Monday, March 15, 2010

Retirement Day Four: Closet Panic, part one

"Ditch the suits."
That was the instant over-the-phone advice from my daughter-in-law when I called her in a panic over my first outing as a semi-retired person. "You don't want to wear what you wore to work," she said, while also instructing my grandson on how to load (colors only) the washing machine. "That's the whole point. You want to be able to say, 'ha' to those unlucky people still on the job."
"OK, what doooooo I wear," I asked mournfully.
"For sure, no flannel," she said. "Forget the sports gear, the sweat suits. All that says is you're too lazy to think about it....kind of frumpy in an expensive way. How much fleece can people buy, any way," she added with emphasis. "OK," I agreed, I want something more. But what?
Slacks, jackets, Ts, maybe some of my suit jackets with more casual slacks or jeans, she recommended.
I finally pulled together something along those lines out of my closet and raced to the brunch with my 60-something girlfriends...some who had worked full-time, but were now retired.
It was their turn. Did they think there was a "retired-but-still-totally-with-it" look for older women like me (us)? First, they all agreed that leaving a full-time professional office job meant a dramatic change in day-to-day clothing....more jeans, more casual wear. But there is no single retirement look, they said. It depends on what you're retiring to. Is it golf, tennis, part-time work, volunteer or nonprofit board commitments? Here's what they recommended:
- Keep a few favorite suits for sentimental reasons, if nothing else.
- Mix and match suit jackets and skirts as separates with jeans, slacks, T-shirts.
- Wear T-shirts instead of blouses to achieve a more casual look.
- Maybe a  new trendy pants suit with ankle-length slacks is in order.
- Let it evolve. It can't be accomplished all at once, they cautioned.
Returning home, I did a little online surfing at Macy's, Nordstrom and Chico's, hoping to find ideas, inspiration, something to help the queasy feeling in my stomach. What I found was not especially encouraging. Offerings were either too young, too sporty or that dress-for-success office attire that I'm leaving behind. The in-between look didn't turn up until I started clicking on "sale" categories. At Macy's I found Alfani skirts and T's, Ralph Lauren petite jeans and a $39.98 belted black sheath (I know it sounds dressy, but it had a spring/summer look). At Nordstrom I clicked on the "head-to-toe" category and found a couple of pants suits (Hillary here I come), and some great ankle-length jeans. Chico's' "travelers" category offered the most appealing ensembles. In fact "travelers" may be code for "retired."
My friends had offered to go through my closet and help me re-invent a wardrobe. I declined, saying I'd first like to give it a try by myself (not revealing that some of my stuff is awkwardly out of date, if not dingy.)
So here I am on the threshold of a new to bottom, but on a budget.
Everything's going to be OK.


  1. Settling on my own "retirement" wardrobe -- jacket and jeans, natch -- was one of the first decisions I made. But we do have it easier.