Fall Fashion 2012 Style Guide

Oh man. It’s almost here. I can smell it in the air (it’s crushed leaves, fresh photocopies and hairspray). That’s right, it’s BACK TO SCHOOL TIME!! And the best thing about back to school time is back to school fashion — even if you’ve been out of school for two years and have zero budget for new clothes. But with a little creativity, perfect September weather and a yearning for fresh starts, nothing’s impossible (except for all the things that are — but fashion is not that complicated).

So now it’s time for experimental wardrobe therapy with Forest Friend’s Fall Fashion Guide! First, we’ll scope the best trends, build a color palette and find some inspiration. Then, we can figure out how to copy the coolest looks, knock off the best pieces and find what we need in in the thrift store or our own closets!

Part I: The Fashion Week Rundown

Since designers show their fall collections in the winter, the internet is full of fall fashion guides, best-of slideshows and shopping guides by the time fall actually rolls around. This is a good place to start if you’re looking for synthesis, but it can also be depressing if you don’t have a bajillion dollars to spend on new clothes, or if you don’t look like a willowy Latvian fourteen-year-old. So you have to use your imagination to translate the shapes, colors and fabrics you see on the runway into principles that you can copy and adapt.

Best tools

Go to style.com to see look-by-look images of every fashion show. Check online at major fashion magazines (Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle) to see which trends they’ve earmarked. But there’s no need to obey their decrees — the best thing about fashion is that you can pick out the elements that excite you and wear them your own way.

Forest Friend’s Favourite Shows

Marc by Marc Jacobs

Marc by Marc Jacobs is my favourite show every season — always awesome, always wearable and always translatable. This fall, the designer showed some 1990s punk/dork inspiration (think Daria) with flat, Doc Martens-esque boots worn with slouchy socks and paired with feminine looks: pleated skirts, patterned dresses, button-down blouses and boxy handbags. Outerwear was masculine, military-style pea coats and marching band hats. Beauty played up the same kind of contrast, with bright lips and glasses. No frou-frou or excess here: utilitarianism and simplicity reigned even in the feminine touches. The show, like many others this season, picked up on the zeitgeist of economic austerity and political uncertainty.

NOTE: Now, if you’re new to the world of high fashion and the irony of thousand-dollar frocks inspired by frugality or poverty strikes you particularly hard, don’t worry, you’ve got your head screwed on right. It’s stupid and kind of offensive. That’s why I never counsel anyone actually to buy into these overpriced shenanigans. But you can use fashion for your own purposes and subvert that irony by sewing your own pieces inspired by expensive designers, or spending a few bucks at a thrift store to replicate your favourite looks. 

At Rochas we have more looks inspired by economic disaster, with conservative, depression era silhouettes made with luxe  fabrics and beautiful, Klimt-like geometric patterns. Beauty featured very dark lips in an aubergine shade that I loooove (MAC has a great lipstick in a dark purple called CYBER).
Burberry Prorsum was kind of boring, but I do really like the critter embroidery on sweaters — and it’s everywhere this season — but are we not sick of owls yet? I prefer this cat sweater from Opening Ceremony.

Opening Ceremony kitty sweater

Band of Outsiders had a southwest dustbowl thing going on, featuring ponchos, utilitarian boots with socks (love) and  flowing skirts of lightweight materials, offering a great lesson to anyone with actual economic problems: summer dresses are year-round dresses with a pair of tights and a big sweater.
Opening Ceremony was full of texture — patterned knits, quilted fabrics, tweed, wool, leather, silk, embroidery, crochet, fur, metallic, appliqué — everything.
Moschino Cheap & Chic was a great lesson in using what you’ve already got to make new looks. Each girl looked like she put on a mish mash of stuff she found in her closet: the silhouettes were prim and sixties-inspired but with awesome, insane combinations of colour and texture and jewelry. The looks were topped by messy beehives, my favourite hairstyle of the season.
Creatures of the Wind also featured the buttoned up, prim silhouettes with mixes of patterns, textures and layers, demonstrating that restraint in one department (shape) permits excess in another (colour/pattern). The accessories, hats and flat shoes, had a menswear edge.

Moschino Cheap & Chic

Top trends

  • Masculine footwear and accessories with feminine silhouettes
  • Mid-calf or over the knee socks with heels, boots, flats, everything
  • Sweaters worn with heavy necklaces, belts, luxe collars and embroidered with kitschy images
  • Wool and fur hats worn with everything
  • Gold as a highlight color
  • Eastern European traditional detailing: embroidery, appliqué, folk patterns
  • Mixing bold patterns, prints and textures
  • Oversized military-style coats
  • Makeup: bold lips, cat eyes
  • Hair: Messy, undone looks

Colours: black, slate, tomato red, chartreuse, powder pink, ash grey, mint green, East Berlin yellow, burgundy, deep aubergine

The Bottom Line

The basic idea this season is to wear a mix of rustic and street styles, a combination of traditionally feminine and traditionally masculine, ie. buffalo check lumberjack coat with a prim skirt and blouse, or a sundress with a wool sweater, slouchy socks and Doc Martens. Now, my bias is always toward aggressive contrast, bold looks and comfy layers, but there were plenty of other looks this season that are worth trying out, so you don’t have to take my word for it!

Stay tuned for Part II: The Uncloseting, where we’ll learn the following things:

  • How to make the best use of the clothes you already have in your closet
  • How to re-style your jewelry collection
  • What shapes and pieces to look for at the thrift store
  • Which simple pieces you can sew
  • What to buy if you only have $30
  • How to do the coolest, easiest hair and makeup

For more inspiration, check out my Fall Fashion 2012 Pinterest board, where I’m cataloguing everything great about this season’s style.