In Friday’s post we dipped our toes into the cooler waters of Autumn and then of course there was a heatwave! However there’s no denying that colder weather is on the way so before we all get distracted by emails from retailers telling us what we ‘must have,’ I thought I’d do a capsule wardrobe refresher. And let’s face it we’re moving into a season that’s going to be very different to our usual Autumn/Winter. I suspect the lifestyle changes that this Covid year has brought will have had an impact on everyone’s wardrobe in one way or another so let’s start preparing for AW 2020 in a mindful way. I’m afraid there are no outfit photos today because I’ve been burning the midnight oil working on the pitch but I will have lots to show you next week.
So, preparing for AW 2020. If your life has changed completely, perhaps because you’ve been made redundant or you’ve swapped the office for home, it’s worth putting some serious thought into this. To approach it really analytically, go back to the intro to my ‘how to build a capsule wardrobe’ course and print off the wardrobe context sheet. It will force you to do a lifestyle audit and thereby come up with the number of outfits you’re actually going to need in each specific category.
However if your status is more of a continuum you probably don’t need to go to that much effort. I think that for a lot of us, outfits on the casual spectrum (from smart to loungewear) are going to be the order of the season. Trying to gauge just how smart is going to be more a case of thinking about your personal style and what makes you feel happy than planning with any knowledge of what’s ahead. At the moment it’s looking as though life might pan out like this:
- Sept / Oct: living with increasing levels of lockdown
- November: planning early for Christmas to avoid this year’s unique set of retail pitfalls (we’ll talk about that soon)
- December: a cosy Christmas spent mostly at home, elevating the clothes we already have in an effort to feel seasonal
How style may have changed forever
None of us knows of course but everything I read and everyone I talk to is discussing a fundamental change in the way that people dress now. ‘Fashion’ is more or less over, at least for this season and ‘style’ is in – so there’s very little of the wild and whacky for AW 2020. A lot of the big designers say that they’re embracing this chance to reset, admitting that the pressure to stand out had resulted in them creating clothes that became crazier every season, clothes that they knew would seize column inches but never sell. It seems they’re relieved to have this new focus on wearability. And so we find ourselves faced with the chance to ask the question ‘what do I really want to wear?’ With almost nowhere to go and nobody to see us, our clothes can become an intensely personal expression of ourselves, our priorities and also our creativity.
Let’s start with a look at what’s changed on a retail level. For the season ahead, buyers have rapidly reduced stock of the following:
- skirts and trousers with a fitted waistband
- formal wool coats
- formal partywear
- structured totes and bags
Instead, as we’ve seen, they’re rapidly expanding their athleisure and loungewear departments. Strong allocations have been given to soft textured knits, especially cardigans, along with statement blouses often with feature collars. There’s also a move towards comfortable lingerie with no underwiring. When it comes to Christmas we’re seeing relaxed partywear pieces such as sparkly knits and velvet joggers that will elevate the look we’ve already settled on. In a nutshell, the mood is cosy, comfortable and homespun.
Preparing for AW 2020 – what to focus on for the season ahead
So, as with diamonds, the things to think about are the Cs – but in this case cloth, cut and colour.
The reason that cloth or rather texture is so key this season is because it’s always the easiest way to make simple basics look a little more special. This means that you need to think carefully about flat fabrics such as jersey, wool crepe and ordinary cotton. I’m always banging on about jersey being a particular pitfall for midlife women and I’m going to recap again.
We like it because it’s cooler to wear when our body temperatures are fluctuating and it’s easy to care for. The problem with this is that it becomes ubiquitous or ‘basic’ (in the way that Kate Moss would use the term). However there’s no denying that it’s good for layering so look for an elevated blend such as silk or modal jersey which has a sheen, wool jersey which has a nubby texture or a woven jersey such as piqué or ponte. Alternatively ordinary cotton jersey is always elevated by a stripe or a slogan. This season is going to give us the opportunity to really zero in on this level of detail and although it’s subliminal, it will make a huge difference to the way you feel about what you wear.
When it comes to knits, it’s a blessing that cardigans have come back in from the cold because they’re so much easier to throw on and off than a jumper. The thing to bear in mind with the homespun textured knit is that if it’s made from 100% wool, it’s probably going to be itchy. So you’ll see that brands have worked really hard at their wool blends so that they’re soft and pleasureable to wear. Don’t automatically disregard something because it has a percentage of acrylic in it or even polyester. The new polyester that has been carefully engineered from plastic bottles is leagues ahead of the old stuff. The other benefit that a manmade blend brings is washability and these items will be easier to care for and last much longer than some high maintenance, moth attracting wools.
The colours that are trending (if you care this year) are all basics too: navy, grey, camel and tan with accents of postbox red, cerulean blue, burgundy, almond milk and, interestingly, celery – a pale, slightly ‘off’ green.
Cuts continue to be relaxed with a lot of volume. Jeans are a bit of a humdinger because they’re moving towards a wide, loose cut which I’ve always found difficult to wear. I’m going to be ordering Baukjen’s flares to try when they come in to stock as I think they may reference the wider style but work better for my shape (20% off with code MIDLIFECHIC20).
And finally shoes – I mentioned that retailers were reducing stocks and that’s because the belief is that most of us will skip from trainers to boots – although there is a new market for velvet house mules that you’ll see emerging as a chic alternative to slippers. Boots are either knee high to be worn with midi-lengths or with jeans tucked in. Alternatively you’ll see chunky ankle boots with heavy track soles replacing summer’s fugly sandal and trainer.
My personal plan this season is to follow the pattern I started in the summer, buying fewer pieces from better retailers who have good ethics. And by good ethics I don’t just mean environmentally but in terms of standing by their staff and suppliers through the difficult times that we’re going through. Primark for example have committed to paying suppliers for anything that they’d ordered before stores were shut, whatever stage of production it was in and even if they’d cancelled orders in good time. Their current commitment for this is £2 billion. It doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly going to start shopping there but I do think they’re due some recognition for it.
Preparing for AW 2020 – lower price point buys
So in Friday’s post you saw me feature a few of these AW 2020 styles from some of my favourite brands. I haven’t had time to reply to your comments yet but I saw one from Shona pop in with a plea for a few slightly cheaper, frivolous buys and I fully respect that for a lot of people (including me), budgets this season aren’t quite what they were. Of course one problem is that a number of the retailers that we used to see as entry point have crumbled – Oasis and Warehouse for example. However, I thought I’d have a quick look around and I found a few really good buys. So here you go:
Preparing for AW 2020 – great value cosy knits
- Boyfriend cardigan: a longer cut for those who like to balance out the width of their lower half in this season’s almond milk shade. Also available in charcoal and camel.
- Charcoal cardigan with rhinestone buttons: the homespun look with a touch of sparkle to elevate it above the norm. Also available in black, ivory or lilac.
- Donegal fleck cardigan: the fleck is a big trend again this year and this soft, ‘go with everything’ grey has a round neck for those who prefer it.
- Red cable knit cardigan: postbox red is one of the accent colours of the season, wear it to lift navy, black, grey and camel neutrals. Also available in ivory.
- Textured knit cardigan: this looks black but it’s navy and this picture shows how chic and laidback this look can be.
Preparing for AW 2020 – great buy casual looks
Moving beyond the cardigan, here are some easy AW2020 looks that caught my eye.
- Statement collar blouse: the one that everyone’s wearing on Instagram. Wear it on its own now and with the collar layered over a jumper or cardigan when it gets colder. Particularly good if you’re still doing Zoom.
- Borg coat: the teddy coat was a big trend last winter and this was the fashion editors’ favourite because it’s so incredibly good for the price – which meant it sold out really fast. They’ve brought it back for this year and it’s easy and cosy to throw on – you could even wear it inside if you’re keeping the thermostat turned down while you’re at home.
- Denim shirt – good for layering with your cardigans, the Western detail adds extra style points.
- Wide leg jeans: a good cut with a high waist if you’re dipping your toe in the wide leg trend. Also available in black or camel.
- Layering hoodie: a simple, grey, longline hoodie; great for layering under a denim or leather jacket and then with the borg coat on top.
- Twill joggers: slightly smarter than a jersey pair, you could even add heels to dress them up for a relaxed night out. Also available in khaki or beige.
- 3D knit jumper: beautifully crafted from a single piece of thread this has no seams but is designed to follow the contours of your body. Also available in almond milk, burnt orange or black.
- Indigo jeans: a darker jean at a lower price point than last week’s, these are the perennially popular ‘mom’ cut, tapered at the ankle.
So I hope that’s helped you if you’re rethinking your wardrobe and preparing for AW 2020. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to post next week, it may not be until Friday evening so I want to tell you about something a bit different that I’m doing next Friday morning (25th September). You see a funny thing happened after I wrote my Athleisure post a couple of weeks ago. Two different readers got in touch to suggest I follow the fitness and wellbeing expert ‘Get Over Yourself Sally‘ which made me smile because as it happens, Sally and I live in the same village and we’ve known each other since school playground days when our youngest children were in the same class.
So I messaged her to suggest a coffee and we caught up yesterday. As always it was really good to spend some time with her. She’s one of those people who’s so motivational that you come away from your chat feeling that you can conquer the world. Her focus is on making midlife women feel good about themselves and she believes that if we gradually build confidence in what our bodies can do, the rest – such as healthy eating and weight loss – will follow naturally.
Every morning she does a free, live motivation session and fitness challenge on Facebook and she’s somehow persuaded me to join her in the woods next Friday to do it with her. As you know I’m slightly phobic about video so I’m hoping you’ll join us virtually and message some support because I’ll be there doing it in front of her 48,000 followers which is a terrifying thought. And it’s early – we start at 7am which is the time that my alarm is usually just going off so I’ll need all of the encouragement I can get. Now next Friday is going to be part of a September challenge that she’s been running, building the exercises up every day and so I’m joining on day 25 (heaven help me). If you’d like to do it with us (please do), just watch this quick intro video first where she takes you through the options and technique.
She’s very down to earth and funny so you should enjoy it. I’m sure she won’t take any of my nonsense and Mr MC will be in the background with her husband Simon, no doubt chuckling away as they manage the cameras. I might not have time to post again before next Friday evening so if you’d like to join us for an early morning workout in the woods, put it in your diary now, you’ll find us here. If not I think you’ll be able to catch up with it later on her Facebook page.
I’m now about to jump from one of this week’s big tasks (the pitch) to the other. The pitch is over, we presented via Zoom but with video turned off so it was particularly hard to gauge reactions, we’ll just have to wait to hear. In the meantime, the middle boy’s big day is looming so I now need to go through the mountains of stuff that he’s brought downstairs to see if there’s any logic to the things he’s decided to take to university. At the moment it just seems to be trainers and hats.
Mr MC has had a week of not sleeping and he tells me that the two things that have been going round and round in his head have been the pitch and the boy’s departure which is unusual – it’s usually me who lies awake and worries. I’ve been coping by compartmentalising and that may not have been the best approach, I have no idea how it will hit me when we say goodbye to him on Saturday. In one way I just feel very glad that I’ve had so much extra time with my boys over lockdown and so it seems almost ungrateful to mourn his departure. And of course this year has also taught me that young adults can, unexpectedly, come back. I know I’m going to miss him terribly though, my uncomplicated ray of sunshine who’s always been a big bundle of love and laughter.
So I’ll post on Instagram on Saturday and will be grateful for any wise or soothing words of wisdom that you may have when it’s feeling raw. Mr MC and I are staying on in Newcastle for a few days. We’d booked an AirBnB for a few nights so that we could spend some time with his mum and family. However with last night’s government announcement it doesn’t look as though that’s going to be very easy now – we’ll have to see how it pans out when the North East lockdown is confirmed later today. I suppose that if it’s just the two of us, it will give us a pause to readjust as the wheel of our family life turns on once more.
Thank you for reading, I’ll be back next week with news and action pictures of some of the new season pieces that I’ve ordered to take away with me. Lots of you say you prefer it when I bring the clothes to life so I’ll be doing my best not to look bereft in the photos we take!
Disclosure: ‘Capsule wardrobe refresher – preparing for AW 2020’ is not a sponsored post
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