When you look at the clothes on these pages you may have the sensation you’ve seen some of them before — and you would be right.
Here’s the first fashion newsflash for autumn 2023 and, quite possibly, for every season to come: there are no shocking surprises.
Well, there are Miuccia Prada’s knickers over tights (11 styles to choose from) and micro-mini skirts, Cruella de Vil coats and head-to-toe faux leather but, mainly, there are more of the clothes and accessories that have worked out for us recently: loafers and flattish boots; big-shouldered blazers; cropped cardigan jackets; midi-length hems.
On the catwalks the staples of the modern working wardrobe — suits, white blouses, trench coats — were out in force and that’s the big news for autumn: everyday wearable items used to be stuck in the back room of fashion with the focus on drama and the big events.
Now, the biggest designers are falling over themselves to make clothes that will take you not to the ball but to the boardroom or the bus stop. They’re calling it Real Dressing. We’re calling it a Real Delight.
We’re building on foundations we already own and the clothes coming into the shops for this autumn have never looked easier, more suited to our lives or just plain desirable — because we know we’ll wear them and wear them. Here are the top High Street buys for autumn/winter.
Patent leather bag, £99.99, shop. mango. com
Bright shiny bag
These days there are no bag rules — only bags that work and/or make your outfit come alive.
Ideally, you want both and the new look is to wear a couple of bags together.
When actress Eva Mendes was pictured on her way to a party with a tote and a snappy green Gucci shoulder bag, it was all the encouragement we needed to add a bright shiny bag to our autumn wish list.
You will find the perfect patent leather little red bag at Mango.
A hint of underwear
On the subject of Miuccia Prada’s contentious knickers, we are far too old to go near this.
That said, a little bit of on-show underwear — above the waist in the case of us grown-ups and always just a suggestion, not a full bra cup please — is a modern touch for evening.
I’m talking about a slither of lace on a V neck layering top to show in the neckline of your blazer or under a sweater. For this try Me+Em or Marks & Spencer.
Beige is the new black
Coat, £368, jumper, £148, shirt, £158, and trousers, £150, all reiss.com
Yes, there are lashings of cream about and black, but if you want to get the best of both worlds — and save on the cleaning bill — then shades of mocha and camel, beige and brown are the new black.
There has been talk in fashion circles of cortado dressing — it’s a short coffee served in a glass, in case you’re not a coffee freak — dark brown at the bottom, browny caramel in the middle, creamy on top.
You can mix up your camels, browns and creams any way you like but a good camel coat will get you a long way and it’s a classic you’ll wear for ever.
Unless it’s a coat…
Coat, £199, albaray.co.uk
If not, never fear, black tailored can’t-go-wrong coats were a big feature on the catwalks.
Just make sure it finishes below the knee, mid-calf ideally, and has room to wear with a polo neck jumper underneath.
Wide-leg jeans, £75, and pointed leather boots, £165, stories.com
How baggy dare you go is the question. If you’re under 30, your jeans will now be as baggy as your mum’s were in 1974 — the floppier, flappier and more pavement-dragging the better.
The unexpected news is that we can join in this denim flares bonanza providing we rein it in and look for polished A-line jeans.
The waistline should be tummy-button-covering, the fit should be snug on the hips and the flare should start where your knicker line ends and descend crisply to the bridge of your foot (too long and you can start to look a bit music festival leftover).
Note: this flared jeans moment is meant to be chic and sharp not retro or sloppy.
Try & Other Stories. Wear with a big-shouldered blazer and a boyfriend shirt.
Knee-high leather boots, £225, duoboots.com
Bumper boot season
Long boots for winter are low-heeled and riding-y with a western twist, or high-heeled and glossy.
Ankle boots are western-style with pointy toes or more utilitarian with biker details.
But let’s be clear, this is a bumper boot season and if you want to wear Chelsea boots or slouchy Cuban-heeled boots this is the moment.
Note: what’s looking a little bit last year are platforms.
Coat, skirt, slingbacks
If you’re not a trouser woman, then this season is all about a coat, a skirt and slingbacks.
The key to this is the slingbacks, which set the polished uptown tone and are mid-to-low heel, possibly two-tone, maybe slick patent.
Your skirt is midi with some movement and your tailored coat is longer than the length of your skirt, sharp-shouldered and roomy.
If you want to look extra chic, wear your skirt and top and coat in tonal shades.
Note: this look works just as well with an oversized blazer.
Slingback shoes, £240, camillaelphick.com
Coat, £79, roll neck jumper, £19.50, shirt, £29.50, and bag, £39.50, marksandspencer.com
The surprise colour of autumn is yellow.
You may have seen actress Sienna Miller in the Marks & Spencer’s ad in lime green, but the colour we want to wear, the colour that looks brilliant with browns and has been stalking the tramlines of fashion for a couple of winters is red.
Get yourself a bag or some boots or, better still, a dress. Red never dates.
Sequin trousers, £55, marksandspencer.com
If you lose patience with being told to go out and get some silver trousers (no thank you, we’ll never wear them), then here’s an interesting development. Grown-up glitter.
A bit of light-reflecting glimmer, a different texture, something glamorous and unexpectedly blingy and at the same time cool is a useful thing to have in your wardrobe come party season. Silver especially.
The smarter knitwear
Cardigan, £120, boden.co.uk
A smart cardigan jacket (with pockets and gilt buttons) or a smart cardigan and/or smart sweater are pretty high up the list of things that will make the difference this winter.
What we all need for autumn 2023 is knitwear that thinks it’s tailoring for all those occasions when a jacket is too stiff but we want to look pulled together.
Wool collared jumper, £160, cefinn.com
The little cream/ivory blouse
Pleat front blouse, £138, reiss.com
Never has the white shirt had so much catwalk exposure, but much easier to wear is a soft blouse in a shade of light cream or pearly off-white.
The slouchy trouser suit
Here’s a step in a different direction. It has been all about a blazer and trousers, separate or together, but now the slightly slouchy trouser suit is back centre stage.
Trousers are cut on the waist or hips, legs are loose, jackets wide-shoulder, and double-breasted adds smart points.
Wear with a striped shirt, ankle boots (see boots), and, after dark, switch the shirt for a blouse or lace-trimmed top and add high-vis earrings.
Try Karen Millen or John Lewis (blazer, £125, and trousers, £85, johnlewis.com, from October).
This winter also sees the return of the black evening tuxedo. Easy.
The stronger-shouldered blazer (it could be tweed)
Strong shoulder blazer, £135.20, and wide-leg trousers, £90, karenmillen.com
The supersized blazer is the big fashion statement for autumn, but you don’t have to go the Honey Monster route, just be aware that a Working Girl shoulder, or at least a bit of padding, makes your blazer look flattering.
You might pair it with a skirt split up the front as at Saint Laurent, but you’re probably going to be wearing this blazer with the wider-legged trousers for work and jeans at the weekend.
Trousers, £34.99, monki.com
The wider trousers
There are plenty of trousers out there with pleat fronts and swaggery legs that would put James Cagney’s to shame, but the midway point — wide enough to look swishy, not so wide as to be a trip hazard — is what we should be aiming for.
For grey trousers that hit the spot try Monki o Uniqlo’s grey pleated trousers (£35, uniqlo.com).
For evening, smart black palazzo trousers (£120, shop.mango.com) and a blouse could be your new uniform.
Some extra style tips
So long as you avoid at all costs the little elastic strap across the front of the foot and stick to those Princess Diana-era low-cut ballerina flats, these are a great way to switch your trousers into evening mode.
A big scarf
Such an easy way of adding everything in one fling-on: texture, colour, pattern, interest and something to break up a clean, minimal silhouette such as your trouser suit, not to mention warm.
If you do want to keep going with the midi floral dress, then fashion is on your side (they got the memo). The secret is simply a darker palate — probably a black background — bolder and less busy.