Retirement: Building a Dynamic Wardrobe

Retirement: Building a Dynamic Wardrobe

I began retirement in January. I really thought I’d wear pretty much the same thing I wore to work, mostly dresses and jackets. After a few weeks I realized I needed to rethink my wardrobe. Making soup stock while wearing a silk dress sounds so sophisticated. It isn’t funny when, even while wearing an apron, you find grease spots on the dress. What I really needed was my weekend wardrobe expanded.

I don’t know about you, winter dressing seems a lot harder than summer dressing. I wrote a piece on my summer capsule in August (Tiny Wardrobe Magic: 40 outfits from 10 pieces) and thought I had this figured out. Then I found myself doing a lot of buying this fall. Granted, some of that shopping had to do wanting to make some bigger purchases while the money held. Some (maybe a lot) of it had to do with turning 60 in November and contemplating retirement. Most of it was feeling uncomfortable in my clothes.

Retirement Wardrobe sporty and funI have an idea that with our short winters, I could theoretically have (at least) a three-season wardrobe. The office I worked in was always warm so I wore short sleeve tops or dresses under a jacket or cardigan year around.

The first full week at home I thought I was going to freeze. That set off my search in earnest for a new look. I confess I also convinced myself some new long sleeve purchases were really winter ‘underwear’ pieces that didn’t count. Also, that I’d wear them on their own in spring and summer. We’ll see about that. It explains another part of my shopping spree.

My next goal was more about dynamic moving. I don’t want to live in movement restricting jeans.  Now I need to make more of an effort for activity. Curling up with a book is pretty tempting when it is pouring outside. But I’m not a t-shirt and leggings woman. I could have gone with skirts over the leggings but I got rid most I owned. I decided dresses were more versatile than skirts. I’ve settled on a compromise – tunic tops. They look good with skinny jeans, or with a dress or skirt underneath. They are acceptable enough (for me) to wear with leggings so that I don’t feel under dressed for a quick errand or an afternoon walk.

Retirement CapsuleA dynamic wardrobe can also being about acknowledging change. I want to keep pace with who I am now. Recently I read about changing your name, or your clothes, to mark majour life passages. Retirement certainly qualifies. It invites a certain sense of authenticity and keeping pace.

To put these ideas firmly into practice I decided to do a winter capsule retirement challenge. I also wanted to stop myself from more searching and buying. In short, my goal is to to decide on a style and feel more comfortable in my skin.

Retirement WardrobeDoing a 10 x 10 challenge (where you only wear 10 items for 10 days) is a chore but also an effective visual tool. It helps me focus on what I feel good in. I always come out seeing just how much leverage I can get with a small selection that is carefully curated. I didn’t take any great pains on the photographs, which should be evident. Until you try this you don’t realize how much works goes into those gorgeous shots on some blogs. ‘In focus and not too obviously posed’ was my main goal. Publishing the posts on Facebook was mostly to keep me honest and attentive.

I’ve done a few 10×10 ‘challenges’, but I got too caught up with rules on this one. I actually ended up with eight garments and two pairs of boots, but my goal is to have 2 capsules of (roughly) 20 items. Outerwear (shoes, boots, coats, bags, etc., is another 10-15 items. I’ve been following Project 333 for a few years (read about it here and here). The items I chose themselves were not ideal either, but what you learn from doing this is valuable. Here is what I chose and how I wore them. (2 jackets, 4 tops, 2 pants, 2 boots).

building a retirement capsule


retirement capsule wardrobe

Even with two of the items being boots, there are more than 10 outfits here. I won’t claim it is as versatile as my summer wardrobe (of 40 outfits with 10 items) but it is something to work on. There are some pieces here that I love the look and feel of.

1. I love the white jean jacket. It is like a denim jacket but very soft twill, wonderful for layering. It is not too bulky under my outwear, often a trench coat, and makes a change from a blazer.

2. The chambray shirt is similarly very soft and fluid. I felt like it needed to be tailored a bit but I think the jeans I choose were just too low to allow graceful tucking in. I can confirm that after washing it no longer needs to be tailored.

3. The white patterned top is fun to wear and it made a somewhat sedate (*boring?) collection more exciting. And I just discovered that the linen blazer living on the ‘maybe’ pile because so few colours went with it is almost an exact match for the paisley pattern.

What didn’t Work as Well

Both of the bottoms:

  1. a) I should have looked at the long term forecast. Part of this capsule experiment was done on a five day trip away from home and the mild weather changed, dramatically. The knickers with short boots (bare legs) happened outdoors only once! The rest of the time whenever I wore the knickers I also had on bicycle shorts, long socks and long boots! I also wore the long boots with my jeans, wading through snow.
    b) These jeans (which as I wrote about in my daily Facebook posts) need a good rest between wearings. They stretch out with body heat and get baggy in the knees and bum. The reason these are in such great shape after almost 8 years is air drying but I didn’t have the time to do that with nothing other than knickers to wear. I will  plan on at least 2 pair of jeans for winter.
    c) A higher waist pants works better for me if I want to tuck something in. These low rise jeans were a limiting factor.

2. I didn’t include a dress. At the last minute I took it out of my case to keep the 10×10 ‘rules’. A dress or skirt gives me more options. A dress can be worn with just leggings and a short boot. Skinny jeans can create another look. Tops can be layered over or under the dress, depending on the sleeve. I find sleeveless ones are the most versatile.

3. I only wore my black cardigan coat with 2 outfits but there are more possibilities there. It would look great with the denim shirt underneath.

What Makes a Dynamic Retirement Capsule?

Retirement Wardrobe urban bohoSo, what does this have to do with dynamic retirement, you ask?  I don’t want to be age-identified by what I wear. I’ve always loved biker jackets but when I was young I needed to wear long tops to hide my bum. (There was absolutely nothing ‘wrong’ with my derriere, mind you. I just felt exquisitely self conscious if it wasn’t covered.) Now I don’t care about that. It is one part of now or never, and another part not really caring about what someone else might think. I want to feel cool.  If it has taken me to age 60 to be brave enough to be cool, bring it on.

Retirement dressing is a matter of self-esteem. No one can tell you how many items of clothing you need, and what they should be. Dressing well, to your standards, is still important in how you feel about yourself. At the same time, retirement also can mean owning fewer things so it is an opportunity to take stock. There is power in letting go of the visible reminders of a life you don’t lead anymore, and it makes room for the life you have now.

Although I don’t miss the work I did, getting dressed and going to the office everyday had an appeal. Dressing as well as I did when I went to an office everyday is important in retirement, especially in a time of transition. What I wore on the weekend is what I’m wearing now — nice jeans or leggings and a nice top. I don’t want to exist in shabby clothes or exercise wear because I’m at home. Nor do I want to fall into the trap of shopping as something to do. So, while putting together capsules takes a bit of time, I consider it a great investment that frees up my energy to enjoy doing other things.

Building a Retirement Capsule