What's hot for fall

Autumn is here in Laguna! As the days grow crisper, the larger swells roll in and the sunsets turn more colorful, it's time to make a fire, brew something spicy and pull out those cozy knits (and 3/2 fullsuits).

For those of you who want to bundle up in style, I've scoured the September issues and enlisted the help of local stylist Leslie Christen to find out just how a gal can stay warm and still look cool this season

"Layering of chunky knits, fur and leather is very hot right now," Christen said. "Cooler trends are the military-inspired cargo jacket and pant, menswear, preppy plaids and stripes, and retro '70s fashions.

"We're also seeing the return of the '50s era, with ladylike pencil skirts, blouses and kitten heels, as well as other feminine touches like sequins and ruffles."

The latest hues are bold — think grey, olive, plum, red and metallic — and so are the accessories.

"It's all about 'statement' jewelry, especially vintage pieces," Christen said. "Bib necklaces, chunky rings and chains are some of the key items for fall."

Handbags and shoes are also going big, she says, with oversized satchels and top-handles, daring platform heels and over-the-knee boots.

For those of you, like me, who are on the petite side and resemble your five-year-old self playing dress-up in your mother's clothes with such overstated pieces (or wish the thigh-high boot died with "Pretty Woman") not to worry: smaller "saddlebag" purses, delicate shoe-meets-boot "shooties" and barely-there flats are also very much en vogue.

"What's great about a lot of these trends is that they can be mixed with your key [apparel] pieces from last season, which is important since most people have less money to devote to their wardrobe these days," Christen said.

To cut back on our travel expenses and to support the community, Christen and I hit the streets of Laguna to see what the local shops have to offer in the way of top trends.

Prepsters can find an array of New England-inspired designs at Laguna Supply, 210 Beach St., from wool cardigans to plaid Oxford shirts to rain boots. Christen's top pick is an orange striped Seaton sweater layered beneath Current-Elliot's army green "soldier" jacket and paired with dark rinse skinny jeans by Genetic Denim. Slip on a pair of navy blue Toffel clogs and a satchel and the outfit is complete. The store also supplies motorcycle boots and funky one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces for those who want to lend a city vibe to this countryside look.

The theme is earthy opulence at LF, 278 Forest Ave., which offers a kaleidoscope of textures and designs for the fashion forward. Feminine meets masculine in this mostly European mix of leather, lace, (faux) fur, sequins, chunky knits and ruffles.

Among Christen's favorites are a chocolate knee-high "Lola" riding boot by Miz Mooz, over-the-knee almond-toed snakeskin boot in faded black, skinny corduroys and a cropped sweatshirt-lined hooded leather jacket (available in black and brown).

"Trendsetters will find nearly everything they need this season right here, and there's lots of freedom to mix and match," Christen said.

Muse, 300 Forest Ave., caters to the ultra feminine lady with a variety of jewel-toned blouses, dresses and glam accessories from gemstone rings to cat-eye shades to lavender nail polish.

"If you're short on cash and can only buy one dress this season, get a one-shoulder dress," Christen says. "It's versatile and looks great on everyone."

She opts for a mixed flecked magenta one-shoulder by Collective Concepts, which can be worn anywhere from the office to a wedding.

For the classic woman who prefers to invest in more timeless pieces, Anastasia, 460 Ocean Ave. and 11th Moon, 1259 S. Coast Hwy., offer a collection of luxe international styles that will last through many autumn and winter seasons.

An army green Zucca vest from Japan, Wunderkind cropped shearling coat made in Holland and top-handle "weekender" bag from Italy-based Lost and Found for $556 are the three items Christen says are worth the splurge.

"The top-handle unzips into a deep 'bucket' bag for deeper storage, perfect for a weekend getaway, so you're essentially purchasing two bags for the price of one. That's a great deal."

Designed for the sophisticated yet earthy woman aged 30 to 60, 11th Moon holds a chest of treasures unique to the U.S., including custom-Italian leather, cashmere garments and accessories such as Faliero Sarti scarves, and multicultural jewelry.

My favorite finds are a mustard-yellow distressed leather "Cleobella" bag with Ikat lining and braided seams, and a pair of Italian-made chaps-meet-riding boots (available in camel and grey; tall and ankle).

If you don't already have bellbottoms, boho tunics and wooden clogs stowed away in your closet (or in your mom's attic), check out Blue Eyed Girl, 1200 S. Coast Hwy., for some new disco duds inspired by the '70s.

Or, freshen up a stale wardrobe by tossing out anything polyester, and tossing in a blue and red paisley tunic by Joie, JadeTribe's beaded woven clutch purse or a pair of studded, shearling-lined Bernardo clogs, all available at the boutique.

Those who are going for a more Bohemian-riche style will find luxury handmade pieces at Katharine Story, 226 Ocean Ave., designed for the eternal "hippie" who has adopted this look more as a personal style than a passing trend.

"My clients are going crazy for my Mongolian lambs wool vests, which are available in black with sequins detailing or white with lace," Story said.

Her personal favorites from her fall collection are an "Alexander McQueenish" skull-print floor-length dress and vintage earth-toned cashmere scarves that she constructed from sweater remnants.

For the quintessential "California girl" who opts for beachwear over runway attire, some local surf shops carry a variety of chilly weather beachwear to keep you toasty in the ocean breeze.

Go casual and trendy with the "Dirty Bird" flannel, asymmetrical "Folklore" sweater and "Vintage Havanna" olive cargo pant by RVCA and Tom's shoes in a matching shade, or pair the transparent "Tantra" snakeskin blouse over a cami and a pair of skinny jeans by your favorite surf brand from Hobie Surf Shop, 294 Forest Ave.

Go Adrift for more sophisticated beachwear at 1400 S. Coast Hwy., which offers that same "casual" look in pleasing-to-the-touch fabrics. Pair Patterson J. Kincard's navy and grey chunky knit sweater robe over your favorite tee with Kier + J2's cashmere drawstring "sweatpant." Throw on a ruffled cashmere scarf by T Los Angeles, fedora and a pair of shades and you're set for a winter day at the beach.

Keep in mind, accessories can make or break any outfit—score some hip booty like local designer Nan Fusco's mixed-metal chain and stone statement necklaces at Sasha Boutique, 550 S. Coast Hwy. No. 1; bold vintage rings and beads at Macalistaire at 1850 S. Coast Hwy.; or sequins and other glam embellishments at Black Flamingo, 1257. S. Coast Hwy.

There are so many great places to shop in Laguna that we couldn't mention them all here, so go explore.

And remember, the whole point of fashion is to have fun, be playful, and use your favorite trends to suit your own personal style. Happy shopping!

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