Eliminated From My Closet

“Are there any looks you wore in your fifties that you would not wear now?” I enjoy getting good questions from readers because they encourage me to narrow my focus and discuss something a bit more.

Running two businesses and having a constant flurry of activities and social engagements means I need to make decisions quickly and go with them. I never have more than an hour from the shower to out the door, which means my closet needs to be in top-notch order and include only the items I can wear comfortably. Let’s talk about the word “comfortable” for a moment. When I was younger, with firm, toned, smooth legs, I wore mid-thigh length khaki skirts and even shorts with flat sandals in summer. I wore dresses that showed the shape of my body. I do not own any of these items now. Shorts might be a little cooler than ankle pants, but not by that much. I am more comfortable not showing my legs at all now.

We often attend events where a cocktail dress or evening pants set would be appropriate. It might be ninety degrees, but that does not mean I would be comfortable in a plunging cocktail dress with a slit halfway up my thigh. Comfort has much more to do with how a garment makes me feel about myself than how it feels on my body.

When I show you what I wore and mention where we were going, I hope you can get an idea of what might work for you at a similar event and weather. I often wear classic pieces that can be purchased at every price point. My summer evening looks typically include pants that skim my body in a lightweight fabric that moves with me and falls smoothly.

I have enjoyed wearing my high heels collection for many years, but now I am more comfortable in lower heels so that you will see fewer stilettos on my feet in the future. (I will share some of my new lower-heeled shoe purchases with you soon!) The shoes I am wearing here are by Bar III from Macy’s last year.

The IC Collection Jacket in Fuchsia is from ShopMyFairLady.com. So that I might unbutton the jacket while I am seated, I wore a black Microfiber Contemporary Tank from Chico’s. I buy a size larger tank top than I usually wear in other styles of tops. It will not matter that the armholes are too big because I would never remove my jacket.

This evening we were on our way out to dinner at Gourmet & Company and then to the final performance of the season for the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra.

Later this week, I will show you a few casual looks and explain why I have eliminated additional items from my wardrobe.

  1. Please tell me why you may never wear leggings again. I’m thinking the same but being petite I’m having trouble finding black pants that are just right.

    1. I suggest getting pants hemmed if they fit you everywhere else and be sure to check out Chico’s. They are starting to carry a lot more Petites. Now that I am wearing flats, pants are almost always too long for me. The shape and texture of my legs are changing, so I do not like seeing the lumps and bumps through leggings or any lighter weight pants that are too slim fitting.

  2. Although my legs and calves are heavy, I haven’t given up my shorts just yet. I know that is coming in the probably near future.

  3. My closet is full of different sizes, too snug and bad choices, it’s overwhelming and sometimes downright depressing. I’ve heard if you haven’t worn it within the last year, it’s time for it to go. What’s your opinion?

    1. I often purge clothing from my closet that serves no purpose or does not make me happy when I wear it. When you take out all the items you never wear, you will see that what remains is your style. Don’t buy anything more that doesn’t work well with those pieces. Your wardrobe should serve you well, not make you feel overwhelmed.

  4. My closet is full of too snug and bad choices and I don’t like to wear, it’s overwhelming and depressing at times. I’ve heard if you haven’t worn it within the past year it’s time to move it out. What’s your opinion?

  5. I enjoy your blog so much, Susan. You are going through the process I did 6 years ago at age 60. At that time there was very little in the blogosphere that addressed the needs of “women of a certain age”. Tish Jett was the only one then. There are a few more now.

    And, as you said, it is a process as we age. I’m 6 years older than you, and going through it again. However, a classic style, such as you show, is relatively timeless and should be lasting. I must add you gave me the courage to grow my grey hair again.

    I like the “swing” jackets you show. Although I was your height, I am now shorter due to a car accident in my 20’s and resulting spinal curvature. Clothes that skim the body are best for me.

    Thank you for showing a whole generation of women that they can still be “visible” and classy as they age.

  6. This post is perfect for encouraging us to keep only what is flattering and makes us happy. I think I still have too many “this will do” pieces in my closet. I love that you mention classics can be purchased at any price point. Looking forward to further posts on updating your wardrobe.

  7. Your comment about buying tanks a size larger was an “ah haw” moment for me. I NEVER go sleeveless, even at home, and wearing a larger tank under my jackets makes terrific sense for total comfort.

  8. Always enjoy your missives. You look pretty in everything… thinking about what I have eliminated… more on that later…

  9. I have heard some women say that that have not experienced any weight or shape changes in midlife, but they must be in the minority.

    For the rest of us, these changes in our body shape and size can play games with our self-esteem. I think it’s important to remember that the clothes are the problem, not our bodies. If the clothes are no longer working for us by making us look our best, they should be fired from our closets. That shift in attitude works for me.

  10. What a great post! I sometimes feel I would like to start completely over with my wardrobe but the thought is too scary! However, I do ask myself basic questions now when shopping for clothes. Will you or have you ever written any posts about clothing fabrics and how to care for them. For example, I recently bought a top with a combination of rayon and nylon. The instructions I followed carefully was to wash in cold water on delicate cycle and air dry. Even though I did all of this, the garment shrank and now too tight in the arms. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you for your very timely blogs; all are so informative.

    1. I look for natural fabrics or care labels that say machine wash. I never have good luck with anything containing nylon, but rayon and some of the new polyesters launder very nicely.

  11. Just read your previous post that mentioned you having lived in Norfolk. I didn’t recall seeing that before. We’re about an hour from Norfolk in Smithfield.

  12. I love this post! Instead of clinging to looks (ha! pun accidentally intended) that no longer flatter or give us confidence we would all do well to emulate you Susan and move on to keeping only what makes look our best. Thank you!

  13. Leaning away from items that show much skin,too fussy,tops w/ short sleeves or that stop at waist, very close fitted items, very structured clothing with heavy seams or no stretch; I’m finding I just don’t like the way I look & physically feel in these. That’s a good bit of my older clothing from my 50s. My ideal items would be a softer stretch with some structure and super easy care..as in machine wash & dry in 5 to 15 minutes w/ no ironing needed. Living in a climate with 6 months of higher temps..so its very challenging these days. Appreciate your blog & cute jacket!

  14. Hi Susan,
    I am still thinking about how great your hair always looks. I have similar volumne, length and texture hair. If it is not too personal, would you mind filming for us the steps you take to style your hair and the type of products and tools you use, please? I can’t tolerate fragrance and am limited in styling products. Thank you.

    1. My hair has natural curl during high humidity, so I don’t do more to it than wash it, comb it out, let it air dry and then use the blow dryer to smooth out the front and lift the crown area a little. I do not like to use products at all. I threw away a can of hair spray last week, which I am fairly certain I have had for about four years. My hair looks best when I let it follow its natural tendencies.

  15. I smiled when I read the title of your blog today. While keeping in mind everything I have learned from you in the past few months, I “attacked” my wardrobe yesterday and eliminated about half of it! Long matronly skirts, frumpy outfits, baggy pants, print tops, “old lady” shoes all went out. My husband remained a good safe few yards away… I only kept comfortable, attractive, colour-coordinated pieces. Thank you, Susan!!!! You’re an inspiration!

  16. Excellent post – Thank you! Great guidance as we transition into a new era of fashion for those over 60!

  17. Although I had done a complete overhaul of my wardrobe only a few months ago I find myself continually assessing the remaining contents. I have become quite brutal even though some items were ridiculously expensive. From this I have also learned to look more closely at the price I am paying. If it’s pricey and I don’t truly love it and believe it will be a keeper then I walk away.

  18. Susan, I’d just like to say I am identical to you in dress! My weak area is my arms, so sad to hate summer for this reason. Ugh! I will show legs as that is my asset. However I would probably trade my legs for a nice slim set of arms. Haha. So happy to see you are giving up your super high heels, styles are so cute now and trendy lower heels are in. Many cute/sexy styles for sure. You will look great in whatever you choose. Thanks for sharing. been a follower for years now

  19. I retired at age 60 five years ago from a position that required a professional and stylish wardrobe. At the risk of sounding shallow, I absolutely loved that aspect of my rewarding career. I’m finally weeding out many of my pricier suits and separates because I just don’t have the opportunity to get that dressed up anymore. I’ve felt guilty about “firing” these obsolete pieces. Most aren’t even suitable for consignment anymore. Your post reinforces my confidence to let them go. I’m at a different stage of life and so is my body. I, too, rarely wear skirts and certainly nothing sleeveless! Thanks Susan for continuing to inspire us to look our best with flattering new choices.

  20. Hi Susan.
    I’m new to your Blog but have saved many of your photos in my “Looks I Like” folder on Pinterest.
    I was interested to read today that you’re giving up your high heels. I have arthritic knees and haven’t been able to wear anything but flats for quite some time. It makes it more difficult to feel ‘polished’ I find. I’m going to be watching for you in your low-heel outfits – hoping for more inspiration.
    You are a great role-model! Thanks!

  21. Excellent post Susan! I made a deal with my best friend many years ago that we would be brutally honest if we saw the other wearing something that was either not flattering or not appropriate (this includes make-up). Happy to say, we’ve only caught each other once LOL.

  22. I am with you on the stilettos, although I truly LOVE, LOVE, them. I am dragging myself into my 60’s because I do not want to give up my heels. I look forward to seeing your new shoes, as I have enjoyed all of the shoes you have worn in previous posts. I also look forward to getting ideas about how to tone down my shoes and still look stylish. Thank you!

  23. Any chance you can return to facebooK? I miss you. Don’t like searching for blogs. Thanks

  24. I certainly agree with you! I have many gorgeous garments that when I put them on, I constantly tug and pull at them, and feel self conscious of the fit. I don’t wear them and have donated many and will donate the rest very shortly. I haven’t worn a silk or good wool suit in years so out they go. I have changed. I still want to look elegant and well dressed, but I now rely on my basics with good jewelry. Even my jewelry taste has changed and for the first time in my life, I’m attracted to long substantial necklaces. I used to wear heels, and like them, but when I wear them, I feel tottery and unstable. Our lifestyle is far more casual now so I can get away with ditching the heels. I now prefer a pretty flat with an excellent arch support. I’d love to find comfortable shoes with a 1 inch heel, wedge, not kitten heels, which I dislike. I am almost 69, retired, married and used to be very stylish, and still care, but with body changes and all, my look has changed. At this point, if I’m not comfortable feeling, I don’t care how wonderful the garment is. I have learned that its hard to be glamorous if your feet hurt, or you feel pinched or squeezed, think you look bulging in place (because you do), or are constantly pulling at a garment to adjust it. I’d like to see more “at home wear” since I adore a pretty but loose caftan at night and in the morning, cotton, long, and with sleeves that cover at least my elbows. We live on a lake in rural Indiana and our friends are also casual, but there is some lake society to dress for, patios, cook outs, dinner on the deck etc, but definitely not blue jeans and tee shirts. If you have more casual suggestions that fit between summer clothes suitable for a club, and the bluejeans and tee shirt concept, I’d appreciate that. I don’t like the way I look in swimwear but I swim daily, so suggestions on how to manage concealing flabby arms, a thick middle and some cellulite on thighs, in a swim suit, but still being able to actually swim in one of them, are appreciated. I mostly wear Eileen Fisher and J Jill, with some other similar lines. Thank you. I appreciate your column. Btw, someone occasionally dings you for your lifestyle or implies you have had it easy. Please, they simply don’t understand the ups and downs of life. I’ve been there, divorced at 30, and then happily remarried with end of being widowed with children to put through college, and now happily remarried to a man who also lost his spouse (cancer, both of ours). Just because you manage to appear well put together, does not mean life has always been easy. You are a good role model for women, in your honesty, style, hints on dressing well within the budget life has given you, and attitude. Keep it up.

  25. I recently discovered your site and I love it I will definitely be taking many of your suggestions. Thanks

  26. Actually, I have looked at a number of your older postings when you were Fifty Not Frumpy, and I see a lot of change. While you were certainly not frumpy in your fifties, you are really more chic now. I think you have continued to evolve and develop your style. You are blazing the trail for all of us who are trying to age stylishly.

  27. Your style and mine are similar, even though I am 10 yrs older than you. I still look pretty young.and feel great. Love beautiful style.love your style.

  28. I would love to know what you would wear to a summer wedding. I too do not want to show my arms, etc. however, I want to look and feel special. HELP

    1. I would wear a sparkly cami with flowing palazzo pants and a similar color flowing cardigan and jeweled sandals. The time of day, venue and location will also determine what would be appropriate to wear.

  29. Having a fairly flexible set of fashion rules works for me, some of which chime with yours. If you suffer, as I do, from ‘The English Disease’. Ie chunky legs, skinny pants are a definite taboo, also leggings, the biggest joke played on women kind by the fashion industry in quite a while.
    Comfy, not frumpy is a good maxim to live by.
    Keep it simple. Just because we own it and like it, doesn’t mean we have to wear it all at once. There used to be a very useful piece of advice, given to young aspiring fashionistas. It went as follows, ‘When dressing for any occasion, get ready then, stand in front of a full length mirror and take a good, long hard look at yourself. After which, remove half your jewellery and quite a bit of your makeup. Then, you are really ready.’
    Of course, style and fashion are very different entities and, not to be confused. When you find your style, you’re set. Go girl!!
    Jacki ( definitely after seventy)

  30. I enjoy your thoughts and comments about why and what you wear….since I am over 60 so many of your thoughts mirror mine and it feels good to have someone else share similar feelings. My wardrobe has changed along with my body over the years….I prefer classic styles and they always look good. Thanks for sharing your ideas…always inspiring.

  31. Susan, I can identify with your busy lifestyle as we live 35 minutes from Charleston, SC and we are as busy as two 70’s people can be. I think you look lovely in your pink jacket and black pants. Personally, I have recently made many changes in what clothes I am buying and ones I am not buying anymore.
    During my career, I have always had to dress nicely, so it is no different now that I am 75, but my casual clothes are not frumpy with small printed shirts.
    Some things I am ordering online, if we have that store locally, but nothing is more fun to me than a Monday shopping for clothes trip. while my husband plays golf with the guys! I love shoes that flatter an outfit but am sticking to short heels and flats. Even in Charleston, we wear boots for awhile, so I invested in a pair of black patent short heel ankle boots, instead of leather ones this year. I will continue to check your ideas and pay attention to what works well in this Southern Hemisphere!

  32. You look beautiful, so put together
    Wish I had someone to help me look elegant on a budget
    Mary T. Tully

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

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.