What (Else) Retired Women Wear, Part 2: The Transition
One of my most-read posts—and still read—was published in late November, 2012: "What (Else) Retired Women Wear". I've learned a few things since then, as more friends join that cohort.
What I didn't foresee over a decade ago: the work-from-home revolution narrowed the gap between leisure and career dressing, led by women in bunny slippers and pyjama bottoms. That wild freedom seems to have faded now, because they sense there is a psychological benefit to wearing real clothing.
With retirement in sight
Today's windows hold ideas for those still working (in a business-casual setting) but planning retirement. You don't want to spend money on clothes you are unlikely to wear in a year or two!
The 'soft trouser' is a more refined style than the shapeless sweatpant. Spend enough to get a well-made pair or two, such as the Tailored Ponte Pant by Encircled, available in regular or ankle length. They also appeal to women who find jeans too constricting.
Notice the closeup of the pocket and the front seam, and the neat waistband sans drawstring. The leg is finished with a small slit. Sizes to XXL, fabric is washable viscose/spandex; price, $CDN 178. Designed and made in Canada.
I'd also pick a dress for its psychological lift; we say "dressed up", not "trousered up".
Apparently I'm not the only one who noticed this merino peplum-detail dress at Poetry; it is s/o now, but I'm showing it as an example because it's neither boxy-baggy nor shapewear-demanding tight.
From fall through spring, my friend Gisele, who in her years in a global accounting firm wore bespoke suits, layers knee-length dresses over warm tights or slim, knit trousers like the Ponte Pant. ("Knee length" is fashion-speak for mid-thigh.)
She says the snuggly fleece or "sweatshirt" dress is a star piece:
Left: Athleta's Coaster Lux dress has zip pockets and is made in sizes XXS to 3X; Price, $CDN 105.
Right: I've long praised Veronique Miljkovitch, now based in Lunenberg, N.S. Her Billy dress (now on sale; $CDN 195), made of single-loop terry, is an elevated version.
Marina, an artist, has no plans to retire, but made a transition when she moved from city to country. She spends many days in paint-covered jeans and tees, but also needs clothes for her meetings and openings. Her colours are saturated greens, plum, and a burnt orange that glows against her olive skin tone.
This two-piece outfit from Muriel Dombret, which she tried on when we dropped by the Ottawa boutique, reflects what Muriel told me: her designs have shifted significantly from the jackets she once designed to this softer, looser approach. "This is what my clients want to wear now", she said.
When you add a base layer, you can wear heavyweight linen into winter. (That's Marina's own green tee.) She was captivated, but asked herself, "What do I need?" She left it behind, choosing a winter coat instead, but knows Muriel makes these pieces seasonally.
A coat for changing conditions
A mitten clap to a favourite family brand, Anían, whose woolens are washable. Maintenance is not how you want to spend your free time.
I have admired their Loft "Florenzia" coat on women from students to elders; it is also made in solids.
If you prefer a full-length style, I'd choose one like this graceful alpaca, mohair and wool coat from Poetry, though it does require drycleaning. I hope you can see the ethereal colour mix in what at first glance looks greige:
Friends mention that after a few years of adjustment, their relationship to colour has changed. Initially, after decades of neutrals, they pranced into their new wardrobe-lives and bought red tartan trousers or a bright, oversized-print skirt.
They're over it. They found that a highly-charged pattern tired their eye, or they felt not themselves. They did not return to their professional palettes, but have shifted to more nuanced hues.
They are also toning them down by adding a neutral with some depth and personality. This is the new piece that Lou chose, the Uniqlo cord jacket, which she wears over her electric blue crewneck or green, gold and turquoise print shirt.
Marina said that, if seized by a desire for a vivid print, she visits her local consignments where there are always other women's "I can't wear that again" clothes for sale.
What did they do with their career clothes?
Unless you spent your days in a uniform, chances are you'll have things to divest.
If the outfit is all business, they donate to an organization that addresses the needs of women entering the workforce, such as Dress for Success. Then there are the charity thrifts, and faith-community jumble sales. We all know some charities are better than others in terms of how they do business.
I don't recommend holding a garage or sidewalk sale because most shoppers are not looking for business clothes there (but board games and old sound systems fly off the table.) Then there's the man who wanted to trade a rutabaga for my high heels.
Several friends have found other routes.
Harriet was a municipal elected official with a chic, professional wardrobe; she now lives in the country, in leggings and cozy sweaters. She let her still-serving colleagues know that she had a bundle of good business clothes, for the taking. (Women in office cannot default, as their male counterparts do, to the same classic dark suit for every event.)
Joanne, a retired retail manager, had a designer blazer that looked current but conservative. Her niece, Bevan, has begun to work in an accounting firm and needed jackets. A dressmaker friend replaced the navy lining with a landscape print (shown, similar style by Jean-Paul Gaultier) and altered it slightly; now the jacket is completely cool.
Another solution is the straightforward giveaway, without an intermediary: leave wearable items at the curb, with a sign inviting passers-by to help themselves, or post on a site like Freecycle, Trashnothing.com and the Free Stuff section of Facebook Marketplace.
Whether one retires or continues to work, at this point we look at possessions differently. The last word goes to Mom, who said, "I couldn't wait to get this stuff, now I can't wait to get rid of it."
Time to take a short break; the Passage reopens on January 2, 2024.
You found your way here; I met you, and that's been a boon. The Passage is deliberately a little retro, as far as the Internet goes. As Neil Gaiman says, “I miss the days of just sort of feeling like you could create a community by talking in a sane and cheerful way to the world.” We strive for that here.