A Retirement Wardrobe

My shopping habits have changed drastically in the past year. My focus is now on the classic pieces I can wear in several ways across four seasons. I do not want to deal with a wardrobe full of items that don’t fit my lifestyle after my retirement in a few years. I have learned many things from your comments; chief among them is the comment, “I have so many nice things that I will never wear again, now that I have retired.”

Pants that are not so form-fitting are much more attractive on my aging knees. I am well aware of the changes taking place with my shape, so I am mindful of how new purchases look on the body I have now, not the body I had two years ago.

A significant part of my day is going for a long brisk walk when the weather will allow it. The course is about three miles long. I always wear a hat to shade my eyes and protect my skin and keep my hair off my face. This one is by Betmar. The mornings are often chilly, so I usually start out wearing a lightweight jacket. This cotton knit zip-front hoodie in fuchsia is by Allison Daley from Dillard’s a few years ago. The shoes are very supportive and comfortable. They are by Sofft. The sunglasses are by Dolce & Gabbana.

During this series of posts, I have been showing you how I wear the same classic navy pieces in numerous ways. The three-quarter sleeve scoop neck top worn with the basic pants can form the foundation for many different looks.

In the post for tomorrow, I will close out this series by showing these pants with a longer top and lower heels to allow me to keep wearing my signature summer look. A few adjustments are necessary to keep the formula appropriate and comfortable as I age. I am never at ease when showing too much skin or wearing clothing that is too tight.

  1. Susan,
    I want to thank you for being an authentic, beautiful, honest and stylish role model I continue to learn and improve myself by reading your posts. In the past I have shopped frequently, my closet bulging with clothes that really weren’t working for me, so I’d shop for more. Following your experiences, I have been thinning the masses and relying on classics, giving the clothing that no longer fits or suits my style to friends and donating to resale shops. I have followed other 60ish bloggers and I am amazed at the incredible amounts of money they spend of clothing, accessories, hair color and cosmetic procedures, using professional photographers to attempt to look young and fresh; only to appear uncomfortable with who they are becoming instead of celebrating the journey. I know it can’t be easy sharing life on the internet. Bravo to you and thank you soooo much for your reliable and real life applicable insight.

  2. Thank you for placing the string of small photos with each variation of the foundational column of top and pants at the bottom of your post. They perfectly illustrate your words.
    I think today’s exercise look is my favorite due to the hat and the pop of pink.

  3. I, too, have drastically changed wardrobe staples since retiring from my career. I love your style and look to your blog posts for inspiration.

  4. A retirement wardrobe is something I never considered when working, but it is definitely different from a business wardrobe. My uniform now is shorts and tee shirts in the summer and jeans and long sleeve tee shirts in the winter, with a few pretty flannel shirts added to the mix. I do have a couple of suits or dresses for a funeral. Shoes for me have always been low heeled or flats due to a foot problem. My big accessories are handbags. My mom, who has only ever had two purses at a time, would be appalled if she realized how many I have, but hey, they’re fun.

  5. Did the ongoing body changes take you by surprise? If there is one lesson to be learned, it is not to spend too much money on wardrobe at any given time, as today’s wardrobe may not fit in mere months.

  6. I really enjoy these themed posts Susan.
    Interesting timing for this as I have been sorting through my summer clothes and am determined to wear more of the pieces that I considered too good or dressy for daily wear. I kept a number of skirts from my “office life” and will wear them now with a more casual sandal and accessories. I think if we have spent good money on quality items, it’s a shame not to be able to keep wearing them when our lifestyle changes.
    Thanks again for your inspiration.

  7. Hi, Susan,

    I sent you a question about your black tapered pants offered in your boutique. Is petite medium equivalent to petite 6?

    Love this series!!

    Thank you,
    Donna Broussard

  8. This is timely for me, Susan. I retired six weeks ago. On the first rainy day I emptied my closet and made three piles – one for consignment (all the work clothes that I always said were not for my ‘real life’), one for donation and the rest to go back into the closet. It was a good feeling.

  9. I love this series and think I need a bright jacket to wear, too. Thanks for the inspiration and lessons. I’m 64 and retired from teaching almost 2 years ago and now work almost full time from home and help more on our small farm so my wardrobe is changing dramatically. I appreciate your advice.

  10. Thank you for this current series. I would like to know about the shoes in today’s post. Would you consider the toe box narrow? I wear an average shoe but recently switched from Asics shoes to Brooks for a wider toe box. Reviews were conflicting on Zappos. The shoes you are wearing are so much cuter than athletic shoes for travel. Thanks, Judy

    1. Not all shoes will fit all feet, even if they are the same size. I have a Greek foot shape, so these shoes have a roomy toe box for me. For more information about foot shapes click here.

      1. Interesting. I went to the site you linked and learned that I have a Roman foot. That completely explains why pointed toes and heels have always hurt.

  11. Susan,
    In this post, you say no more straight leg pants. In the other photos you are wearing straight leg
    pants, aren’t you? They look nice on you. My problem is I don’t like those stretchy clingy fabrics that
    are everywhere now.

    1. I will no longer wear the straight leg pants that fit more like leggings, jeggings or skinny jeans. The fabrics nor the shapes are flattering on my legs now. I am happy to wear straight leg or tapered pants and jeans that skim across the body rather than clinging to everything along the way down. No more tight fitting pants for me.

  12. I appreciate this post so much! It addresses many of the things I am considering as I look at my clothes, and future purchases. I never thought I’d be saying that there are just some things that I would rather not wear anymore. Life is way too short to be uncomfortable or self-conscious in the clothes we are wearing. Thanks for sharing your honest posts and giving everyone great pointers how to invest in a workable, attractive, multi-tasking wardrobe that will span the years effectively!

    I have one question, about the tops from your site…I tend to prefer longer length tops and wondered if you would consider having your designer create some looks with a longer length? Also wondered if she might ever create a longer capri or crop length pant for warmer weather wear? She seems to really create many usable basics that are a great foundation for any wardrobe!

    1. Longer length tops can cut your body in half if they end at the wrong place or they make your tummy look more substantial if they end below it. I have learned that a long top isn’t always flattering. These tops do not bring attention to my tummy or make legs look shorter like longer tops often do.

  13. I really appreciate your commitment to offering your readers only choice items. So many blogs are just the author wearing advertising items. I do appreciate your links… I know they are things you trust and wear and they save me so much time knowing you have done the groundwork in your selections. Thank you, Susan. Your blog is a lesson almost every day!

  14. Susan, Thanks so much for your blog! I have learned so much from you. I live in southern Minnesota, and I have all but given up on myself and fashions. We live near a town that is 60,000, but it is of the ‘rural’ mindset. I don’t ever feel the need to dress up because now the only places I go is to the grocery, Panera for coffee with friends, and church. I have had a difficult time adjusting to my age of 72. I was in the Music Business in Nashville all my professional life as a musician. My life was looking good ALL THE TIME, make-up, hair etc. I fell in love and now my calling is to live in Minnesota and be Warren’s wife. I have all but retired from the music business. Difficult changes, especially in my mind. I had a very thin body most of my life, but medications now have changed it. Another adjustment. I have starred at your pictures and thought about the need to change my attitude about myself. I rarely wear makeup now, and don’t care what i look like since we are basically home-bodies. I stopped dying my hair last year and got so much static from friends and family that I went back to dying. I so love how you look! Please continue to give me courage to think more of myself and care about my appearance. Thanks so much, Susan. Kay Koehler

    1. When I stopped coloring my hair, I was the first of my friends to do so. After about a year, many of them also gave up the dye. I get dressed and put on makeup even to stay home. Life is too short not to dress the way you want to. I hope you will return to having fun with fashion, makeup, and even perfume. We should celebrate our femininity for our whole lives if that is what gives us pleasure.

  15. Although I am retiring early at 50 (6 more weeks until
    I retire) I totally get having so many nice things I will never wear. I already gave away a bunch of nice clothes to friends and plan on doing more purging this summer. Great post!

  16. Dressing for our age, a chic haircut and a few signature pieces really feels good! Only regret is I wish I’d figured this out sooner. Love you in the jean jackets!-Laurel

  17. This is a great post and one that is not addressed very often. I have been retired for a few years now and have figured out my wardrobe but it was the one area that surprised me the most. I, too, always dress “business casual” and put on my makeup, even if I’ll be home all day. I’m always ready for the unexpected and spontaneous things that make retired life so much fun! Thank you, Susan!

  18. Thank you, Susan, for a great post! After 34 years of being a school librarian I have retired and moved to an active retirement community. I have been saying since I moved a few months ago that I need a “retirement wardrobe”. I knew enough to pass on to colleagues all my library themed items…and all the holiday items that I knew were ONLY good for middle school where the students thought they were neat. But know I see nice suits and jackets, and dressy items in my closet that will never be worn – along with dress shoes. We are more socially active than ever before in this community, but it is dressy casual and I find myself shopping in a whole new way. And yes…some things that looked great on my body a few years ago just don’t work anymore. I really enjoy your blog and will look forward to more tips on a retirement wardrobe!

  19. Hi again.
    I’ve looked on your shopping site at the basic pieces. I would love to buy a navy set of the pant and top BUT my inseam is 31″. A 30″ inseam just is short enough to make the pant look “goofy”. Have you considered having a tall or long option?or can you recommend a site that would have a similar fabric, style and basic colors to accommodate my length issue. I can’t be the only one with long legs. I’m only 5’5″ but have a shorter torso and long legs and long arms. Dressing my figure has always been a challenge and I must always wear separates. Also it would be helpful if the size measurements were available and your comment on the sizing. Thank you

  20. Turning 60 in two weeks! Love your evolving style.
    I’m only 5’2”… so heels are still in the rotation!
    Thanks for all you do.

  21. I love how much you share of yourself, life and the things you have found helpful. I am approaching retirement in a year and a half and love the idea of classic pieces that go for many seasons in many different ways. I am sure I will be ditching half of my wardrobe when I retire. I have been working on polishing my own unique capsule wardrobe for three years now, its quite a process especially with having a professional and casual job along with Church commitments. I have studied under Colleen Hammond for several years now and you have similar philosophies as she does which I can’t find else ware. You are both classy professionals giving quality tips, resources and support, I enjoy you both in your uniqueness. Thanks again for sharing!

  22. Susan, I enjoy your blog so much, and will definitely miss it should you retire from it. I am now trying to plan my closet, so that I have the basic classics that will only need pieces on occasion to coordinate. I have passed 70, and have always loved boots (Frye boots in particular) and always get compliments when I wear them in season. In order to tuck the taller boots, I must wear leggings, or slim fitting jeans. I’m now trying to decide on a pair of mid calf ones now that will work with the straight or slight boot cut jeans. I am asking myself if I am in denial of passing the age for this look, and not invest in more boots, or if I should add a pair of mid calf to my collection? It depends on where you plan to retire, but I would like your take on wearing boots with skinnies in or pass retirement. I fear being that little lady who doesn’t want to give up her youth. Has it been difficult for you to make the switch from a look you feel you have outgrown? Thank you so much.

    1. I enjoy my Frye boots very much, but they are the short bootie style. Mid-calf isn’t a good length for me since it draws a line at the widest part of my leg.

  23. Agree with what you say. What an immaculate area you live in. Our council could learn a few things.!!

  24. I love seeing how a few pieces can mix & match for different looks. My husband & I downsized drastically when we sold our big house, so my wardrobe has shrunk as well. I really appreciate the inspiration & ideas in your posts!

  25. Hi Susan, this series has really been a revelation to me!! I feel exactly the same about my changing body (I’m 66), and the way I want to dress now after years of having a huge wardrobe (for work, essentially). Thank you so much for your wisdom and honesty, and it’s so heart-warming and encouraging to find a blog like yours which echoes perfectly how I feel and think now. Your advice, not only on clothes, but also on food, travel and many other interesting thing, is now a part of my life, so do continue to inform we ladies!!!!!

  26. I work out at a very advanced level, do heavy weight training and I a 64. I stay flexible through Yoga and Pilates inspired workouts too.

    I am 5 feet tall. I am not ready to surrender my heels and dresses. I will continue to proudly wear my leggings, slim jeans and shorts.

    Your skin changes but so much can be done by clean diet and exercise.

  27. The first thing I did when I retired from my 40 year office job was to donate all my dress shoes to Goodwill. Best move I ever made!!!

  28. I’ve had to give up heels due to bad knees (need double replacement). Your blog inspires and encourages me.

  29. I agree with you. I have way too many clothes that no longer work with my current lifestyle but I can’t seem to part with anything. I need to follow all the editing rules. I still enjoy patterns and colours. I enjoy differen looks for different occasions. I did donate clothing that doesn’t fit the way i like and clothing made of cheaper materials. My goal is to become more classic, more neutral colours and all season all occasion clothing. I still have a long way to go.

  30. At last – someone is showing a common sense and tasteful approach to clothing appropriate for the mature woman! I’m so tired of seeing leggings as the answer to everything. They are rarely flattering. And by the way, you look lovely!

  31. Thank you Susan. Enjoy your blog, and share your “classic” philosophy on dressing, and have for years.
    I gave up my professional wardrobe at about 60. I dress as you do, but perhaps still have too many
    selections. I just turned 80, and plan to dress this way forever. Like you, never leave the house without
    being “put together” I have maintained my 5′ 5″ frame at 125, work out, walk in my neighborhood (Dell Webb)
    take care of the house and yard, etc. I am blessed. I love where you live – it is so beautiful. My maiden
    name was Mitchell so enjoyed the mountain view. I have been single and on my own for 45 years! Have
    recently decided to stop coloring my roots. Know it will be a year transition with my “bob” but I am up for it.
    I love my white roots and think it will be a good look when I finally get there. Decided when I turned 80, it
    was time to stop coloring my hair! Thanks for all you do. Sharon

  32. I really enjoy your post/blog. I am retiring soon and transitioning into a more casual look. I’ve worked in court 40 years. Most of my wardrobe is black and stiff suits. Thank you for the pictures and ideas!

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.