I’ve had a few inquiries about retirement wardrobes. As it turns out, dressing for the office is one thing, dressing for retirement, quite another.
I imagine you might be out there, sitting at the kitchen table with your cup of coffee. You prepare for yet another day at work, shoe dangling from your foot, laptop in bag, keys on the counter. You think, dressing for retirement? How is that an issue? Well, just wait until you find yourself faced with a closet full of suits, drawers full of rock concert tees from two decades ago, and nothing in between.
The same situation confronts stay-at-home moms, and freelancers who, after years in an office, begin to work from home.
Use cases to the rescue!
Here are the use cases for my current, retired-against-my-will-but-rather-liking-it lifestyle. If you are a stay-at-home mom, feel free to substitute feeding babies, park-going, and general child-chasing wherever appropriate.
- What? Pyjamas Are Clothes. They Are.
- Maintaining Your Physical Plant
- Hunting, Gathering, And Other Modes of Fortification
- Attending Fancy Lunches And Other Girly Stuff Like Shopping
- Meeting Old Colleagues
- A Date. Because Romance Does Not Die After 50.
- Very Fancy Dinners At Home Or Out
- Places With Swimming Pools, Oceans, And Room Service
- Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
For an example, let’s look more closely at plant maintenance. Those of us at home generally become the fix-it person. These days I do almost all my own gardening, and I dress pretty much as below.
Cultural Context: It took a while, but I have made my peace with looking like the archetypal crazy garden lady. Function over form. Plus I wear my daughter’s old shirt and we mothers like to do that and hope no one notices.
Special Circumstances: I now have to wear reading glasses to see my roses. Prescription sunglasses are on the list. These are my first Crocs and I have to send them back because they appear to run large.
Desired Impact: Inflict more damage to garden than it inflicts on me. Beware of thorns, eye-level branches, and the mid-day sun. The Solumbra sunhats are genius. Look cute, fold up, washable.
Another big part of the homebody’s life is Hunting and Gathering. Otherwise known as running errands. I will come right out and say this. It’s perfectly fine to wear yoga pants to the grocery store, if, that is, you abide by a few principles.
- First, go monochrome. Not the time for most of us to exercise our creativity. You Artsy Cousins? Of course, follow your heart.
- Second, wear footgear from the same fanciness family. No to dress shoes, yes to flip flops or sneakers. Add a little style by wearing Havianas in a cool pattern, or Pumas.
Cultural Context: Grocery stores are just grocery stores. Efficiency and a little courtesy matter more than dress code.
Special Circumstances: I actually take yoga classes, for an extra dose of impunity.
Desired Impact: None. No impact. This outfit is as close as I can get to invisible, just as riding a bicycle is as close as I can get to no impact on the earth. I don’t actually have a bicycle, but it’s on the list.
Fortunately for those of us who like clothing, retirement does provide its dress up moments. For example, the ladies’ luncheon in all its guises. Dim sum in the city with friends, a baby shower for your cousin, shopping with mom and sisters.
Cultural Context: Women will appreciate what you wear. Especially, they will appreciate cute shoes. Pull out the ones that the men in your life don’t understand. Often involving bows.
Special Circumstances: The undeniable power and usefulness of a shirtdress.
Desired Impact: I find that amongst groups of women I like to look Put Together. One might also take the Flowy Flowers approach but I don’t convince anyone when I go there. And I always like to hear what people are reading. Best recent discover is To the End of the Land, by David Grossman. And we’re defining reent as the last 5 years.
And finally, The Date. The archetypal date. Butterflies in the stomach, extra time in the mirror, holding hands on a sidewalk.
Cultural Context: Whether you’re in a long, happy marriage, or single, you should date. And if you are neither, well, few of us fully understand the lives of our neighbors.
Special Circumstances: We all have our own.
Desired Impact: Both you and your companion should feel that you are desirable. I, personally, have never met a man who can resist jeans, a perfect white button-front, and pearls. Suede pumps with a chunky heel provide that little hint of toughness. Hair down, brushed, smelling of soap, no fuss. But of course, I am a Sturdy Gal, and this is the epitome of Sturdy Gal fancy. So the real lesson is, a man will be hard-pressed to resist when you’re enjoying your true self.
While it’s true that stay-at-home dressing is not so fraught with cultural expectations as are work dress codes, you just might be dressing exactly as you please for the first time in your life. If that’s the case, why not put thought into the effort? In my case, I have found that analyzing what to wear now that I’m home has clarified who I am becoming. Fully satisfying the “What To Wear?” for those activities I care about, rather than always Making Do, has increased my sense of intent.
It may sound pat, but is still true, that often when one’s wardrobe needs shift, one’s self is shifting too. From student to professional, from fiance to wife, from professional to mother, from mother to whatever comes next.
In my case, that’s a bicycle. You?