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I went on my first real fall shopping trip over the weekend. It did not go well.

My friend and I were geared up to buy. We're very excited for fall, we’re going on a trip in a few weeks for which we would love new clothes, and we'd also love to update our professional attire. We weren't even hoping or expecting to save money; we came mentally prepared for the full prices that usually come with fall gear.

Even so, to say we were let down is an understatement. Actually, by the last store we were so depressed that we decided to just go see if Williams-Sonoma had any pumpkin-flavored samples and then call it a day.

Overall, the clothes were boring at best, and some were downright offensive. At one store, which shall not be named, there was a long-sleeved cotton shirt with a pattern of small holes punched out in the front. Said holes were not stitched at all, just torn out of this T-shirt style fabric. I said loudly to my friend, “Who would buy this? It is going to fall apart the first time you wash it.” A shopper we didn’t know chuckled at my commentary and also gave that shirt the side-eye.

Some of this I will excuse because we're in a very tricky weather situation. The idea of fall things is very appealing, but the reality is we’re still in the 70s and even 80s in most of the U.S. I get this. But I was disappointed that everything was so frumpy and drab, especially for my favorite season.

In the interest of positivity and optimism, I’ve decided to create a guide to what some stores can offer you. A general shopping trip may well turn up a result like mine, but if you're looking for specific pieces, hopefully I can help you avoid disappointment.

Best lightweight sweaters: J.Crew

Most of the sweaters we saw were unreasonably heavy, the type of sweater that I have in my closet but don't wear until December or January, because I figure that I have to save more clothes to put on when the temperatures drop below zero. Absolutely nobody is interested in wearing such sweaters now.

But J.Crew's trusty, lightweight cotton Tippi sweater came through with an appealing display of both trendy fall hues and classic colors. Both of us were in love with the Neon Sorbet color when we saw it in person, and online you can also find Neon Orchid -- both nods to this year's Pantone Color Report and, while very bright, appropriate for fall wear.

Best basics: Gap

No big surprise here, but Gap wins for having a great selection of black and gray skirts in different shapes, button-down shirts, neutral-colored trousers and cropped pants, and easy-to-wear work dresses. Their fit-and-flare dress is my new favorite, and for fall they've simply put some sleeves on it, making it just as turnkey when you pull it out of your closet on an “I-don't-want-to-get-dressed-today” day. If you need to refresh your basics, like if you’ve changed sizes, this is your place.

Best not-too-summery sale rack: Banana Republic

I actually found some great sale items, which I can easily wear for another couple of months, at Banana Republic. A lot of the items were black, gray, rose, kelly green or cobalt blue, all colors that transition easily if the fabric is also suitable. I particularly love light gray for fall. I pair it with all my white stuff to extend their wear.

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