12 fashion trends you'll love for fall

Story highlights

  • Check out InStyle's guide to fall fashion.
  • Pair jewel-toned hues like emerald and fuchsia without going matchy-matchy
  • Combine complementary fabrics to create a covered look
Bright Lights
WHY WE LOVE IT: It's as if everyone realized that spring's smashing hues were such a hit, there was no reason to tone them down. The difference now is that there's less focus on color blocking. Clothes and accessories in the same palette are fall's newest BFFs. Invest in one intense shade -- whether it be emerald, fuchsia, scarlet, or canary -- and then work it as hard as a thief with an alibi. Don't hold back.
HOW TO WEAR IT: Ignore the old finger-wagging for going matchy-matchy. To safeguard against overkill, reveal a hint of skin: It could be a bare shoulder (see Prabal Gurung's romantic one-shoulder dress) or legs sheathed with black sheers (rather than opaque tights). Resist pairing with neutrals like gray or beige (too safe and too '90s). And punctuate your glow with a poppy-red lip.
When She Was Good/Bad
WHY WE LOVE IT: This may resemble the ladylike look of a few seasons ago, but now it comes with some sex appeal. What a clever come-on. Alternately, the bad side is a long way from tattooed biker chick, yet still definitely edgy. Of course, black dominates, but lace, sequins, and cutouts now add mischief.
HOW TO WEAR IT: A high ruffled neck, demure half-sleeves, and a pale palette keep the good attitude fresh. Leave the '60s chignon and white stockings on the runway, and wear your hair down. Modest mary janes and T-strap shoes fit the look, but only if you embrace your inner Lolita. Eager to channel your rebellious side? Reveal a little flesh, but not in the usual way -- go for a sliver on a bodice and a slice at the waist, or skirt it in sheer. And don't you dare go out with a scrubbed-clean face or breezy hair! Master sultry eyes and a slicked-back coif -- or just stay home.
Got You Covered
WHY WE LOVE IT: Concealment of flesh, but not the body, is the mood. Long fitted sleeves, high armholes, and supple or playful fabrics keep this exercise in restraint from appearing monastic. When a low-cut gown teases with a sheer turtleneck underneath, the slightest glimpse of skin turns highly erotic. It's the exact opposite of red-carpet flash.
HOW TO WEAR IT: Too much coverage may make you look too much like a sister wife. Instead, combine complementary fabrics, like sheer with textured. Gowns can cling to the waist, but then flow. If you're younger, opt for a T and skinny pants as a base for layers. If older, go for a uniform look, top to bottom. This cerebral take on dressing rejects colorful makeup. Go soft and pretty.
Baby It's Cold Outside
WHY WE LOVE IT: Memories of last year's record snowfalls have inspired an avalanche of let's-get-cozy clothing, in down, fur (both real and fake), quilted fabrics, shearling, and wool, plus ingenious combinations of all the above. What makes these pieces so desirable is how functional and fashionable they are. Don this seasonal armor and you will shiver no more.
HOW TO WEAR IT: Your best plan of attack: Make a statement with an extraordinary coat -- one with a lush collar or a bright quilted lining. Keep the look simple with trousers and a turtleneck (which are bigger than ever). You can also opt for a touch of plush: a soft-sleeve dress, a furry hat, or quilted booties; each will generate a little heat on its own.
The Pants Option
WHY WE LOVE IT: Having seen the benefit of offering skirts at every length, designers now release all women from taking the same pant shape in stride. Choices abound: superwide flared legs, cropped with a mini bell, double-inverted pleats, and high waists with side closings. There are pants in optic textures, dense tweeds, and two-toned fabrics. It is sportswear at its best -- with versatility for day and pragmatic elegance for night.
HOW TO WEAR IT: Since they're not all cut the same, why wear them the same way? Flared and mannish legs need heels (save the brogues for good-girl dresses). Cropped pants crave the grounding of a solid stacked heel. If the rise is high and wide, come in tight on the waist. Pants pop out under everything (even dresses), but if you choose a pair with a distinctive cut -- or in an unusual color or fabric -- make it the outfit's star. Heading to work? Try giving your Gucci jeans the week off.
The Longer Skirt
WHY WE LOVE IT: The hems may be long, but the effect is still something sensual. The fullness of these pieces, whether done in silk, wool, or flannel, have an easy fit that will flatter your body in motion. How refreshing to cross your legs or get out of a car without worrying about unexpected exposure. If you're young enough to have never gone below the knee, you're in for some fun.
HOW TO WEAR IT: Once you've chosen to wear separates, maintain tonal consistency -- even with patterns -- so the body doesn't appear to be cut in half. Also, long is not synonymous with boho this fall. Though loose and sometimes patterned, the silhouette is still tailored and urban, so replace tights or even high boots with tinted sheer stockings and a smart platform heel.
The Tunic
WHY WE LOVE IT: Their ubiquity online and on home-shopping networks have turned tunics into no-brainer mainstays. But there are a few new twists: a slight tailoring at the waist for a more flattering graze, while asymmetry turns a hem into a playful come-hither. Refined fabrics, strategic draping, and added embellishments transform tunics into alternatives for evening -- like an elegant, artier version of the pantsuit.
HOW TO WEAR IT: If you have the youth and the legs, wear one as a dress. If you're just hanging out, step into skinny-leg pants or baby bell-bottoms. But if you want to strut in a comfy showstopper at night, choose a top and pants in a matching luxe fabric, or try one in a high-contrast color. Accessorize with drama -- sleek chandeliers, a mile-long pendant, or a brooch at the waist -- to spotlight the beautiful soft draping.
The Cape
WHY WE LOVE IT: If you have any flair for flare, you've floated the idea of buying one. What can match its billowing sweep and passion? The hesitation: looking like you're late for a duel. But this fall capes have gotten sportier -- some are tailored and sleek; others feature slits so you can actually use your arms. Maybe you wouldn't fall on your sword for one, but with rows of stripes or cool leather trim, they sure are a lot of fun.
HOW TO WEAR IT: The formal ones remain swashbuckling, but shorter versions are as easy to toss on as a scarf. Of course, skinny pants and boots are a natural. But keep the color neutral. A cape is a grand-enough gesture without it coming in crimson. And speaking of hand movements, the bag to carry handily is a tote.
The Day Dress
WHY WE LOVE IT: The sheath has been the favored dress for the office and now there's a new option to embrace. With high necks and undoubtedly welcome sleeves, the mood on this page is overtly feminine, stressing movement with an unapologetic nod to romance. We see a new kind of womanly assurance in the workplace when these clock in.
HOW TO WEAR IT: Take off the motocross jacket or nipped blazer and let the dress stand alone for once. Pair it with platforms or ankle booties during the day rather than high boots. Those pumps in the bottom drawer? Slip them on only if you're going out after work. OK, grab the biker jacket too. But wear it thrown over the shoulders so your ladylike look can be seen.
The Big Knit
WHY WE LOVE IT: Obviously, the fashion world is worried about global freezing when cables look like they could hold up a bridge and gauges are thick as down. But this glorious needlework -- less slouchy and curl-up-able than last fall's -- has not been crafted solely for coziness. The message being sent (via cable) is one of luxury.
HOW TO WEAR IT: On one runway after another, these woolies were shown atop evening gowns, long chiffon skirts, voluminously wide trousers or under silk anoraks. You may not wear one to the opera, but the concept is clear -- don't toss these pieces in the jeans pile. Shivering for glamour has lost its status. Warmth is the new chic.
The Lace Accent
WHY WE LOVE IT: Formerly seen outside the bedroom only under cover of darkness, lace has now come into the light, but in a totally different guise. Instead of veiling bare skin, day wear treats it as an accent fabric that spotlights its intricacy rather than its intimacy. The result is unexpected -- surprisingly not sexy, but it sure is pretty.
HOW TO WEAR IT: Stick to lingerie colors -- black and nude -- which add cheekiness to lace's newly reworked propriety. (Colors can take it from chic to cheap.) Make an inspired odd couple by pairing it with flannel, bordering a Donegal tweed, or under a sporty coat. A lace shoe is too much for day, but a bag is fine -- just choose a shoulder strap, not a clutch.
The Varsity Jacket
WHY WE LOVE IT: Less tough than a biker jacket and less coy than a boyfriend sweater, the varsity jacket is meant to be a grab-and-go piece whenever you are up for a good time. This season's version is lighter and cut way leaner than the traditional one -- plus, the details (rows of buttons, an extra zippered pocket or two) update the classic. It's colorful, inviting, and one of the few items in a very serious season that's designed to make you smile.
HOW TO WEAR IT: It's strange. The jacket looks exactly right with a skirt, especially the new longer ones, yet it clashes when slipped over a dress. Do not go the vintage route: The bulk in the sleeve and armhole alone will ensure it's a one-time wear. Also, unlike the biker jacket, this classic doesn't contrast coolly with evening clothes. But -- and it's the only time we have said this in the whole guide -- it's a piece that goes best with jeans.