Retirement: Under-construction dressing

Betsy, whom I met last week for lunch, told me that her newly-retired spouse, Terri, rises, and, still in her pajamas, fires up her Kindle for hours of reading or  watches sports. She occasionally stirs for a short jog.   

Terri's extreme-leisure mode reminded me of the day we gave our twin sons their 'real' beds, and said goodbye to cribs. That night, and for five or six after, the thump of running, bed-jumping and general, well, bedlam was almost intolerable. But it passed; they settled into new big boy lives.

And I think that's Terri's situation, too: without the relentless pace of work (she was in public service), she is tripped out on leisure. "I'm calling it a phase", I said. 

The luster of indolence will fade, and you then have new work: figuring out how to spend your energies and hours. And ultimately, you have to get out of your pajamas.

Terri wore a navy blue uniform for her career. Since retirement she's been raiding Betsy's closet, one benefit of same-sex unions, but Betsy is so eager to get her things back she wanted to pay for express shipping. Terri's style is "a little preppy but not stuffy, and overall low-maintenance", in Betsy's words. Her palette is based on blue, purples and the wine reds– what I call "stained-glass colours".

Terri asked us to choose a few things for her, with a $400 budget; she is "too busy to shop"! (Really!)

Betsy and I met for lunch, hit her iPad, and chose these pieces.

1. A soft jacket

Terri lives in jeans and needs something to 'dress' them. I picked this Land's End jersey blazer: the stripes, like a marinière's, are narrow and balanced, it's washable jersey (let's have more washable jackets, designers!) and the price is $80, but we got it for 40% off, that's $48. It works inside in winter and as a light outer jacket in spring.

2. A good sweater with a versatile neckline

We also ordered this Garnet Hill easy modern cashmere sweater, on sale now for about $100, in a clear violet that is not too harsh. (It's washable too.) This is Terri's favourite colour. 

3. Jeans: One pair in colour, one in blue

Betsy joked that Terri's favourite boutique is Mark's Work Wearhouse (now rebranded as Mark's), so thinking we could have a laugh, we logged on and I ate my words, along with my tuna salad. These Barely Bootcut jeans jeans have the Curve-Tech stretch feature of high-end pairs that cost three or four times as much and were on sale for... $37 a pair. Terri's getting syrah (shown) for fun and India ink.

Betsy chose another Land's End top, a wool/ponté button funnelneck, which she thought would be warm and snuggly. (I'm intrigued by the fabric, 62% cotton/19% nylon/16% wool/3% spandex. It's washable too, on delicate cycle.)

This was full price, $60. I offered to change the buttons (IME a Land's End weak point) to some vintage brass I've collected. We'll see what Terri thinks.

 4. Activity-friendly sportswear

Gah! She oinked up the budget there and I was determined to find something outdoorsy. Betsy and Terri have a place in the country, so I thought a snazzy activewear piece might lure her from the screen. 

We found a lavender SmartWool microlight wool top on sale at REI (limited sizes, but the Medium we needed) and jumped. SmartWool is the best thing since the underwire: non-pilling, comfortable and washable. It is not too rugged to go under the blazer; navy and lavender are an unexpected but harmonious combination. Sale price, $35.

Yes! We spent about $320 not counting shipping or tax and duty, which will be Betsy's treat, as was lunch.

Any woman needs carefree, reasonably-priced pieces for a "life under construction", but the newly-retired are especially price-conscious. As I said to Betsy, there will likely be more good sales/free shipping offers around US Thanksgiving, so she may check those to add a parka to the selection, as her Christmas gift.


frugalscholar said…
This is a wonderful selection of basics--with some flair. I appreciate that you show reasonably priced pieces that are within the reach of the many.
Darla said…
Great selections, I'm particularly taken with the sweaters.

LPC said…
As I was retired for a while, and struggled at first to figure out what to wear, I can say from experience that you hit this dead one. Wonderful work! A stretchy jacket is the key to never dressing like you don't want to leave the house.
materfamilias said…
Such pretty colours in a comfortable and practical mix that nonetheless looks smart enough for getting out of the armchair!
Jane W. said…
Great choices--this could also be a wardrobe for a SAHM.
Well thought out and great bargains too...
I 'd be hard pressed to buy a new transitional wardrobe for $320.
rb said…
How nice that youn found all of these pieces in non-black (assuming the turtleneck is navy - my screen is not great.)

Terri and Betsy are lucky to have you as a friend.
Kristien62 said…
You have put together a workable and smart collection that Terri will be sure to enjoy. And you are so right in saying that the newly retired are cost conscious. Until you adjust, you are very careful of cost. Unfortunately for me, that led to purchasing inexpensive, but poorly constructed clothing that I am actually donating only a year after buying. Your blog and others have helped train me to buy less and buy quality. It has served me well.
Anonymous said…
What a fun task, and with such excellent results! I must admit to finding it easier and more enjoyable to find new clothes for others than for myself. And that reminds me: you mentioned being on the lookout for a yummy pea coat. As you perused the Lands End catalog for your friend, were you at all tempted by their version? The price is remarkable, the insulated version would stand up to Montreal temps, and the colors are interesting (could imagine the Vicuna or Palmetto on you.) I don't know how the mix of wool, nylon and recycled cashmere would wear, but it looks nice in the photos.

diverchic said…
I'm glad to see you discovered Mark's. Next, Costco clothes. With a sense of style, you can dress beautifully and cheaply, viz, that terrific jacket you found.

You are such a good friend.
Duchesse said…
frugal: Yes, it's easier if there is a big budget, but not many of us have that, and we think the quality of these pieces will be very good. If not, all are returnable for full refund which is more than I can say for most boutiques.

see you: I did feel challenged and hope Terri is happy.

LPC.: You went back to work; Terri will not, so we did not have to think of that dual use. But the jacket could go to work, too.

materfamilias: T. is a dirty blode; I had to shift my own coliur preferences.

Jane W. Yes, thanks. All the SAHMS I know are now retired out of that job, too!

hostess: Well, we did not have to buy shoes but since I know T. does not read this: she might be getting some for Christmas.

rb: Navy it is; she is not a black-wearing girl.

kristien62: I'm extremely cost conscious now that I'm not bringing in much income, which is probably why Betsy asked me to help. Put that together with a small condo- not much storage- and this is life now! I agree about the quality, too.

C.: I was *super* tempted by that pea coat- and at 40% off! But I have a limit on coats I can store in the condo and am at the limit. Liked the vicuna and the garnet, but would choose the former as tire of colour- am best leaving it to a scarf or sweater.

diverchic: Costco is not for me- do not wish to support their HR practices with my dollars. Used to stop in to the Mark's on the Lakeshore when I lived in Toronto but never found anything, but son loves their jeans and outerwear. Looks like they have improved their womens' line.

william said…
Duchesse, you are a great friend and you made such great choices. I can't believe you put all that together for so little.

Wendy said…
Loved this post! Thanks.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous 2:33 I have 3 Lands End Pea coats, 2 uninsulated, 1 insulated, they are very attractive coats, warm, don't look cheap in the least and I would recommend them. You can get them on sale as well like they have 40% off one item days.

Duchesse not sure about your comments about Costco HR practices, they are the employer of choice for many, they are not ageist and the pay is much better than the norm. Most retail workers would take a job at Costco over pretty much any other place.
Duchesse said…
Anon@ 8:51: Thanks for the endorsement, unfortunately the full colour range is not available in the insulated models, which I'd prefer. I have colleagues who worked at Costco (in Canada)- that's the basis of my assessment and choice.
Mark's is called l'Équipeur in Québec. Their closest outlet to our neighbourhood is le Marché Central. While their clothing has always been sturdy, I always hated their colour choice in women's clothing (they are above all specialized in men's workwear and sporty-casual garments). Too many smarmy pastels. These choices look like a big improvement.

I really enjoyed this post because it was not just about shopping and wardrobe choices, but tied in with your more serious current subject, about avoiding "traps". A neighbour of mine, who is about your age, perhaps a year or two older, has been acting very "old" indeed since her retirement, always wearing a nightgown and dressing gown for much of the day. There were some health issues earlier (heart) but these seem to be resolved, but it is sad to see someone get into that kind of rut.

I know an editor who works at home and often works in her pyjamas. I'm no fashion plate at home but could never think of doing that as I'd just drink coffee and read. This can really be a trap (or minefield) for those of us who most often work at home.

The knit jacket would be a great choice for casual work wardrobes as well. Navy and white aren't my colours; perhaps they will come up with some variations if that is a hit. That would travel very well and take up little luggage space.
Anonymous said…
Fun! Shopping with other people's money is the best and that looks like a really wearable selection.

Duchesse said…
lagatta: Can't imagine not getting dressed. Betsy is displeased with Terri's pj habit- so no robe in the shopping mix.

Eleanorjane: Busted! I adore shopping for others, especially friends who have given up finding anything that fits, or who have a budget- a little challenge thrills me. of course shopping for pearls beats everything.
barbara said…
Retirement can be a hard new start.
But even in the darkest hours during this time of transition, also depending on health issues, I never have been tempted to spend day time in pjs.
I need my morning bathroom ritual and put on real clothes to enjoy my café au lait.
Always followed a structured day.
Duchesse, I love so much your phrase "Any woman needs carefree, reasonably-priced pieces".
Now, most of my "Designer pieces" are sold and I'm working on this topic.
Just spent this money for two Bompard Cashmere Sweaters.

Your Essays are worth to make a book out of it.

Duchesse said…
barbara: Thanks! BTW, if you are on the mailing list, Bompard have good occasional promotions throughout the year and post-Christmas sales. (Though occasionally my choice is sold out.)

Like you, few designer pieces made the transition and I don't miss them.
barbara said…
Yes, I am on their mailing list.
I was so longing for their Kilimandjaro Cashmere T, but it was sold out.
Maybe the Birds this Year...
barbara said…
Sweaters arrived today!
One of them is the Fitted V in silk-cashmere which I had to choose because of the color (bourgogne). Love the fit and also the little slit at the end of the sleeve. Very charming, very french.
Duchesse said…
barbara: Great choice! That model is one of my regular orders, love how it is just that much more polished than the sportier classic v. The silk-cashmere blend is just the right weight, too- not too warm indoors.

I also have ordered the matching voile de cashmere scarf- makes a nice ensemble.
Mardel said…
What a wonderful transitional wardrobe you found! comfortable, practical, and reasonable; I think for the newly at home it seems like an impossible choice! What a boon to have a friend willing to help take on the challenge.

The posts with the most