Last weekend I opened an e-mail from which outlined the “essentials” for great weekend style, and offered advice on how to “elevate” my “off-duty wardrobe.” That gave me pause. “Off-duty wardrobe. I don’t have an off-duty wardrobe anymore,” I thought. Simply by virtue of the fact that I don’t have an on-duty wardrobe. When I was still working, my closet was filled with clothes I wore to work, and clothes I wore on the weekends. Now it’s all weekend wear, all the time.

Retirement created a seismic shift in my closet. It took a while, but after five years, my wardrobe has changed significantly. Gone are the skirt suits, all but one of the dressy pant suits, most of the pencil skirts, the serious blouses, and the conservative underpinnings to slip under suit jackets. I hung onto a couple of favourite skirts, and my high heels. I love the look of jeans with heels, even though I don’t think I’ve worn jeans with heels since the day I quit work.
Since I don’t need five different outfits every week, my wardrobe is much smaller. I kept some of my work-y pieces, like blazers, that look good with jeans. I’ve replaced other pieces with more jeans. I’ve added a few more coats, way more tee shirts, nice ones, not just for working out or camping, and some interesting flats and sneakers. I’ve tried some new, more casual, combinations in the past couple of years, like sneakers with a skirt. I find I wear more scarves now, choosing which scarf will work best with my coat, and with what I’m wearing underneath. I take greater care choosing which bag I’ll carry each day, too. That’s because outer wear is much more important in retirement. I want the coat and bag to be part of my outfit. Not just something I remove when I arrive at work, or stash in my desk drawer for the day.
Having said all that, paring one’s wardrobe down can make dressing somewhat boring. I do wear much the same thing, much of the time. Often choosing to reach for the same few pieces. Like this pink sweater from Vince which I bought last spring. I love this sweater. It’s great for this time of year, and because it’s made from light cashmere, adds warmth, but still looks “springy.” Since it’s cropped I frequently wear a longer tee under it, or a shirt, like this one from Lafayette 148.
woman in pink sweater, jeans, and sneakers
I wear this sweater a lot with jeans and sneakers. And now with my new Montcler anorak. This is my everyday wear. My running errands in the village, or meeting a friend for coffee outfit.
woman in jeans, sneakers, pink sweater, and blue anorak
So, it seems the change in my wardrobe has all been in the one direction, from dressy to more and more casual. I think I’m getting lazy, and that maybe I should try a bit harder. If I’m going downtown shopping, or for a fancier lunch, or meeting a friend for dinner, maybe I should… ah… elevate my look. I’m not talking about party wear, and I don’t want to venture back into the realm of business wear. But… still… trying to look a bit smarter, now and again, can’t hurt.
For instance, what if I swapped out my jeans for my black leggings, and my sneakers for my patent loafers, added a vintage necklace, my pastel painterly floral scarf, and my fuschia tweed Max Mara coat? I like the pink sweater with the coat and, with the white blouse and black pants, this outfit feels fresh and springy to me.
Don’t get me wrong. I know this isn’t cutting edge style, not even close. I’ve worn all of these pieces before, just not all together. But putting them together makes me feel more polished. Like I’m upping the ante a bit. Elevating my off-duty style you might say.
two shots of a woman in pink sweater, black pants, black loafers, and white shirt
Elevating my look.. at least a little.
It sounds as if I’m making contradictory style pronouncements lately, doesn’t it? Last week, I talked of not buying a classic, structured trench, opting instead for the casual anorak. I said that the trench coats I’d tried felt more suited to my former work wardrobe. Too serious and dressy for my retirement life. And here I am now talking of “elevating” my everyday style. But, you see, a really nice casual coat does help me to elevate my everyday off-duty style. When I reach for my jeans and sneakers and a tee, I’ll have a great coat to pull on top. Plus, I intend to try to use the anorak to make a couple of my dressy pieces feel a bit more casual, and more current. More suited to my off-duty life, you might say. I’m hoping the very casual coat will help to unify my closet.
woman in coat and jeans and sneakers leaning against a fence
Off to the library style
So. Should I elevate my off duty wardrobe?  Maybe. A bit. I found my new spring coat, but I’m still looking for a few pieces which will spruce up my everyday running around look. Maybe a couple of new sweaters to wear under the coat with jeans. A new pair of casual shoes. And a great new bag.
When I find all of those, I’ll be all set for spring. I’ll be elevating my very off-duty everyday style for my off-duty everyday life.

And… once in a while, I’m going to try to up the ante a bit. To elevate my style beyond what I wear everyday. If for no other reason than to prove that I still clean up good.

So to speak.

I’m still trying to figure out this retirement wardrobe thing. And how about you, my friends? Has your closet, your style undergone any seismic shifts in the past few years?


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From the archives


Splurge Report: The Bag Edit

I’m doing my splurge research, my friends. Planning to buy a new bag. Once I review what I own. And decide what I want. Hence the “Bag Edit.”


Cashmere Sweaters with Everything

I love cashmere sweaters with whatever. With jeans and boots or skirts, tweed jackets or down coats. But it has to be good quality cashmere.


Life of the Substitute Gardener

This week Hubby is away canoeing. And I am substitute gardener. Looking after our large vegetable garden, and trying not to get it wrong.

34 thoughts on “Should I Elevate My Off Duty Wardrobe?”

  1. I think it's important to consider your style in the context of your real life. If your life is casual, coffee with friends, dinner with the hubs at a local bistro, then that is where your style should live as well. That's true whether you are retired, work from home, are raising your children, whatever. I think the style comes through with thoughtful choices in accessories, colors, fit. And you are evidence of this. Your style reflects your life and your authenticity!

    1. You're right. It's just taken a few years to let go of my working style persona. Now when I try on a jacket that I would have loved for work, I know right away that it reflects the "old me." Not the older me… which is much more casual.

  2. Oh yes. Since I no longer have to follow a dress code for work, I have unconsciously developed a dress code for my present lifestyle. Jeans. Black or blue. Jumpers. Sneakers. Boots. Big shirts. The joy of never having to think: what do I need to wear today? I used to jazz things up with jewellery and handbags but now I have found that most of that jewellery has stayed in a box and the bags have gone to the charity shops. My huge scarf collection is now rarely bothered but stays for holidays and trips away when it comes into its own. I absolutely love this. If I wear a dress, as I did the other day, it is simply for the pleasure of it. I do think there are certain flashpoints in a woman's life, certainly here in the UK, when clothes just seem to lose meaning and I have fought against this with a vengeance. When I had children it seemed that no sooner was the baby out than women put on leggings and t-shirts and just….stayed there. Long after the days of breast feeding had passed and it was entirely possible to put on normal clothes again. All sartorial effort went into the children and having a decent haircut was tantamount to child neglect. Treason. I think we need to accept that the important thing is to dress with self-respect. Everything else is just marketing.

    1. Some days I find it just as difficult to choose what to wear as when I worked. That's because the weather plays a more important part. When I worked I just hauled on a heavy coat over whatever I'd chosen knowing that I'd take it off as soon as I arrived at school. I need to be better at finding my retirement "uniform."

  3. I am in the same situation with my wardrobe as you, having retired to the coast 3 years ago. In winter months my daily attire is jeans, a warm jacket and comfortable walking shoes. I always put on natural looking make up and light jewellery to try to look pulled together. I keep my other clothes for the occasional night out. Your casual look is already elevated and you look great. No change necessary in my opinion unless you feel like it. Lise

  4. I think it is a matter of what you enjoy more than anything else. And, you look great in everything, so if you enjoy switching up your outfits somewhat with scarves, then why not? If you enjoy switching up coats or sweaters, why not enjoy that?

    As a person who has worked from home office for more than a dozen years now, I still have a closet full of clothes that are used to wear, some of which fit and some that do not, and I have just a small number of things that I routinely rotate. I must admit that I miss the days when I had a reason to take more pleasure in what I wore, but at the same time, being comfortable whether you are retired and mostly at home or simply working from home is a very nice thing.

    I will just add that as a shrimpy (and busty) woman who is hard to fit, it would be a blast to pick out clothes for you to wear! You look great in everything!

    1. Thanks, DA, but I don't look great in everything. When I was shopping with Liz the other day we discussed how we skew our self perception by seeing ourselves at our worst and everyone else at their best. With fashion this is literal. No one else sees us standing in our underwear… well except for a certain friend who is also a personal shopper. Ha.

  5. Like you, my clothing has changed a lot since retirement and keeps evolving. I’m wearing more casual clothes, but there are still a few pieces I never wear but have a hard time parting with. For some reason, I don’t find myself wearing blazers with jeans, although I keep thinking I will. And I do love good outwear and scarves, especially in the Midwest where we woke up to SNOW again today. Thank goodness I love my winter coat. Ha! I’m wearing lighter colors to compensate, but it’s clear I packed away my suede boots too early. 🙁

  6. You look stylish in both photos but I do prefer the look with the necklace. I haven't tried wearing shirts outside my trousers and putting a sweater above but will try out a few sets. I have a range of work necklaces in the longer style that have not ended up at the charity shop yet thankfully.

    Ref your earlier blog about the search for a decent raincoat/mac I recently bought a more stylish but still waterproof light navy plain hip length jacket with a small turn-up collar for city trips abroad so I look reasonably tidy if we go out to dinner. On our trip to New York and Washington DC last year I felt just a little too casual when going out in the evening. Your Max Mara tweed coat is a beautiful colour. I feel happy just looking at it.

    I am off to look for Spring loafers and sneakers in light, jolly colours. I am heartily sick of my dark winter boots and shoes. It is still rainy and muddy in middle England – more April thunderstorms than showers but I will be able to wear the new shoes for Spring inside as my "house" shoes and feel happier. Heather

  7. Hi Sue
    In my past life I wore scrubs and my personal style was very causal.
    5.5 yrs into my retirement my wardrobe is still causal to slightly dressy causal. That said, I have a wedding at the end of the month. I'm scrambling to find an outfit along with shoes and purse. I have a lovely sheer, bell sleeve top, so my mission is to find dressy pants. Perhaps above the ankle and a small heel shoe with ties around the ankle. Hubby and I are taking his elder mom so we won't stay long. What do you think…dressy enough? 🙂
    Ps…love your coat! Always smart!

    1. I love the idea of that sheer top with dressy pants. Cropped ones would be perfect with a small heel. Kitten heels are back, apparently. I didn't know they went away, but still… not sad to see the end of platforms.

  8. I've been on the same wavelength too lately (check tomorrow's post to see). "Polished casual" is what's appealing to me these days, with maybe just a little bit of rough edge thrown in. I think that sweater looks great no matter what you put it with, was definitely a great buy!

  9. I have always felt that your style was lovely just as it is. Only change things up if YOU want to!! I am trying to go through my closet getting rid of clothing that I am not wearing anymore due to retirement. It is hard to get rid of the mindset of "dressing up" but, honestly, I don't need to dress up that much anymore. Even going to church is not a dressy affair unless I just want to dress up for it. I see pretty dresses I think about buying, but where would I wear them? I think I need to work on just being comfortable in my own casual style. It's hard to be a blogger, though, and feel OK about that. (At least speaking for myself!)

  10. I think your style is great. You have a real talent for editing, shopping and adding to your wardrobe.
    I am retired for just under a year now and I think my wardrobe is very much a "work in progress"…..Let's just say I have have my housework and gardening clothes down pat – hahaha!
    Suz from Vancouver

    1. Thanks, Suz. Ha. My housework and gardening clothes have changed very little in 30 years. Sweats or cycling style shorts, big tees and hoodies. I won't be featuring them in a style post any tome soon.

  11. You always look great. And you have a recognizable style. Of course I come down on the side of why elevate unless you are inspired to do so. And I find I've gone sideways, more and more old hippie every day;). So even as you get more casual, some of us are become veritably witchy.

  12. With retirement happening in a few months, I've been on a buying spree (for me) for jeans and comfortable tops that have some style. I'll wait a while after retirement to see what I can pass on. As a college professor I don't have that many office/dressy outfits, but I'm sure I won't need the collection of black and navy pants with coordinating jackets. I'm also looking for more color, which is lots of fun. In contrast with your need for a lovely coat, I need clothes that can handle perspiration and frequent washing in Florida.

  13. I like your style,it is suits you and your lifestyle (very important factor-to dress for your lifestyle!),you have an eye for details,combinations and beautiful separate pieces and you have a figure and an attitude to wear clothes (and not the other way around!). You can change something if you wish,add something,new colour,but basically-it is perfect to me
    While I was still working, I always changed to the white suit or wore a white overcoat,but there were a lot of bussiness meetings or field work,so,I've liked to dress
    The shift to the retirement dressing was significant,I dress more casual. My style is very similar to yours,so I could relate with your temporary "itchiness" for change,but there is no need for tectonic changes. I have still some bussiness meetings (but of different kind),go out of the house every day,but excellent coat,bag,boots,black trousers-velvet,wool or leather- (or even darker or white jeans)with some kind of cashmere top, covers everything.
    I go regulary to concerts,theatre,dinners and have some dressier pieces (but not as before,today there are simple silk trousers or dress,with an edge)-because I like it,and I like to wear same things over and over again. One always sees or learns or get inspired with something new
    I wear dresses more than you,simple ones,sweater dresses during winter,shift ones in summer:easy-peasy way to be ready in a sec
    I like to wear longer tee or shirt bellow a sweater,too,it is playful and it adds new value to simple outfit

    1. I think you have more need for dressy clothes than I do, Dottoresa. I rarely go to the theatre or concerts. On the other hand my camping wardrobe is no doubt larger than yours. Ha.

  14. I understand your meaning in elevating your wardrobe, as in kicking it up a notch, but to my way of thinking, your casual look is always elevated. You clearly put careful thought into each outfit you put together, even now that you're "off duty." I know we only see the pictures that you choose to post, but I suspect you look reasonably polished on a daily basis. Gives me something to shoot for in terms of elevating my own look … I tend to throw together whatever I'm wearing with little thought for the details that can make such a difference, whether I'm on or off duty.
    Denise L.

    1. Thanks, Denise. I'm trying to push myself to but some nice t-necks and tees to wear when I'm at home all day. Instead of saving them for when I have to go out. Makes me feel better to get dressed in the morning.

  15. I think your style is pretty much "spot on" 🙂 in that you always look immaculate and make putting together outfits seem effortless …. although, from what you say, I'm sure that it isn't always 🙂 I need to buy less, shop from my wardrobe more and try harder, not to be tempted by something that looks gorgeous on the hanger and maybe also when I try it on but will actually not get worn very much! I've mentioned before that I would buy something, rather like a piece of Art, simply because I loved it! I can now admire and walk away!! Thinking about developing a "Uniform" took me back to my first Sixth Form Sociology class. The teacher was discussing the effects of uniform and how happy we all were not to have to wear a school uniform anymore. Laughing, he then moved on to how, without it being enforced by the school we had all turned up wearing a Uniform. Sure enough, every person, in a class of almost thirty, were wearing denim! Jeans, skirts, jackets, shirts. Fashion or peer pressure or simply free will had us all back in a uniform again! 🙂
    By the way, these are the best pictures I've seen of your mauve cashmere sweater, they really show the "boxy" style. It's lovely and looks great on you!

    1. Thanks, Rosie. Love that story about the uniform. I remember a friend who was not a teacher said how she admired teenagers because they dressed so uniquely. I just laughed. And said, you wouldn't say that if you had 30 of them sitting in front of you, the girls all in yoga pants and the boys all in baggy jeans with their underwear showing. Ha. Kids. Fashion and peer pressure, and not wanting to be singled out. I was the same at their age.

  16. Really interesting post. I love the look with the patent loafers and the scarf. Who knew we would have these decisions to face in retirement?? I am in an in-between situation, having retired from a university career of 30 years and now working in tourism, so back to wearing a uniform albeit a nicely tailored one. What surprised me on retirement was losing weight without dieting, through sheer happiness, dropping 2 clothes sizes, and discovering the joy of wearing clothes because I liked them, not because they were 'suitable for work'. I never enjoyed my first career, and I think my dull clothing choices reflected that. Now I'm having a ball, and with the help of a personal shopper in the wonderful John Lewis I've been persuaded into styles that I would never have looked at on the rails. But at the same time I've moved to the country, and have to make an effort not to revert to jeans and jumper all the time. And yes, the importance of finding a good coat. I'm still looking…We don't have the same brands as you but your Montcler is available here and it looks great, so I'm rather tempted.

  17. I enjoyed reading how your wardrobe has transitioned over the past few years. It seems as though you have achieved a nice balance overall in what you still own and how it translates into your present life. I liked seeing the small changes you made to your basics to elevate them – nothing over the top, and still quite stylish. Thanks for linking up, Susan!

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