Casual Jackets for Fall

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Keeping warm has never looked so cool, with casual jackets for fall 2011 in materials ranging from rich, buttery leather to cloud-soft shearling – faux and real – that transform cold-weather outerwear into stunning, stylish showpieces.

There’s a relaxed ease to the season’s silhouettes, with roomy field jackets in subdued shades of olive drab and merino wool military coats among the top picks for crisp autumn days. Cozy shawl jackets -- imagine the love child of your favorite scarf and sweater -- and classic wool blazers add a touch of laid-back glamour to outdoor fashion.

As autumn advances, it's easy to rock this super-high-fashion look.

Another hot trend is going to be metallic leather on bombers, biker jackets and military coats. It’s got that ‘bad ass’ element. Every girl wants to be a biker chick.

Bernard Jacobs, president of Katy Duds, an image and fashion consulting firm

Don't be Sheepish: Wear Shearling

If you had to pick one parka this season, choose one of shearling.

“You’re going to see a lot of shearling all over the place,” said Bernard Jacobs, president of Katy Duds, an image and fashion consulting firm in West Hollywood, whose clients include Brandi, Serena Williams and Toni Braxton.

“You’re going to also see a lot of lightweight shearling, where the weight of the jacket is almost like a sweater,” Jacobs said. “It’s a very fashionable look, and it’s also very soft.”

Also on the shearling bandwagon is Kallah Maguire, a professional wardrobe stylist, personal shopper and founder of The Emerald Scarab, a Los Angeles-based company that helps you refine and define your wardrobe.

“There’s a lot of shearling on the outside of coats, which is something we haven’t seen in a while, and that’s really neat and cool,” Maguire said. “This look is all about celebrating the glory of animal fur.”

And while real fur has become more socially acceptable since the days of tomato-throwing-at-fur-coats protests, fake shearling is perfectly acceptable, as long as it looks real, Maguire said.

“Some of the fake fur is just godawful,” the fashion guru said. “It sticks to your face and looks sort of plasticy. Definitely opt for a nice faux fur that has a nice texture and hand feel to it. If you’ve never seen real fur up close, you might want to check some out first to make sure your faux is a good match.”

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Keep the Rest Simple

Under your coat, keep things simple but sleek, Jacobs suggested.

“With a shearling jacket I always like a crisp, cream-colored turtleneck and a pair of cords,” he said. “If you want to keep things a bit lighter, go with a nice, dressy pair of wool slacks, a blouse and a pair of kitten heels, which is one of the best things in shoes this time of year.”

For a little versatility, Jacobs recommended cinching your shearling jacket with a neutral-hued belt. Match the color of the belt to the coat’s base color – for example, add a light or dark brown belt to a brown tweed coat. Or opt for a scarf.

“A lot of the coats and jackets this season are very feminine, very soft,” said Jacobs.

Toughen Up

For a slightly tougher look, Maguire prefers the four-pocket jackets, which come in a bevy of styles, including leather bombers, biker jackets and collegiate wool blazers.

“I love the look where there are a couple of pockets over the breast and then a couple of pockets where your hands can dig into,” Maguire said.

Designers are also putting a military spin on four-pocket field jackets this season, Jacobs pointed out, mixing a hunting jacket vibe with features such as defined waistlines and flaps on the pockets.

“I’d go for a heavy wool military jacket,” said Jacobs. “Another hot trend is going to be metallic leather on bombers, biker jackets and military coats. It’s got that ‘bad ass' element. Every girl wants to be a biker chick.”

While some old reliables will do just fine this fall – jean jackets are forever in vogue, and blazers are timeless. If you purchase one fab outer layer this fall, invest in a gorgeous “kickass” leather coat with no trendy elements, said Maguire.

Jacobs, on the other hand, advised opting for cashmere.

“You can always dress it up or dress it down,” he said. “Cashmere always fits in just because it’s such a luxurious fabric, and it always looks good whether you have a pair of jeans on or a cocktail dress. You can throw it over your shoulder or leave it open with a blouse or shirt underneath. It always looks good.”

Jacobs’ last word on jackets: Think long-term.

“What’s really trendy are the just-below-the knee jackets,” he said. “Everybody wore that little shrunken jacket last season, and I think girls are going be getting into a longer silhouette. Cropped jackets are done. Peacoats are over.”

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When you’re looking to pair your on-trend jackets with fall's favorite footwear, look no further than high-heeled booties.

"There are so many cute styles," said personal stylist Kallah Maguire. "Slouchy boots also look amazing with a great fall coat. Boots and heels are the easiest go-to things when it comes to jackets."

For optimum versatility and reliability, Maguire recommended purchasing a pair of leather boots.

"Leather never goes out of style," she said. "If you're going to wear suede, make sure you treat it first with a protective spray."

For animal lovers angling for a hide-free option in boots, vegan shoes are also gaining in popularity.

"The only downside," Maguire said, "is that vegan shoes do not last. If you're a vegan, then you might not care, but keep in mind that vegan shoes are way more expensive, and they tend to fall apart after a year and a half."