrobe neutrals away from navy or black) and so you’ll see lots of the season’s biggest colour around – postbox red. To my delight it’s worn best as a block which is how we often see it for summer but here’s an idea of how it translates to autumn and winter.

Post box red

AW23 - the trends

So red, in my book, is easy, we’ve all seen it before. But this next one which is being called banana milkshake or butter yellow is quite new and yet it’s already popping up on the high street. Again it looks lovely as a block but you could also wear it as a neutral to replace rose pink perhaps or camel or ivory – it depends on the tones you put it next to.

Banana milkshake yellow

AW23 - the trends

Long sleeved top; short sleeved tank; skirt

Wool jacket

Metallics, especially silver

And then there’s silver. You’ll see a lot of metallics around as we move towards December but none of them are as strong this year as silver. The fastest way to update your look in the meantime will be with silver shoes or boots or a bag. You won’t be surprised when I say that I’ve fallen in love with these…

silver ankle boots AW23

Silver leather ankle boots

… and these which are better value…

silver ankle boots AW23

Silver boots with chisel toe

… and I love these too.

silver knee high boots AW23

Kitten heel silver boots

Sequins are still around but they aren’t as strong this season as metallised fabrics and lurex. The look is almost as if you’ve been dipped in molten metal.

AW23 - the trends

So that’s a run through of the key colours, easy pops to add to update your existing basic capsule wardrobe.

Aw23 the trends – key pieces

Long black coats

Moving on from there are key pieces that pervaded the catwalks and the first was the long black coat. I bet most of us have at least one of these in our wardrobes so it’s a moment of cheer. I have two and they’re 21 and 26 years old. As you can see they’re lean as well as long and worn with everything from workwear to jeans.

AW23 - the trends

This is the best one I’ve seen. I’ve had this coat for a few years now in a warm grey and the quality of the wool pile is just so luxurious that I’d buy it in every colour if I could justify it. It’s an investment but you’ll have it forever.

Best long black coat AW23

Pure wool lean black coat

Cotton shirts

Here’s another no-brainer, cotton shirts (I told you the theme was wearability). Worn open, loose or tucked in with skirts, trousers or jeans it’s an easy look if you don’t mind ironing. I’d just caution you to remember that when you see these things on Instagram or in magazines the models haven’t sat down or worn a seatbelt (that goes for any outfit you see, especially when it’s carefully arranged). The artful half tuck looks great until you bend over and everything scrunches.

AW23 - the trends

If it’s a look you really love then it’s worth investing in a shirt that has been deliberately designed to ‘crease less’ like this one. You’ll pay a slight premium for the fabric, it’s a case of buying less but buying better.

AW23 - the trends

Crease less shirt

Another way round it is to choose jersey, silk or satin shirts as long as they have a mannish look.

Knee high and over the knee fitted boots

At last there’s a move away from stompy boots. If you have some you’ll still get a couple more years of wear out of them but you can see the way things are going unless, of course, they’re your intrinsic style. Ideally the new boots are over the knee which strikes me as being useful for wearing with mini-skirts as long as the heel isn’t too much. However the high street is ever practical and so you’ll see plenty of knee high versions around too. They tend to be quite fitted although some, such as the tan suede below, have slouch.

AW23 - the trends

Aw23 the trends – the silhouette

The silhouette is where things are really moving on. Goodbye baggy shapes, the hourglass is back. I haven’t done a specific tearsheet on this but you’ll notice that you can see emphasis on the waist in almost every picture I’ve shown. Belts haven’t been around for a while but you’ll see them reappearing now, either skinny or superwide. Padded shoulders on jackets and peplums are new features that accentuate the waist even more. Circle skirts and wide trousers finish it off. You won’t be surprised to hear that the 50s is this season’s key decade of inspiration, partly because of the many images of a young Queen Elizabeth that covered the media last September. However the 90s remains key too and the satin slip skirt and dress is still strong, especially as we come closer to party season.

Aw23 the trends – prints & fabrics

Moving on to prints – checks are prominent. Again they connect to Queen Elizabeth with heritage checks like the ones you saw in the John Lewis shot at the top. There’s also a strong mood for clashing tartans and that will probably come through even more next year as a tribute to Vivienne Westwood. Other prints include oversized polka dots and dark winter florals but then they appear most winters.

As far as fabrics are concerned you’ll see a lot of fluidity, especially satin as I’ve already mentioned but also lurex and slippery viscose. Leather and pleather is strong if you like it, especially in chocolate brown. And then you’ll notice transparency as in the skirt below on the top left. That isn’t a mad catwalk moment, it’s Mango – on a high street near you! A transparent look that’s a little more easy to adopt is the one on the right and you’ll see more of this sort of thing as we get nearer to Christmas, even if it’s just a slightly sheer blouse with a hint of a pretty bra underneath. Don’t immediately disregard it, it can be a very sexy look on a midlifer if it’s done elegantly – think Sylvie from Emily in Paris.

AW23 - the trends

Aw23 the trends – accessories

And last of all accessories which are so often the easiest way to update your outfits. Huge blanket scarves draped over coats are going to be a key look when it gets colder. Brightly coloured tights rather than just black or navy are also coming back, use them to tone or contrast with your outfit – fishnets are around again too but in a lower key way.

Earrings are finally moving away from hoops and chandeliers towards the larger stud, especially in a teardrop shape – see below. And bags continue to be squashy, slouchy and very tactile. Surprisingly the clutch is back in a big way. I thought that with the advent of paying with your phone it might become redundant but no, it’s all part of the return to elegance for AW23.

So that’s a whistlestop tour of AW23 – the trends. But before starting to shop there’s always prep to be done and now’s the best time to tackle it.

Top tips for planning your wardrobe

  • Don’t spend all of your budget now. It’s easy to feel ready for change at this time of year when the season starts to turn. However unless you’ve fallen in love with something you’ve seen, remember that the biggest autumn drops land at the beginning of October so save some of your budget for then.
  • For now, think about what your main base colour is going to be for AW23: black/navy/camel/grey/olive green/brown and assess what you already have. Work out what suits you, what’s looking outdated and what’s become shabby. Slice through your wardrobe until you can see the bones of your capsule.
  • Then work out where the foundation gaps are. You should be able to shop for the basics now and that will scratch any itch you have for newness – long sleeved tees, simple merino jumpers, basic shirts…
  • Consider what you’d like your accent colours to be. Remember that autumn is the shortest season of the year sartorially speaking. We only really spend about six weeks in our autumn clothes because it doesn’t cool down until mid-October and by the end of November we’re into Christmas so be cautious about very seasonal colours such as rusty oranges and burgundy. Unless they’re your favourite colours, buy autumn-specific shades in moderation because I bet you’ll find you can’t stand the sight of them after Christmas when the mood turns firstly to simple palette cleanser shades and then to early spring colours.
  • And lastly think realistically about the weather, especially if you spend time outdoors. It’s easy to imagine that we’re heading into golden weeks of walking amongst the falling leaves but the likelihood is that it will be wetter than you think. So the wide trousers and long skirts that look so good for city lunches probably aren’t the best thing for that – you’ll need cropped wide legs or something you can tuck into wellies which will affect the proportions of everything else. Be realistic about your lifestyle and what works best, then apportion your wardrobe accordingly.

Recent outfits

So given that we’ve been living in autumn all summer until this week, here’s what I’ve been wearing. This was a couple of weeks ago when we went out with the youngest to watch the World Cup final of the Women’s Football (so sad). Anyway you won’t be surprised to see that I’m absolutely embracing the trend for postbox red and it felt especially appropriate to wear England’s colours for the match. It was one of those typical SS23 days when we set out in sunshine, were hit by drizzle…

Midlifechic red Baukjen

Red striped breton (15% of with code MLC15, gifted AW23); Trousers (15% off with code MLC15, gifted AW23)

… and then emerged 90 minutes later into blustery winds. This breton is a refresh of one I’ve had for a few years that’s been worn so much that it was time to retire it. You can’t buy better bretons than these organic cotton ones with their boat necklines, I have a good collection of different colours now and they’ve been absolute staples this summer. I find they come up quite big though so I always size down to a 10.

The trousers are an easy athleisure look for weekends or working from home. They have a stitched seam down the front which makes them smarter than joggers and the back of the waistband is elasticated for comfort. Again they’re generous so if you’re between sizes go down.

Midlifechic red Baukjen

Red striped breton (15% of with code MLC15, gifted AW23); Trousers (15% off with code MLC15, gifted AW23)

And here they are again a while ago, dressed up for a day at work. This time I went for a block colour look with this soft tencel blouse. You may remember that I have the pink version already and the thing that I love is the detail – the rouleau loop fastenings on the covered buttons and the pintucked cuffs. These are the things that really stand out now that so many brands are cutting extra work out to maintain their margins. It’s also available in fuchsia pink, emerald green and royal blue. I’ll just add that this is an easy way to get the jumpsuit effect for those of you who avoid them because you worry about going to the loo – and, as I’ve shown, you end up with two pieces that can be worn in different ways.

Nikki Garnett Workwear for women over 50

Blouse with rouleau loops and pintucked cuffs (also available in fuchsia pink, emerald green and royal blue, 15% off with code MLC15, gifted AW23); Trousers (15% off with code MLC15, gifted AW23); shoes and bag past season

Here’s a close-up of the detailing on the cuffs, they have a discrete zip on the inside so that the blouse is easy to pull on and off. It’s features like this that elevate an outfit whether you’re wearing the blouse on its own at this time of year or you have them peeping out of a cardigan or jacket sleeve later on.

AW23 - the trends

Blouse with rouleau loops and pintucked cuffs (also available in fuchsia pink, emerald green and royal blue, 15% off with code MLC15, gifted AW23)

I spent last weekend going through my wardrobe. Even though the sun was shining outside I started to pack for our forthcoming logging off and realised that things had reached saturation point. It was good going through my clothes at such an early point in the season, it reminded me that I really don’t need anything else in navy AT ALL! Or red come to that… unless I find the perfect long red coat. I pulled out anything that I know I haven’t worn for a while and it’s made some space which I’ve decided I’ll use for new shades of green. They’ll work well with my navy base and I know I’ll still be happy to wear them at the turn of the year when we start moving towards spring again.

So it was helpful to have that in mind this week when it came to my September edits. These cotton velvet wide leg trousers are cropped at the ankle which makes them good for wearing with boots. They have the perfect rise for tucking tops in and they’re comfortably true to size for me in a 12.

Nikki Garnett White Stuff

Velvet wide leg crops (gifted AW23); Lime green cotton and merino jumper (gifted AW23); bag and boots past season

I’ve teamed them with this zesty jumper in an organic cotton and merino blend. Again it’s the detail that makes the difference, rather than being a plain crew neck it has a seam down the front, flattering ribbed panels at the sides and on the sleeves and also a small stripe at the cuff as you can see above. If it’s too bright for you, it’s just arrived in another lovely shade of green that I’m tempted by and it also comes in pink or plum.

We have horrendous potholes around here but one of the few good things about the cost of living crisis and the council cutbacks has been the rewilding that’s gone on since lockdown. I picked my way through this field very carefully to get a picture¬† – cornflowers, chamomile and corn marigolds – a sign that harvest time is just around the corner.

Nikki Garnett White Stuff

Velvet wide leg crops (gifted AW23); Lime green cotton and merino jumper (gifted AW23)

It’s a bumper year for blackberries too

Midlifechic

This dress arrived just in time for me to photograph it. Continuing with my green theme, the teal will work with the navy, brown and rust in my coat collection. Over the last couple of years I’ve built up a small capsule of cord dresses like this because I find them so easy for relaxed work days. They’re comfortable, easy to wash and the cord is warm and tactile. It’s a light cotton cord, not as heavy and stiff as some on the market and so it drapes softly. The weight makes it comfortable to wear now and it will work with a jumper underneath when the weather cools. It’s also available in black cord, plum cotton and denim. I found a 12 was true to size.

Cord shirtdress (gifted AW23)

I just want to point out the extra detail at the waist which means you can make small adjustments to fit, it’s such a nifty trick. As I’ve said, these little finishes are the ones that are being lost to the need to claw back margin so it’s good to find another brand that is still honouring them – and at reasonable prices too.

Cord shirtdress

And last of all, I’m often asked for nightshirt recommendations by people who find pyjamas uncomfortable so when I saw this organic cotton one I asked if I could try a sample. It struck me that I started wearing pyjamas because they were easier during those long years of breastfeeding and winding – remember that?! I’d forgotten how much more comfortable it is to sleep without a band around your middle. There’s a nice one in brushed cotton for when the nights get cooler too.

Relaxed fit nightshirt (gifted AW23)

And so my friends, I’ll leave you to ponder all of that because we’re packing our rucksacks this weekend ready to head off on our long awaited proper holiday. It will give us the chance to adjust to being just the two of us again after a lovely long summer of having the youngest at home. By the time we get back he should (visa willing) have headed off to Spain for a whole new adventure of his own. So in a bid to recapture the spontaneity of youth we’re going backpacking (but without roughing it) and rather than using an agent to plan and book everything as we did in between lockdowns, we’re travelling under our own steam. It’s more my idea of fun than Mal’s but he’s happy to give it a try now that he’s finally found an aesthetically pleasing rucksack! I’m looking forward to the feeling of freedom – and (strangely) to travelling light. Kenya taught me that less is more when you’re living out of a rucksack although at least we’ll have one each this time.

I don’t think it will be the complete logging off that we were hoping for – we’re taking Christmas with us and a little retail project we’re working on means I’ll be sitting on a beach somewhere writing Christmas stories for children while Mal thinks about the illustrations. So it will be a bit odd but there were so many Septembers when I’d sit by a pool with Christmas magazine pages being faxed over that it will be familiar in lots of ways too. And there will still be a blog post next week – and the week after that there will be a survey. I’m hoping as many of you as possible will be able to find a couple of minutes to answer it because it will help me both with my work and also with plans for the blog going forward. It’s time for a change I think – but I need to know what you think first.

So, you’ll see me popping up on Instagram now and then because I enjoy it over there when I have time to reply to everyone properly. In the meantime you’ll hardly notice I’m gone but even so I want to thank you for keeping on reading this blog. Both it and you add so much to my life.

Disclosure: ‘AW23 – the trends and thoughts about planning your wardrobe’ is not a sponsored post

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