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How to Achieve That ‘Autumn Aesthetic’

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Exeter chapter.

As late October settles down over us in a haze of pumpkin lattes, trench coats and re-runs of the Addams Family, so does the annual anticipation of the illusive ‘autumn aesthetic’.

This phrase, thrown casually into coffee conversations, infiltrating university campuses, and dominating social media appears to have acquired a life of its own. But…what actually is it? At first glance, it’s a bewildering mass of expectations floating in the abstract ether of Pinterest boards: how to dress, what to drink, who to be – the list goes on. This is the not the best start for self-confidence as the seasonal blues rapidly descend upon us.

If we are considering it in the role of a noun, Oxford Languages defines ‘aesthetic’ as “a set of principles underlying the work of a particular artist or artistic movement.” Autumn is the canvas, and you are the artist. You get to choose the medium, the colour palette, the setting: you get to choose what you want your ‘autumn aesthetic’ to look like. 

Autumn is a feeling: one of warmth and comfort with the cold left beyond the window. With this in mind, here are some of my suggestions to put you in an aesthetically autumnal mood:

  • The Hot Drink:

Absolutely essential for survival during an eight-thirty lecture, or pleasurably soothing at bedtime, autumn is all about the spices. Bring on the Costa gingerbread lattes, the chai teas and, if you are feeling luxurious, Fortnum and Mason’s Witches Brew White Hot Chocolate. The only down-side of this, as our bank accounts can all testify, is that these indulgences can be financially draining. An easy way to spice up your own drink is to stir in a teaspoon of cinnamon or, for the adventurous, some cacao. To reduce plastic waste, why not consider a re-usable cup for your morning to-go?

  • The Fashion Edit:

Snuggle up in pumpkin pjs and your fluffiest socks or swap out your heels for some knee-high boots and a blazer on your night out. For daytime, calf-length boots have moved in in force, alongside belted coats, landscape jumper knits and nude colour schemes if you are looking for wardrobe inspiration. But if you’ve already splashed out on Christmas presents and shopping isn’t on the cards, when it comes right down to it, if you are comfy it’s perfect.

Photo of Nazifa Rahman
Photo by Nazifa Rahman
  • The Events:

There are two crucial dates for your diary in autumn and they are Halloween and Bonfire Night. Friends, family, films, smores, sparklers, parties, pjs by five…take your pick. (Just remember to plan how you are getting home, and to buddy up at night). If you are feeling swamped by university work, sometimes the best thing to do is to take a night off and re-set. Life is no fun if we miss the living! 

  • The Atmosphere:

The little details that really make your autumn ‘aesthetic’. Crispy leaves of burnt umber on afternoon walks, your favourite book in a café whist the rain pours outside, the perfect playlist, and BIG slices of chocolate cake. Fairy lights and candles are classics – try soy or beeswax if you are concerned about toxins – and why not look for some prints as a cheap way to re-style your room? If you have access to a bubble bath, which is not often as a university student, make sure to use it!

Finally, if you are still at a loss, try this little trick: close your eyes and focus on the images that immediately come to mind when you think of the word ‘autumn’. It could be a colour, a feeling, a person, a thing, or even a food. If it works for you, it’s a good place to start.

An undergraduate third-year reading Ancient History at Exeter Uni. A focus on fashion, books and generally thriving as a woman on campus!