What to wear when you retire?
Thanks to Lisa of Privilege, Deja Pseu of Une femme d'un certain age and materfamilas of materfamilias writes for their insightful posts about identity, and in some posts, the intersection of wardrobe choice and identity.
One of Pseu's commenters, Carolyn from Oregon, wrote:
"... Though not a fashionista, in my work years I made the effort to put a look together, and focused my efforts and dollars on my work wardrobe, dressing very practically and casually off the job. That off the job wardrobe now leaves me feeling a bit dowdy and frumpy. I need a style for more casual, home-based living."
I too am mostly-retired, free from the requisites of a work wardrobe. Over the past two years, friends and I have discovered several principles.
1. Get 'dressed'
The French word sortable does not exactly translate, but it means, roughly, that you are dressed to go out, not dressed up, but dressed. You can spend all day in sweats and an old t-shirt, but unless you're gardening, your attire will not add to your sense of vitality.
"Why spend the money? I'm only wearing this around the house" is the first stop on the road to Frumpville. You know that saying "Work like you don't need the money, love like your heart has never been broken, dance like no one is watching?" Add "Dress like your house is somewhere special."
If you have justified good clothes because they were for work, and now you're not sure you "deserve" them, make yourself a nice restorative margarita and sip slowly till your attitude turns round.
|Ooh la la!|
If you retired with a plump pension or simply have the dosh, I'd spring for this Queen of Cashmere long cardi with your monogram on the shoulder.
2. You get to break the rules if you want
|Yes, you can!|
|There's a place for this|
3. The role changes, yet vestiges remain
Retired is you minus the symbolic attire. Donate the role-signifiers you had to wear, like the offend-no-one business suits I call Corporate Drag or "happy shiny teacher" sweaters (a term coined by Linda, a kindergarten teacher).
|Relaxed yet stylish|
Corollary: You are going to run into people who remember you in your old role. You no longer have to dress for that role, but you don't want to look like you don't care anymore, either. Attend to your grooming as if you were promoted, not retired. You finally have time to pumice your heels or use cuticle cream daily.
4. You need fewer clothes, but they need to be versatile and (mostly) washable.
The workplace is a thinly-veiled fashion show, especially if you work with a lot of women. Now, if you want to wear your favourite skirt four days in a row, you can. Since you are not earning money, drycleaning is going to seem like a big expense, so search for washable but sharp pieces that reach the 'smart casual' level.
|On and off the slope|
Bogner's Ganna shirt, shown, the kind of chic sporty that's not "gym".
|Washable cotton skirt|
|Barbour striped jacket|
If you'd like to see more ideas, Lisa at Privilege has a terrific post showing some cool Polyvores. It's titled "9 Ways Not to Look Like a Slob Even If You Don't Dress for the Office These Days".
5. Keep wearing what you love and adapt it
|Julia's cotton pant suit|
Julie wears mostly pant suits, same as when she was a sales manager, with fine cotton tees. (Shown, Talbot's cross-dyed chambray pantsuit.) She shortened the hems for flats, forsaking heels for good.
|Mar's Thai silver belt|
She got a new hairstyle and colour that did not depend on costly high-and-lowlights and dumped the briefcase, but has kept 75% of her working wardrobe.
|Barb's tweed hacking jacket|
|Liz' sailor shirt|
I've seen varied responses to retirement among my cohort, from delight to dread. When you retire, whatever your mood, you still have the task of determining what face you want to present to the world.
You will feel best if that face is content, and wearing what pleases you enhances that contentment.