I love the crisp cold of a sunny autumn morning, the red-gold of the leaves before they fall from the trees, but I don't love not really knowing what to wear, or being informed that the best time to buy a winter coat was in August, when I was sweltering on the tube in a cotton frock. Most of us dress for the season we're in, regardless of when the high street would like us to buy certain clothes, but with a bit of preparation we can make the most of our wardrobes no matter what sort of weather might mark the changing of the seasons.
Care for your favourite winter coat instead of buying a new one: Unless you are incredibly organised, your winter coat is probably where you left it on the first warm morning of spring. If it doesn't look its best, there are plenty of ways to spruce it up without having to go to the expense of buying a new one, or even having to make a trip to the dry cleaners.
If you wore it into spring and got hot and sweaty (let's face it, sometimes it's impossible to struggle out of a coat on a packed rush-hour train), try gently sponging the underarms of the lining with a damp (not wet!) cloth, then leaving it to dry inside out. This is a much more effective method of freshening up the lining than dry cleaning, which can 'set' the smell of sweat.
Baby wipes can work wonders on traces of make-up left on a high collar (test on an inconspicuous part of the coat first if it's a pale colour), and a good brush with a clothes brush, or a steam (with a garment steamer if you can get your hands on one, a steam iron if you can't), can lift and revive the flattened pile on a wool coat.
If you have a wax jacket, wax it now! Regular waxing will prolong the life of your coat and keep it waterproof, and you can also use the wax on shoes to make them more water-resistant.
Dressing for commuting on the London Underground at this time of year is particularly frustrating; it's chilly when you leave your house first thing in the morning, but the trains still seem to be stuck in a midsummer heatwave, especially at rush hour. I'm saving my winter coats for the colder months when I'll really feel the benefit, and wearing my summer coat with a cosy scarf that's easier to remove and carry when I get too warm.
Even if you’re not a shoe person, show your footwear some love: As well as waterproofing with wax or polish, keep your favourite boots or winter shoes going by taking them to the cobblers to be re-heeled or re-soled. You will save money in the long run if you invest in good quality shoes and look after them; you'll be helping the environment by not contributing to the amount of fashion industry waste going to landfill, and you will be doing your feet a favour!
Layer up! Now is a good time to check your cosy knitwear; hopefully your sweaters and cardigans haven't fallen prey to moths over the summer! It's not the end of the world if they have; you can darn moth holes, either invisibly (with darning wool which can be bought from haberdashery shops in a range of colours) or visibly, to add a unique feature to your clothes. Keep the moths at bay by washing everything in the drawer, then adding some lavender sachets or cedar cubes when you put your clothes back. I'm hoping that the bugs I've darned onto a moth-damaged cardi will ward off the other creepy-crawlies!
If you're not ready to say goodbye to your favourite summery clothes just yet, keep them going into autumn by layering; with a camisole under a lightweight blouse, a t-shirt under a strappy dress, and tights or leggings under skirts. If you are trying to streamline your wardrobe, think about what garments work well for you over the widest range of seasons and weather conditions; they are the ones you want to base your wardrobe around.
Don't underestimate wardrobe 'basics': these will vary depending on your personal style, your lifestyle and whether you have to follow certain dress codes for work. I used to buy cheap leggings and jersey tops, but realised this was a false economy; as I often wear these as a 'base layer' for an outfit they will be washed every time I wear them (saving vintage or delicate dresses from needing to be washed too often) so they need to be good quality. I still have a reasonable selection of high-street jersey basics, but since some of my leggings are looking worryingly see-through and a couple of tops are now baggy with twisted seams, I'm going to try to replace them with sustainably or ethically made versions. I can already recommend Thought's bamboo leggings and tights, and I'm planning to try People Tree's jersey basics and Rapanui's very reasonably priced T-shirts!
Checking through your wardrobe now will also help you identify anything that you think you’ll really need as we head into winter, so you’ll be able to plan purchases and spend wisely rather than having to panic-buy something you’re not so keen on.