More Essentials

Great style has little to do with wealth, where you shop, or constantly buying the newest thing. Instead, a mixture of high and low elements that flatter your shape and unique accessories worn with creativity is always a captivating aesthetic. The intangibles add up to the most pleasing appearance. So, today I’ll share a few tips that help me feel like the best version of myself.

After my morning walk today, I received an email from Mr. Mickey letting me know we have a lunch date with one of our dearest couple friends tomorrow. What if we were away for the weekend with only a few basic clothing items and an impromptu lunch invitation arrived? What would I wear? The thought inspired me to create this post for you.

The navy cotton tee and dark wash ankle jeans are comfortable for my early morning walks, but if my options were minimal, I could add a ruana, sandals, pearl accessories, and a basket bag to style them up. A plum lip color here and a bit of eyeshadow add the finishing touch.

If a third layer isn’t appealing, push up the tee’s sleeves and stay true to your style.

Similar TeeJeansSimilar SneakersThe Best No-Show SocksSimilar RuanaSandalsBagWatchPearl LariatPearl EarringsBracelet (Use the code SAS10 for $10 off any one item at Beauty in Stone Jewelry.)

Please keep reading to learn more about the tips and tricks I use to help me look my best.

If you wear jeans, invest the time to find the best style and fit for your body. High-waisted straight leg or a slight flare that ends on the top of the foot will make short legs look longer. Ankle length is cooler in summer. Dark denim is more polished, whereas light denim reads more casual. Avoid anything distressed.

Fit should be a priority. You can spend a ton of money on the dress, but it will never look great if it doesn’t fit you properly. Shapewear is key to helping us look our best no matter what we wear over it. I’ve heard women say, “No one sees my underwear, so who cares?” but the truth is everyone can see the “results” of your underwear. I wrote about all my favorite foundation items here. (Years later, they are still my favorites!)

Define your waist-not your belly. (The smallest part of your torso may be slightly beneath your bust.) Long tops that cling under the tummy and across the hips will bring the focus to those areas. Pants and skirts with gathers, pleats, or pockets add volume around the hips and waist.

Try a pair of heels. Even a chunky one-inch block heel can look polished. However, a pancake-flat shoe is never flattering if you have thick calves and ankles like me. Additionally, I never find completely flat soles comfortable with my high arches.

Accessories are the icing on the cake. A simple tee and jeans suddenly become more compelling when you add a good bag, nude shoes, and a small silk scarf or stunning earrings. If I only had one pair of summer shoes, I would choose an almond-toe pair closest to my skin color. A good-looking watch can elevate the most casual look. Choose where you want the attention. For example, if you wear a chunky cuff bracelet, it will bring attention to your hips.

Always have a fresh manicure and pedicure. If the polish chips, I remove it since no polish is better than chipped. A good haircut and a little attention to our skin and nails (good grooming) are perfect starts no matter our style.

The way we carry ourselves conveys self-confidence. Other benefits of good posture include better digestion, improved mood, back relief, fewer headaches, improved concentration, and better breathing. We also look more slender when we stand or sit tall.

I’m retired now, so I don’t accept gifts, do product reviews, or shop often. As a result, the items I show may be more than a year old, so I share links to similar current items. My referral shopping links never allow an additional cost to you but may generate a small commission for me.

  1. As always, the information you provide is invaluable! Showing this same outfit with different shoes and accessories is so helpful! Thank you Susan, for truly changing how I look by sharing your tips that have taught me how to dress!

  2. I live in these exact jeans and tees- just like you. I thought I couldn’t look as polished when it’s too warm for the outer 3rd piece, but your photo shows it can be done!

  3. I read most of your blog sites. I really like your sense of style as I’m 64 years old I look for clothing styles fitting more for my age group. Long gone are my days of shorts, and braless tank tops. These days it pants, and capris matched with tops becoming of my current figure. I’ve had women ask me where I get my style ideas, and I tell them about your blogs on pintrest. Since my husband died 4 years ago it’s been my own judgment on clothes, my hubby used to give me honest opinions which I had valued. Now I look to ladies like you for ideas. Keep up the great ideas. Thank you Robin Branson.

  4. I love look number two with the ruana and pearls! Such a lovely transformation of the basics!
    Thank you for sending me the link to the young lady from Canada addressing very cold weather layering. She was cute!
    Have a great day sharing time with your friends.

  5. This was very helpful. I always like reading what you have to say because I like your style and you give us heartfelt advice. Something you yourself would do. I do like that you I don’t refer something just because it was sent to you. You actually use the items you advise for us.

  6. Beautiful basics! What size do you take in the tee? I’ve found Talbots tops to run a bit small sometimes.

  7. Love this post! I am definitely style #3. Off topic, I wanted to mention that it’s so nice that you date your posts! Not all bloggers do, and it can be difficult to know how current the fashion is that they are recommending, especially if you click on a post in Pinterest

  8. Great post. You look wonderful. I was wondering …..your pearl lariat…what color is the leather? Thank you.

  9. Hi Susan, I so enjoy your blog and hearing about your adventures with Mr. Mickey. I especially like your less is more approach and emphasis on quality wardrobe items. I’m striving to simplify my wardrobe and always looking for tips and suggestions on how to refine it. I’m 62 and let my hair go silver mid way through 2020, so you blog is so much fun for me. You’ve also inspired me with your journey back to health several years ago. Oh- I love your videos too!

  10. Ahhhhh Susan! You never disappoint! I am trying to find scarves that work for me. I see how cleverly you use and style yours, and the looks always appear so fresh! I struggle finding the best colors for me. I have blonde/gray hair and green eyes. Sometimes my eyes are yellow green and other times they look blue. Browns look awful on me. I like your large blue patterned scarves. I also like a long rectangle shape. Any advice on colors or better scarf choices?

    1. Lavender might be a good color for you. It looks lovely with navy and gray, so it could become your best light neutral. Also, softer, lightweight scarves are wearable for most of the year.

  11. You look wonderful Susan and I love all three looks!! I plan on trying to copy these suggestion for my lifestyle.
    Thank you,

  12. Susan, thank you again for your great styling tips and pictures. I’m 57, 5.5”, 132 lbs, 34D, long torso, short legs, thin arms and ankles. I also have “saddle bags” inherited from my mother’s side. I never wear heels of any height because of foot issues that make totally flat shoes more comfortable. I also can’t wear rounded or pointed toes because of the foot issues. How can I make my legs look longer? I find fitted tops in Ts and button downs look more attractive and make me feel more confident and comfortable (they don’t hang off my breasts like a waterfall ).

    Thank you for your trusted advice and your commitment to helping women of all ages, shapes and sizes.

    1. The same color from waist to toes will help make your legs look longer. Also, one color from head to toe with an accent color such as a scarf, vest, or cardigan is always lengthening and attractive. Finally, wear comfortable shoes but try to match them to the color of your slacks. For example, tan slacks and shoes will make your legs look longer than tan slacks and black shoes.

  13. Susan, what an excellent article! Thank you for including your pictures. They showcased your thoughts. I am currently packing for a cruise and this. has been immensely helpful.
    Thank you ,
    Lana Peterson

  14. Susan, a great post that inspires use of accessories! I starting building my retirement wardrobe and closet based on your tips and posts. Thank you so much!

  15. As always a great post with wonderful info and tips! I am at a women’s conference this weekend with 9000 other women (no joke!) and it has made me sad to see so many women dress like they have given up and just don’t care! You have inspired me so much over the years and I thank you for that!

  16. Susan, your essentials column has been very helpful. Are you considering doing one on essential handbags. I typically use my black leather medium tote bag the most because I love it so much. Since leather handbags are such a costly investment, I am wondering if you may give suggestions as to what handbags are essential and then I can start shopping.

  17. Thank you so much for this post. I am trying to reduce the size of my wardrobe but still look polished and i have learned so much from you ❤️

  18. I always feel a thrill of excitement when I see your email in my box! Reading your blog is such a joy! Always informative! Today’s post is super helpful! and yes, thanks for dates on yourBlog!

  19. Thanks Susan. I really enjoy your essentials articles. Do you have suggestions for ruanas for short women? Hopefully we will travel soon and the combos you showed will really help extend the travel wardrobe.


    1. Proportion is key for petite ladies. A ruana (or any top layer) that visually cuts the frame in half is never pleasing to the eye. Instead, look for garments that elongate 2/3 of the body. This can be the top 2/3 or the bottom 2/3. For example, if you tuck in your shirt and wear long pants, the pants will equal 2/3 on the bottom. On the other hand, if you wear a long duster or ruana over the top 2/3 of your body, you will still achieve a pleasing balance. Remember to treat your shoes as a color extension of your legs/pants.

  20. Hi Susan,
    Your posts are so practical and helpful – learning to work with what we have, and shop “better” to work with what we have! New to your blog and enjoying it! Thanks.

  21. Living in Houston, I find it difficult dressing in the hot, humid weather, most months. I love jackets especially denim jackets. Seems I put on a jacket with sleeveless top, and walk outside, the jacket has “to go”. I tend to wear crop jeggings all spring and summer and slim ankle jeans. Most of my clothes are Talbots. I am very petite, short and 82. Any suggestions how “to put it together”. I wear sneakers and Fly London wedges, due to health issues. These shoes have comfortable rubber wedges.

  22. These outfits look great and thank you for the comment about wearing heels vs flats. So many cute flats available but those with certain calf shapes look so much better in a heel. I’m going to look for a pair of shoes this weekend in the style you are wearing in this article.

  23. Articles like this are why I keep coming back to your site. Thank you for the valuable information and time that you share.

  24. Following on with your scenario of being away on a weekend trip and having a surprise luncheon invitation, I guess I should always pack some sort of dressy 3rd layer. A ruana wouldn’t take up much room. That and something like your lariat necklace and a small bag. But really, it’s the shoes that make it. You have such good ideas! Thank you as always.

  25. Thank you. Small changes sure do change the look of an outfit! I appreciate the work that you do to help women achieve their style goals.

    1. Try looking at yourself in a mirror wearing a chain bracelet and then a bulky cuff. When your arm is by your side, it adds visual weight and draws the eyes to that area.

  26. Thank you, Susan. This is a great and helpful post. I recently bought a ruana to use as a layer plus to use as a swimsuit cover-up.

  27. Great idea to use a ruana to dress up a casual pair of jeans and a tee! I was holding back my ruanas and just wearing them with dressy slacks and sleeveless shells. I tried them with jeans and a tee and they made a very nice casual chic outfit which seems to be what everyone is wearing as we come out of the pandemic. . Thank you for the tip and all the work you put into your blog. I appreciate you. !

  28. Another informative and enjoyable post. I do agree with your opening lines in that style doesn’t have to entail having a large budget for clothes, but being able to buy an outfit that flatters our shape.

  29. thank you Susan for your great advice. I always keep your ideas in my mind when I shop. You always look amazing.

  30. Thank you for this post, Susan! I love all three of your looks. This was very helpful in putting together outfits and to see how small changes can give way different looks. Some mornings I am in such a hurry to get dressed and be on my way that I struggle putting things together to look polished. It’s easier to throw on a top and bottom, shoes and go. I need to find a routine to take the extra time to put together an outfit using all the things you are teaching us.

  31. Susan, I need a light blue denim jacket. Do you think as a senior, a jacket that is unhemmed at the bottom is too young for us? My old jacket is too large. Having a hard time deciding. It is Kut by Kloth. Talbots does not have a light cired. Thanks

  32. Great ideas all! Would you be able to help with packing for an Alaska cruise (10 day)? Between two formal nights, smart casual, and the cold weather excursions, I feel overwhelmed. I’d like to keep luggage to a minimum since most ship rooms are small.

    1. Don’t take any one-hit wonders. Make sure everything goes with something else, can be layered, and dressed up or down as needed. Scarves don’t take up much room, but they can add something special to a simple combo. Have fun!

    1. Straight-leg jeans and pants with regular hip-length tops are more flattering for most of us. I only wear leggings when I am exercising and I don’t wear tunics at all anymore.

  33. I am new to your blog and appreciate your insight. I’m not retired, but I have more of a classic style. I’m in education and the look has gotten so casual at schools I’m not sure if staff are working or cleaning! Some days can be messy as a teacher, but looking polished is always the goal for me. I’ll enjoy reading your blog/newsletter in the future.

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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.