What to wear for fall in a warmer climate

Today I’m sharing some fall outfit ideas for warmer weather, in both cool and warm color palettes.

A transitional season wardrobe capsule in cool colors.

If you live in a warmer climate, fall can be a tricky season to dress for. Summer clothing can feel too, well…summery, but much of what’s on the racks for fall is just too warm to wear yet.

Fall outfit ideas for warm weather

Over the years of living in Southern California, I’ve developed a wardrobe strategy that works for all but the warmest days. I stick to lightweight layers, but bring in some fall texture with fabrics like corduroy and lightweight cashmere (sleeveless or short-sleeved). And I add some fall color with shoes and accessories. When mornings and evenings turn chilly, a lightweight cardigan or jacket is just warm enough.

This strategy also works well for fall travel. Just be sure the pieces you pack can layer for warmth if needed, and be worn in multiple combinations.

A transitional season wardrobe capsule in warm colors.

Lightweight striped or print tops are one of my favorite ways to add visual interest to an outfit when it’s too warm to layer. But if you’re trying to stay within your color palette, some prints can be confusing. Often, you may find they include both warm and cool, or bright and soft colors. So how do you know if a print will work for you?

  • First, I do the “squinch” test. When you squinch your eyes to blur focus, or look at the pattern from a distance, does it read overall as warm (yellow-based) or cool (blue-based)?
  • Second, I hold it up to other pieces in my wardrobe. Does it look in harmony, or does it clash? If it’s in harmony, then…
  • Look at what percentage of the pattern is comprised of colors NOT in your palette. Less than 20%? Go for it. 40% or less? Give it a try and see how you feel in it.
  • As I learned from Red Leopard, don’t expect that everything you buy will match the colors in your palette perfectly. Sometimes a color may be in between two colors in your palette, or just slightly off. That’s OK as long as the color has the same cool or warm, soft or bright properties of your color season.

Shop cool & warm fall outfit ideas…

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  1. As a Winter, one of my best tests for color is to ask myself whether an item would look best with gold or silver jewelry. As a softer Winter, I also wear (cool-toned) pearls frequently. Pearls are so interesting — I think their range of colors could probably suit all women, with trial and error.

  2. Thanks for the warm weather post, Susan. These are looks I can wear beginning in late November through March. Right now, I’m preparing for Hurricane Ian!

  3. Thanks for this helpful post. I have been trying to wear warm weather clothes with a fall feel. I still wear black so that has been a good option. I saw a lot of black paired with whiskey brown accessories when I was in Paris a few weeks ago and loved it. So my whiskey leather sandals and black tee shirts and jeans a getting lots of wear lately!

    1. Hi Sally, I haven’t yet tried this particular style, but have been wearing the “Malibu” style all summer in XS.

  4. Thank you so much for this post, Susan. I love fall fashion, but have been getting demoralized by yet another heat wave predicted for the week. You’ve inspired me to be more creative with mixing summer and fall pieces. I especially appreciate your advice on how to evaluate prints, including the squinch test. And please keep up the posts showing both cool and warm palette options. I’m a Deep Summer. I was inspired by you to have my colors done by a House of Color stylist last fall. It was the best money I’ve ever spent on my wardrobe. Good luck on your new business! (I’d be first in line if I hadn’t already had my colors done.)

  5. Have always loved your blog but now that you’ve attended the course from Red Leopard I can see we are all going to benefit. Love your cool and warm choices as I am a cool and my daughter is a warm. We are enjoying discussing your recommendations. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge

  6. Prints can be a way for those of us on the borders of two color seasons to incorporate both. For me, that’s spring-bordering-summer. I’m not sure what Red Leopard calls it, but it’s light spring in other systems. ( I almost spelled it Leppard, so you know where my mind is.)

  7. Thanks so much, Susan, for providing both warm and cool choices for the seasons. When you switched to your Spring color palette (which I am really happy you discovered), as a Winter, I found myself wondering if I needed to “move on”. Your previous palette was perfect for me. Now that you are offering cool tone choices I am back to being a happy camper! Thanks, because I love your style!

  8. Ooooooh I LOVE this ‘cool’ palette combo! Very cute items, and so nice to see them in ‘my’ colors. Thank you!

  9. As a resident of Tucson, AZ, I really appreciate this post. This has been an annual question for me, especially as late summery weather hangs on until November, or even December some years. (I know that will sound wonderful to some of you, but 5-6 months of any season is just too much!) I too have settled on shifting the colors of what I wear to get an autumnal vibe, even if the clothes are not cozy warm.

  10. I don’t have this “problem”. Our temperatures have dropped to 11 degrees C. Too steep a fall for me. My body is still used to the summer temperatures, so I am bringing out the full winter wardrobe in order to stay warm.