It’s the first day of your retirement, you look in your wardrobe and wonder what you are going to wear. This was my experience as I looked at a wardrobe full of corporate wear – suits and business style outfits. In a sense I had dressed ‘in uniform’ 5 days a week for a very long time. I had followed the rules and been a good corporate girl. I needed to transition my wardrobe.

Casual items meet most of my daily requirements
Casual items meet most of my daily requirements

In the process I developed some strategies that I hope might help you. My first tip is one to employ before you retire. If you tend to buy suits to wear to work – stop! Suits are the hardest things to take into a post corporate life. A lot of mine ended up with the excellent charity Fitted for Work. Of course the alternative would have been to sell them on eBay or via other means. If only I had been buying dresses instead, I would have kept a lot more of my wardrobe. Kick off the high heels, drop the jacket and you most likely have a dress that can take you lots of places – out to lunch or dinner or to the movies….

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first step is to think about how you expect your lifestyle to be, will it be focussed on travel, gardening, golf, music, coffee meet ups etc. What mix of activities will your average day include and what will your social life look like?

For me travel became (and continues to be) the determining factor for my wardrobe. Because we travel domestically and overseas as we can afford, my clothes need to be easy care and to form a flexible ‘capsule. What requirements does your wardrobe need to meet?

Cool and comfortable by the pool
Cool and comfortable by the pool

Take a hard look at what is in your wardrobe and determine what can have a new life. Can that suit jacket be worn over a tee shirt with a pair of jeans? Try things on and see where the more corporate items can be ‘dressed down’, by mixing them with more casual items. Can an item be altered by a tailor to give it new life?

Decide what to do with the items that no longer suit and move them on. Then do a ‘gap analysis’ and create a list of items you need to add. Start with the basics – neutrals in a tight colour palette are a great start. It sounds limiting, but it is actually liberating when suddenly everything goes together. No more looking into a cupboard full of clothes but having nothing to wear.

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Neutral tones to mix and match

Stay up to date with current fashion through Instagram, blogs etc. But don’t be a slave to current trends; know what suits your personal style and stick to that. Pick up a season’s colour or trend in an inexpensive item like a scarf; you can lift a wardrobe so easily without major expense. Try something new from time to time. And please, don’t get old before your time.

Jeans and tee with beads to finish off the look
Jeans and tee with beads to finish off the look

Buy the best you can afford, quality purchases will repay you every time, particularly when buying your neutral basics. I have two pairs of white linen trousers that I have owned for over 10 years. I have worn them every season and they are still going.

A dress from my favourite label purchased from a consignment store.
A dress from a favourite label purchased from a consignment store.

Where to buy those new items once you have determined the gaps? Hasten slowly. Get on the mailing lists for your favourite brands and watch out for advanced notice of sales and special promotions. Our fashion retailers seem to be on sale most of the year, so there is little need to ever pay full price.

Scout out consignment stores and Op Shops too, you can find the most incredible bargains in them. Last week I bought three top quality summer dresses plus a shirt for Rowan –for a total of around $150. I know each of the dresses would have originally retailed for at least $250 and I know they will be in my wardrobe for some time to come. The secret with this type of shopping is to make regular visits. How about a clothing swap with friends? Or try organising a second hand clothing sale in your town or suburb.

Have fun with your clothing, and allow it to express your personality. Consider joining an online group or sharing your outfits on Instagram (don’t forget to tag them #retiringnotshy). Now is the time of life when you can fully be yourself; enjoy the opportunity.

How do you feel when you open your wardrobe every morning? Do your clothes match your lifestyle? What are your tips for dressing well on a budget? What is your ‘retirement style’?