Making the switch to women’s fall styles

Times Fashion Critic

GROWING UP in New York City with a minuscule closet and an insatiable appetite for clothes meant that from a very young age I had to master what I call the seasonal switch. Every year, on a sweaty afternoon in early September, I swapped out my summer clothes for my fall ones, moving towering piles of shorts, white jeans, linen pants, miniskirts and sundresses out of the closet and onto my bed, my chair, my desk, even on top of my stereo.

Once that was done, I hauled out the plastic bins from under my bed and unpacked piles of cords and itchy wool sweaters. The room would be such a godawful mess, it almost made me reconsider my love of fashion. Almost.

After my husband and I moved to L.A. and started looking at houses, I didn’t care about kitchens or bathroom fixtures; I just wanted a closet big enough to fit all of my clothes all year long. But it turned out that 1920s-era closets in L.A. weren’t any bigger than apartment closets in New York.

So when we finally did buy a house two years ago, I decided to turn one of the bedrooms into my closet. I had racks installed around the perimeter, along with two sets of drawers and a wall of shelves for my beloved shoes. I got an Andy Warhol stiletto-print rug for the floor and a black-and-white gingham love seat so I could sit and contemplate my wardrobe, or how much money I had foolishly poured into it. I had more than enough space for my stuff, and yet I found it hard to give up the seasonal switch.

In fact, the longer I’ve been covering fashion, the more I’ve found myself creating and clinging to rules and rituals around getting dressed.

They’re quirky and counterintuitive, but what would you expect from a fashion-obsessed mind? If they don’t work for you, make up your own.

Shop early, as in a season early.

The runway shows happen six months before the clothes actually land in stores. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start thinking then about what to buy. For example, in March, not long after I saw the Prada runway show in Milan, I knew lace was going to be a big trend for fall. So when I saw a dusty gray Lanvin lace jacket on sale in June at Tender Birmingham, a Michigan boutique with one of my favorite online sites, I snatched it up at 50% off. Now that designers are using more lightweight fabrics because of the changing climate, clothes can be worn year-round, making this is a smart way to shop.

Pick a date for fall to start.

The trouble with shopping a season early is that when fall finally does roll around, you don’t feel as if you’re getting anything new. So I like to pick a date, say Sept. 14, and even if it’s 100 degrees in the shade, it’s the beginning of fall for me. Which means that’s the day I start dressing like it’s fall. Of course, I’m not going to wear cashmere when it’s still hot as Hades, but I might wear a T-shirt in a color of the fall season. Or I will wear my fall flip-flops instead of my summer ones.

The date when my fall begins is also when I “unwrap” my new fall wardrobe, taking purchases I have made over the last few months out of their shopping bags. I’m very strict about it. That lace jacket I bought in June, I haven’t peeked at, and now not only can I not wait to see it, I can’t wait to wear it. On Sept. 14.

Don’t forget to update your makeup bag.

It’s time to ditch the self-tanner, the bronzing powder and the shimmery coral lipgloss and pull out plum and red nail polish and smoky eye shadow. I even change my perfume, from beachy, citrusy scents to heavier florals with woodsy notes. Just that simple shift puts me in the fall spirit.

Shop in unexpected places.

Just because it’s fall doesn’t mean you have to hit the mall. Shop thrift stores, vintage stores and discount stores for trends. If you are lucky, you’ll find something unique, not the same old piece you’re already sick of after seeing it in the pages of InStyle, Vogue and Marie Claire. I recently picked up a 1970s-inspired, wood and gold drop architectural necklace for $19.99 at Loehmann’s that’s a dead ringer for a similar (much pricier) Tory Burch style.

I stopped at Shabon on Beverly Boulevard in L.A., one of my favorite vintage stores, and found a divine paisley peasant dress that could have walked right off the Gucci runway. It was $69. I can’t wait to wear it with suede boots, tights and a chunky necklace. American Rag Cie is another good source for clothing that is vintage and also of-the-moment.

Rearrange your closet according to trends.

Because berry shades are big this fall, I’ve moved the blouses and sweaters I have in those hues to the front of my clothing rack. And because statement necklaces are a trend, I’m making them a statement in my closet by hanging them on a cork board. It’s that much easier to put things together in the morning. Sometimes I even “style” a new outfit from what I have in my closet, and hang it from a drawer handle. It gets me in the mood for fall and gives me ideas so I don’t have to think in a hurry about what I’m going to wear.

To prepare for this fall, I dug out an old pair of lace tights and put them on the hanger with a Banana Republic charcoal gray skirt and a purple cashmere sweater. I found a pair of short black boots that I bought ages ago, and I’m taking them to the shoe repair to have the heel fixed. Once my fall rolls around, that outfit will be ready to go.

Take inventory, carefully.

I’ve read countless stories about how you should throw out things that you haven’t worn in the last year, because you probably won’t wear them again. Not so. How I wish this season that I had that pair of mid-heel, brown, lace-up shoes I bought when I lived in Washington, D.C., more than a decade ago, or that DKNY bag in raspberry and purple I carried when I first moved here, which would look so of-the-moment.

My rule: If you thought it was a beautiful piece 10 years ago, it probably still is. You just have to wait for fashion to come around to it again.

Eat your way across L.A.

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