Creating your retirement wardrobe is essential to your feeling good about yourself.  When you no longer have a business role, you can use your retirement clothing to make a statement about who you are in this new time of your life. It’s time to reinvent yourself!

Getting started, do you already have retirement clothing?

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. But I did have some casual items like jeans that readily became part of my retirement clothing.

Woman wearing jeans and a tunic top
Do you need a pair of jeans or jeggings in your retirement wardrobe.

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….

The first step in choosing your retirement wardrobe

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? If you are moving to a new retirement location will you need to consider a different climate? Will you need formal wear and retirement dresses or retirement swimsuits? Seriously, how do you expect to be dressing the majority of time?

Woman wearing shorts and tee shirt from her retirement wardrobe
If you haven’t worn shorts now might be the time to find a length and type that works for you

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. I like to have lots of pieces that I can mix and match, you will find many separates in my wardrobe, but also easy to wear dresses.

What requirements does your retirement capsule wardrobe need to meet?

Curating your current wardrobe to meet your retirement dressing requirements

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? Can you freshen up a piece of clothing with some new accessories?

Retired woman wearing a maxi shirt, tee shirt and denim jacket
A denim jacket is a wardrobe classic you might already own and is ideal in your retirement wardrobe

Decide what to do with the items that don’t suit your retirement lifestyle, and move them on. Then do a ‘gap analysis’ and create a list of items you need to add. Start with the basics – neutrals or monochromes 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.

Updating and adding to your retirement wardrobe

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 lifestyle 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.

Woman wearing Adrift Clothing top with jeans
Let yourself try something new like an off the shoulder top

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.

Make sure too that your undergarments are in good shape. How long is it since you were fitted for a new bra? Are your undies looking baggy and sad? Do you need some shapewear to hide a midriff bulge?

Are your shoes comfortable and suited to your retirement lifestyle? Do you need court shoes any longer or are sandals, sneakers and ankle boots more suited to your retirement clothing?

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. Two of my favourite brands are Adrift Clothing (perfect for easy to wear retirement dresses) and FRANKiE4 Footwear (my top choice of shoes for travel and leisure).  They both carry lines that are really well suited to this stage of our lives.

Woman wearing Paper Fig kaftan
A long kaftan can be a great retirement dress, ready to take you from beach to bar

Scout out consignment stores and Op Shops too, you can find the most incredible bargains in them. On a previous visit to a favourite store in Canberra 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’?