Affordable Basics

High-quality, simple items without many design details and in neutral colors are the workhorses of our wardrobes. Neutral colors include beige, navy, taupe, gray, cream, brown, black, and white. These pieces allow us to style our statement items in looks that reflect our personalities without being too busy. You may have a lot of unique items you love, but if you often stand in front of your stuffed closet and think, “I have nothing to wear!” it is likely because you don’t have neutral basics.

I’m wearing the white Modern Crewneck T-Shirt with the black belt and the faded jeans linked below. The blazer is old, but I wanted to show how I can easily pair the basic pieces I’m showing you today with all the other items in my closet.

When I looked for longer flare-leg jeans to wear with platform shoes and heels, I was shocked to see so many jeans at more than $300. It’s been many years since I shopped at Gap, but a friend suggested I look at their denim. After the first pair arrived, I was very impressed with the fit and quality for the price. I immediately purchased white and black and two shades of blue. Since the jeans were so good, I also decided to try a few tops and tees.

The Modern Crewneck T-Shirt in several colors is here.

The fabric is sturdy and soft, and the slim fit makes them perfect to wear under blazers or denim jackets. So while I may put the long-sleeve tees away for summer, they are ideal for layering under a jean jacket or blazer for most of the year in the mild climate here. Gap offers many other tops with the same lux fabric content here.

Navy and white is a classic combo that looks so good with tan accessories.

The faded jeans are here.
The black belt is here.

This sweetheart neckline wrap top will be perfect for lunch dates or brunch. The white jeans are not see-through. I bought my usual size medium in the tops, but the jeans are size six tall. So if you bought the Banana Republic jeans I shared recently in size four, you would likely need a six in these since the fit is a bit snugger through the hips. On the other hand, the long or tall length is perfect if you want to wear them with platforms or heels.

The Sweetheart Wrap T-Shirt is here.
The White High Rise ’70s Flare Jeans with square pockets are here.

Inseam: Petite 30″ (76 cm), Short 31″ (78 cm), Regular 32″ (81 cm), Long 34.5″ (88 cm), Tall 36.5″ (93 cm).

Many denim shirts have been in my life, but this is my first with a tie-neck. I wore it twice the first week! It takes double denim to a higher level.

The Tie-Neck Denim Shirt is here.

The denim shirt is soft and supple but doesn’t lose shape like the Tencel ones.

The dark-wash jeans are here.

Note this style has the original pocket shape. These were my first Gap jeans in more than twenty years. I’m so glad I tried them again!

Inseam: Petite 30″ (76 cm), Short 31″ (78 cm), Regular 32″ (81 cm), Long 34.5″ (88 cm), Tall 36.5″ (93 cm).

Henley tees have buttons part way down the front, so this style might work for you if you don’t like a crew neck.

The Modern Henley T-Shirt is here.

I don’t often wear black jeans in the summer, but these will be great with boots, sweaters, and jackets next fall and winter. They are not jet black.

The soft black jeans with square pockets are here.

Jeans that touch the top of the foot are most flattering and easy to style. Knowing the inseam you need means you can skip the tailoring. Gap sizing features various inseams: Petite 30″ (76 cm), Short 31″ (78 cm), Regular 32″ (81 cm), Long 34.5″ (88 cm), Tall 36.5″ (93 cm). Measure from the crotch to the hemline of your favorite jeans to learn the length to shop for.

Thank you for your kind, supportive messages on my last post. Mr. Mickey and I have enjoyed reading them, and we are even more inspired to continue to bring you ideas for fun outings and outfit ideas.

Recent looks and posts are summarized here. Shopping links on this site may allow me to earn a commission, but the posts are never sponsored or paid advertisements. All opinions are my own, and the items I show were not gifts.

  1. I haven’t worn flared jeans since they were last around, about 15 years ago, and I’m inspired to give them another go after seeing them in your post. I’ve been wearing the current ankle length/crop style during our summer months here in the southern hemisphere but can see that this longer style will look good (and keep my ankles warm!) with boots in the upcoming colder weather. Thank you once again for your lovely post and sensible, flattering ideas, Susan.

  2. Hi Susan you look wonderful in all the jeans.
    I have many pair of high end, expensive jeans but honestly Gap and Express are my go to jeans.
    They are priced right and I get compliments whenever I wear them. My pocketbook always thanks me too. I have mentioned before that I don’t understand why more bloggers don’t feature them.
    I’m assuming the denim blouse is regular medium??? Is that correct? I always worry about shrinking

  3. Good Morning Susan
    Another great post featuring fun and practical ideas. Haven’t looked at Gap items in ages. I like the Henley top as an option instead of V-necks all the time (crew necks are not always comfortable). Button some or all or add that scarf.
    And I’ve said before I adore the jeans and blazer look. So versatile and sharp! Plus it’s cold here yet. Snow last Sunday!

    Love reading all your posts and the comments as well. What a great community of followers. You and Mr. Mickey have a fun rest of the week. Please keep sharing your adventures. And Happy Spring!

  4. Some really good ideas with basics. I never thought about Gap but I like the black T-shirts and especially the demon shirt.
    Also I wanted to let you know I read some of the comments from your last post but didn’t have time to comment. I was shocked by what was said about your posts and want to to know I really enjoy reading about your style and your travels/ dates. It gives me ideas on both subjects. Not everything works for everyone but suggestions are always appreciated.
    Thank you so some much for the time you put into helping us all feel a little better in this world. I do look forward to seeing your posts.

  5. Do you have the hem-line of the tees altered? They are the perfect length on you and the length I like. I recently paid $18 each to have 2 tops shortened. Don’t want to do that again!

    Thanks for sharing everything you do!

    1. I didn’t get the tops hemmed, but, like the models in the examples, I’ve let the tees gather around the waist rather than pulling them down tight over my hips. The modern tee measure 18″ from the armpit to the hemline. The henley tee measures 17″ from the armpit to the hemline. The wrap top with a sweetheart neckline is ruched on the side but measures 13″ from the armpit to the hemline. The denim shirt is a size medium regular but it comes in petite and tall. It measures about 13″ at the same point; but it has a longer curved hemline.

  6. Susan, love all the ideas! My grown daughters shop at Gap, but I haven’t in years, but I think I will give them a try!
    Love the denim top with tie, so fun.
    Thank you

  7. Susan, you may have already tried this brand but DEMOCRACY jeans come in ALL sorts of denim styles. What’s so FABULOUS about this brand is that the waist, while looking like a typical jean waist, is elasticized. They’re so very comfortable that EVERY woman I’ve passed this info along to ends up calling and thanking me for introducing this brand to her life! They fit and feel like nothing you’ve ever worn before. I HIGHLY suggest your giving them a try!

  8. Thank you for all of the ideas! I love your style. Any info on the fifth bag pictured? Looks to be cream and black straw bag.

  9. I’m so glad you got so many positive responses. I need all the help I can get living this life and you all certainly make things easier.
    I really enjoyed today’s posting about The Gap. I forgot they have petites and I do need new jeans. I’ll check them out.
    I still have my eye on the cute little handbag you’ve shown multiple times. The price is very good! Do I need it? Have a lovely day!

  10. I’m a Gap fan. If you care for those jeans they’ll stay nice for years.
    I find that line drying them extends their lifespan.
    Compared to Old Navy their sizing is reliable across styles.
    $300 jeans are not for me.

  11. I am thankful today to know you and Mr Mickey will continue sharing. My favorite email makes me smile. Always loved the Gap! Great reminder to stop by. Your beautiful smile is infectious and happy to see today.

  12. Love all these outfits, especially the first outfit with the red bag? Where can you get that or one similar? The denim shirt looks so great on you as well. So happy to hear that you will continue to blog. You have given such great advice and encouragement on many topics and I feel like I will be entering my soon to be retirement years more prepared. Thank you!

  13. I had a the distinct feeling I had missed something with the last blog, so I went back and read the comments. Wow! Kind of surprised at the keyboard courage of one to be so rude to you. Your posts are always informative, and while I may not incorporate every idea I have read in your posts over the years into my own style of dress, I always walk away with more knowledge about style than I started with.
    I love how you and Mr. Mickey enjoy one another’s company and actually go out on dates! So cool. Enjoy every outing you are able to take part in for as long as you both choose.

  14. Love all these looks Susan. Love all the jeans and looks. I am still into my skinny jeans big time but am thinking of giving wider leg ones a go soon.

  15. I too am thankful you are continuing this blog. You inspire and uplift your followers.

    Question: I am curvy but not overweight. I am also petite. I have shied away from flair or bootcut for fear they will make me look even shorter and dumpy. I wore skinnies and have transitioned to high waist straight jeans. Your thoughts—can a short person, trim but not skinny pull off bootcut and flair. I definitely cannot do wide leg pants

    1. Wide-leg pants are not flattering for women with more volume on the top half. I am certainly in that category, so I also avoid the full wide legs. The key is to wear pants fitted in the hips and thighs with a flare that starts above the knee. Bootcuts and flares help visually balance the figure when the top half is bigger than the bottom.

  16. You look particularly nice in the soft blue, Susan. Your handbags are making each outfit elevated in interest and style.
    Here in NZ we are in autumn so your spring clothes fit for the changeable weather.
    May I gently request you put all the photos together at the end of your post as you have done several times? It makes it helpful to see how you change the look with the accessories as well as the individual photos. Sorry if that is bothersome to collage them!
    Every grateful,

    1. Thank you for the suggestion, Carolyn. I didn’t change the look as much as I showed how I would wear the pieces, but I’m happy to collage the looks for you.

  17. Thank you for your information. Discovered Gap Australia! Busy day choosing autumn/winter wear for gaps (bad pun) in my wardrobe tomorrow. Appreciated your comments re garment quality.

  18. I wear a lot of denim but at 5’4″ and long legs I have trouble with inseams. Petites are too ” short” in the fit.
    Thanks for this posting on denim, very helpful. Tees and denim are great for basic wear. Pima cotton is the most comfortable, willing to pay a little more.

  19. Hello Susan
    You always look fabulous! You have inspired me to ‘cull’ my wardrobe! Now that my hair is grey, which I love .. I’ve gotten rid of my warm colours and this article was great … my neutrals are white/Grey/black/navy. You are so right it makes dressing easier. I would love to wear flared jeans but think my legs are too short.. I must have shrunk as I wore them in the 1960s!!! Keep giving us ideas… I pass them on to my sisters too! Now to inspire my husband with Mr Mickeys look!
    Sending thanks and best wishes from England
    Kathy x

  20. Susan, I’m not sure what it is, but you look 10 years younger in all of these pictures! Did you change your hair? You look beautiful and so happy. The denim shirt with the ties- wow, what a combination- I love it! Thank you once again for your wonderful posts.

    1. It might be the lighting that is making me look better. We always look our best in pictures when the light source is in front of us and low instead of high and overhead.

  21. Every outfit is spot on, as always. You look so amazing I’m having to fight off a bit of envy! Apparently black is “in” for spring. I have a sleeveless black/white gingham button up that would fit right in with spring looks. I just received my 1st pair of Sam Edelmann black loafers…thanks for inspiring me!

  22. This post was very timely as I’m doing a season shift (it’s still cold in Illinois) and also rethinking a shift as I end my first year of retirement. I was just thinking I needed a white crew neck tee and there it was. Ordered it right away. Thanks – love your ideas.

    1. Hem the pants to graze the top of your foot without crumpling or pooling. Always try to wear them with a slender (not boxy) top. It will always elongate your stature if you are comfortable tucking in your shirt and wearing a belt.

  23. Thank you for showing us how to style with some less expensive jeans and tops. Love the wrap shirt and denim with the tie. I wish I had more blazers!
    You always look so sharp!

  24. Hi, Susan,

    I just want to thank you for sharing your thinking about how to purchase and style clothing for over-60 ladies. I learn something new with each post. Just what I needed when I retired two years ago and needed to revamp my wardrobe.

    Especially, I appreciate your willingness to look at less expensive options, and your suggestions regarding sizing , including measurements and styling tips (my arms and legs are a bit shorter than average, for example). Your posts about nutrition and how to enjoy a nice restaurant meal while still eating healthfully and losing/maintaining weight are a great example in our off-kilter food world.

    Questions: for those of us who really prefer or need to wear flats, what do you suggest in the way of shoes and pant legs? On rare formal occasions (i.e., weddings) I wear a nice, knee length dress – how might I style footwear for that? And, my son is getting married next fall! The wedding will be semi-formal, outdoors if weather permits. What would you suggest I wear?

    Many thanks in advance for your great advice, and keep up the good work!


    P.S. – my father was born in Johnson City and grew up in Bristol, so we have that in common! – K.

    1. Can you wear a low wedge heel? There are some lovely styles in nude colors for warm weather months. They look great with dresses and slacks. The wider the pant leg, the lower the hem should be.

  25. P.P.S. – And another question: I prefer to use the same bag or tote throughout each season. What do you suggest that would work with all or most outfits? – Kate

  26. I have a huge stock of navy and black tops that i turn to with my various plain black, plain navy, white, plaid with navy and black and white checked pants, etc. I can well remember when you were opposed to black tops because you thought it made the face look older. Black and navy tops are very, very classy!! A navy top sets off your beautiful gray hari. I just bought a really cute jacket from Chicos in navy for $59–really cute, classy, and well-made. A black top and black and white check pants really look sharp too.

    But, I also well remember the pink jacked you wore (maybe last year, or the year before). You really looked good in it. I think you wore it with white pants!!!

    It doesn’t hurt to have a cute face and a cute hair style to go with the cute clothes!!!! I look forward to your emails.

    1. Now that my hair is longer, I feel much more confident wearing black and large earrings.

      As for a year-round tote, try a simple medium-sized one in leather and a color as close as possible to the color of your hair.

  27. Love that you’re featuring GAP! It’s crazy to pay $300 + for jeans! I different and wonderful can they be?
    Enjoyed this post, as I’m always searching for what basics I need to fill in the gaps and pull outfits together, without so much thought! All your looks here are terrific! Your posts are always helpful and fun! Love and appreciate your style, and of course in a post like this, I’m always looking at what bags and shoes you styled these basic looks with.
    Thanks Susan!

  28. All great looks and just my style! Based on your photos, I just ordered the denim tie neck shirt and a pair of high waist wide leg jeans. I have versions of most of the other pieces already and will use your looks to put together similar outfits.

    Thanks so much for providing fashion (and lifestyle) inspiration that is suitable for mature women without looking stodgy.

  29. I love how you wear your clothes; they don’t wear you! Thank you for all the ideas and tips!

  30. Hi Susan! Thank you for sharing all your wisdom. I have 2 questions – 1) do you still wear straight leg pants or have you let them go? Which leads to my second question (if not too personal to ask), did you purge most of your old wardrobe?

    P.S. I though I had sent an email last evening but I’m suspecting I didn’t hit send.

    1. I have a storage unit with some extra space, so most straight-leg and ankle-length jeans are there for now. I gave my sister jeans that were too roomy in the seat, and I took a few pairs to a charity shop. I try to make what I have work with new purchases rather than purge and start over, but I edit my wardrobe seasonally.

    1. Cashmere sweaters do pill, but I use a fabric shaver here or a cashmere comb here. Synthetic knits will always pill and look worn quickly, so I don’t buy them. I clean and de-pill the sweaters before storing them with cedar and lavender sachets for the warmer months.

      I wash jeans inside out in cold water, take them out of the dryer when they are still damp, and hang them on pant hangers to dry. I don’t wash every garment each time I wear it, but I leave it on a rolling rack to air out for a day before putting it away if it isn’t soiled and I’ve only worn it for three hours. Taking extra care of my garments and buying the best quality I can afford means they look better and last longer.

  31. Susan, those denim jeans and that tie denim shirt make you look tall, young and slim! I want the whole outfit LOL. Funny how the stuff we wore in the 70s is now the stuff we’re wearing again as we get closer to age 70!!

  32. I read all your posts avidly, but I confess I don’t often read the comments. You have so many fans, it would take ages!
    However, the comment in your last post about all the kind support you’d received made me go back and read the comments under “Dinner in Abingdon”.
    And I must say: Of course, it is your decision whether to stop doing the blog (for example, if it all gets too much with your folks’ needs). But please, please, please, don’t stop because you think you have nothing more to say!! There is always change – fashions come and go (and come back again!), we go through life events, we alter as we age. You have been so generous and gracious in sharing some of your life events with us. For example, the speed and efficiency with which you carried out your house sale and downsizing was an amazing inspiration to us all. And I’m sure I’m not the only reader who emails you from time to time with specific queries that you answer so promptly. There are always newcomers to the site, plus we could all do with refreshers/reminders now and then. You should be extremely proud of what you do for us all. So, as long as the site gives you a sense of purpose and pleasure, please carry on!

  33. Thank you for this inspirational post. It’s come at just the right moment for me. I have lost 5st 1lb (71 lbs) since last autumn and I’ve needed to go shopping for new clothes. Yesterday I went to my favourite store, Marks & Spencer, and I felt like I was in a daze. So many lovely clothes, but I found the choice & styles overwhelming.
    I did see some basic layer t-shirts and was wondering whether to buy some. Well, your tips here today has made up my mind to do just that! I’m going to order some neutrals online.
    I’d like to wear a pair of white jeans, but I think I should wait until I’ve lost another 13lbs before I do that. I was a size 22/24 (U.S. 18/20) and now I’m a size 14 (U.S, 10). When I get down to a size 12 (U.S. 8) I think I’ll be ready to wear white jeans.
    You look so smart, classic, lovely in your simple tops and white jeans that I’m going to copy your style.
    Kay in UK

  34. This is interesting. Our 30-year old daughter just sent us a picture of her wearing white flare jeans from the Gap that are ankle length. She wanted to know if we thought she looked like she was in an old-age demographic with those jeans. I sent her this article and she admitted she liked most everything in this post and in fact might buy the sweetheart neckline top. I had thought that this weekend when I might be close to a Gap I might have to try some of these pants on myself.

  35. This site was wonderful. It helped me find some jeans that might fit. I have always liked Gap. Thank you so much, Susan.

  36. I love all your posts but wanted to comment on this one because these are the type of things that I wear often. It is really helpful to see how to wear the basics and how put together these outfits are without much effort or expense. Thanks Susan for all your posts. You are an inspiration.

  37. I need help with pant lengths based on my shoe wardrobe. I’ve noticed that you are wearing some high platforms with the flare jeans. A great look, but then if you wanted to wear a flat sandal I am thinking these jeans would not work.
    Hopefully, this question will make sense. Do you have different pairs of jeans for winter(with boots) versus summer (with flats) versus summer platform heels?and then there is the loafer shoe( another heel height)
    Do you group your pants by length in your closet?
    Help needed!

    1. Yes is the answer to all your questions, Sharon. I have different lengths of jeans to wear with different shoes. The wider the leg, the longer the hem to avoid making us look shorter and heavier.

  38. Wow, Ask and Ye Shall Receive!
    I asked on one of your earlier posts about several different looks and voila, here are several.
    When the weather is hot and sticky, and pants are just unbearable, do you wear shorts or skirts/skorts?
    Looks like I need to check out the Gap.

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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.