How To Create The Perfect Fall Aesthetic
Here in New England, the tips of the oldest trees have started turning. It’s nippy when I go outside in the morning, and it’s no longer light until 8:30 p.m. Fall will blow in any day now.
Not everyone lives in the autumn capital of the world like I do, but having a cute fall has nothing to do with how orange the leaves in your neighborhood are! Here you’ll find six ways to curate your perfect fall—what to cook, how to decorate, what to read, and things to do.
1. Feast On Fall Food
Probably the most satisfying way to ring in the season is to cook something delicious! Maybe you have a favorite autumn baked good—pumpkin muffins always show up in my kitchen at some point by early October.
I’m a sucker for pumpkin spice coffee, so I like to make my own dairy-free pumpkin spice creamer with maple syrup to throw in my pour-over every morning—although I will go to Dunkin Donuts on the first chilly morning of September and get a pumpkin swirl iced coffee, just to make sure it still tastes the same!
One of my favorite fall activities is heading to the farmers’ market for in-season ingredients—for me, that means lots of root veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes, plus all kinds of squash, corn, and apples. I try to plan my meals around what I can grab at the market.
After pumpkin creamers, pies, and any other concoctions, I use the leftover can of pumpkin puree (that inevitably ends up in my fridge) by dumping it into a curry with cubed potatoes and butternut squash, or—hear me out—mixing it into tomato sauce with some parmesan cheese for a deliciously warm and creamy pasta dish.
2. Set The Mood With Fall Decor
Fall decor shouldn’t mean buying a bunch of new decorations that’ll end up stored in a closet for 10 months a year. The best fall decor is anything you can buy from the farm (or from the front of the grocery store!)—pumpkins, gourds, dried corn. I use sugar pumpkins so I can cook them when they’re done sitting out on the front stoop, and the gourds can go in the compost in December.
Fresh flowers in warm colors do the trick, too. Look into some local flower producers near you and shop from them as much as possible, and throw the flowers into repurposed spaghetti jars or secondhand vases. Thrift stores and websites are also great for finding pretty new pots, jars, or wooden decor.
Don’t underestimate the power of textiles! I put orange pillow covers on throw pillows, make sure I have lots of cozy blankets around, and sometimes I’ll switch out regular dish towels for something kitschy.
And, of course, nothing sets a fall mood quite like a candle (or five). To reduce waste, I like to make my own candles. Sites like Makesy make it easy to buy soy wax, wood wicks, and mix-and-match fragrances. I make a big batch of warm spicy candles each fall, then use those same jars to make a new collection of floral candles each spring.
3. Break Out Your Fall Wardrobe
Pulling out sweaters and jeans on the first cool day inaugurates the official start of the season for many. If you need to add to your wardrobe this year, check out secondhand shops in your community or this guide to thrifting online. If you’re buying new, check out our guide for sustainable sweaters, or consider one of our favorite fall trends: sustainable baggy pants.
Most importantly—dress how you feel most comfortable! It doesn’t get cold everywhere in September and October. Maybe your fall means you can wear short plaid skirts outside comfortably. I’m jealous! Head to Pinterest if you need fall fashion inspiration for warm climates, like sleeveless sweaters and dark-colored dresses and skirts.
4. Explore Where You Live
Get outside and explore where you live this fall, whether that means visiting your favorite farm for a hayride, hiking through nature, or just getting downtown to a bookstore.
If you can, plan a day or two to go somewhere you’ve never been. Look for county fairs, fall festivals, or Renaissance fairs near you, or go to a local brewery or cidery. Maybe you head to a new-to-you nature preserve or grab your pumpkins from a different farm this year. The perfect fall Saturday sometimes involves seeing where the day takes you.
Here’s a tip: Apple picking doesn’t have to be a requirement.
5. Spend Time With Loved Ones
My most cherished autumn memories have always involved other people—carving pumpkins with friends, visiting a fair with my family, watching fall movies with my partner.
You can put on the most perfect fall outfit to go sip a PSL under a brilliantly orange tree, but the moments you’ll remember won’t be the ones you did for the ‘gram. I don’t remember what scent I used for my candles last fall, but I remember giving my friend a pumpkin beer for the first time and making the ugliest sweet potatoes I’ve ever seen for a potluck. Spend time with people you love this season, whatever that looks like for you.
6. Slow Down And Embrace The Season
Savor the slowing down of the season. The packing in for winter, the shortening days, the quieting. As the air grows and your social calendar cools down, maybe you take this time to work on slowing down your thoughts by journaling or practicing gratitude, or maybe you finally try out therapy.
Maybe slowing down means you take up a new hobby you’ve been meaning to try—knitting, canning, soap carving—you name it.
You can also slow down by brewing some tea, lighting a candle, and settling in with a book or a favorite movie. There’s hardly a better (or easier) way to set the autumn mood. Some evenings, I even love to jump on Tumblr or Pinterest and beam fall imagery into my brain.
Fall wouldn’t be complete without the coziest TV shows! A few of our personal favorites include Gilmore Girls, Stranger Things, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Friday Night Lights (all of which are on Netflix). If true stories are more your thing, check out this list of docuseries on Netflix.
Some classic fall movies we watch year after year are When Harry Met Sally, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Hocus Pocus, You’ve Got Mail, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Other fall options include Knives Out, Practical Magic, and the entire Harry Potter series.
If you’re a reader, immerse yourself in a fall book—anything by Donna Tartt (The Secret History), Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House) or Ray Bradbury (Something Wicked This Way Comes) does it for me. Moodier options might be The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde or Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, and cozier reads include Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala or Autumn by Ali Smith.
Natalie Gale is a Boston-based freelance journalist. When she’s not writing about art, food, or sustainability, you can find her biking to the farmers’ market, baking, sewing, or planning her next Halloween costume. Say hi on Instagram!