Ah, my friends, I know I am risking reader fatigue by posting yet another summer closet rummage so closely on the heels of the last one. But hear me out. I am NOT done rummaging. I have more to say about my summer closet.

My last rummaging post was limited to what I might wear with a couple of pairs of casual pants. A reader commented that she thought the outfits in that post seemed too warm to wear in summer. Not so, my friends. Depending on where you live, a light tee or tank top, under a light jacket, with casual pants is a perfectly wearable summer outfit. Especially if one is in and out of air-conditioned buildings. Or planning to still be wearing said outfit on a restaurant patio when the sun goes down. I frequently wear full-length or cropped pants in summer. And I usually take a jacket (or a sweater) with me on outings, even in the heat of summer. Jackets can come off and be tucked into tote bags, draped across one’s shoulders to keep the sun off, or folded over a cross-body bag if you’re on the move.

But enough about my last post. For this post I wanted to play around with my A.L.C. striped skirt, which is suitably wafty and light for when temperatures climb. My goal was to identify a few outfits, to have in reserve, so I could just pull them on without having to think too much.

I tried the outfit below a couple of years ago and never actually wore it. A looser, more oversized white shirt might work better, but this is the only white shirt I own. Still, I like the Lafayette 148 shirt tied at the waist of my skirt. It looks best with sneakers to keep it from looking dated, or too conservative. Now that my hair is white, the outfit needs a pop of colour. If I were a person who wears red lipstick, I’d go with a red lip. But I’m not, so I won’t. I simply can’t wear bright lipstick. It makes me feel like Norma Desmond. Besides this little red, cross-body bag I bought back in 2018 is enough red, I think.

Rummaging in my summer closet for something to wear with this ALC skirt.
Black, white, and red is a classic combo.

This time round, I’m going to test drive the outfit on an errand-running mission into the village. Then I can see if the tied shirt stays in place. Or whether it needs, as I fear it might, constant fiddling and readjustment. If so, I’ll just be ten minutes from home. I dread being somewhere in the city, forty-five minutes drive away, wearing an outfit that as Alyson Walsh says requires too much “faffing about.” Seriously, one is too old to be bothered with faffing. Ha.

Stay tuned for the test-drive report.

My little red bag made me think of this red Everlane tank, below, which I bought in 2020. I really like it with the skirt. But this outfit needs a third piece. Or a pair of flat, strappy, red sandals. And since I couldn’t find anything suitable in my closet in the shape of either a jacket, sweater, or sandals, this outfit idea will be left on the backburner for now.

Red Everlane tank, A.L.C. skirt, Stan Smith sneakers.
I love the red. But this outfit needs a “completer piece.”

Now this one, below, is my favourite. Black, white, and red again. I swapped the red Everlane tank top for my black one, and the sneakers for my Birkenstock-style sandals, and threw on this cream, crocheted sweater.

Favourite outfit in my summer closet: Black Everlane tank, A.L.C. skirt, Birkenstock sandals, Theory sweater.
My favourite outfit with the skirt.

You know, a year or so ago, I almost donated this sweater. Bought in a rush of love for the creamy colour and the open crochet-work, I came to regret my purchase. The sweater is too cropped and boxy for my short, wide upper-body. I tried and tried to find a way to wear it and failed. Until one evening, I just slung it around my shoulders and a new accessory was born. I still get to wear the creamy colour up next to my face. And I don’t have to worry about the shape of the sweater.

This outfit needs no test drive. I love it. And the little punch of red makes it look even better. I feel perfectly myself in this look. My current self. Not a past-its-sell-by-date version of something I used to be, and now no longer am.

Favourite summer closet outfit: Black Everlane tank, A.L.C. skirt, Birkenstock sandals, Theory sweater.
Perfectly at home in this Sue 2.0 outfit.

I’ve been waffling on a fair bit lately about the search for my new fashion identity. I’ve been retired for nine years. My white hair is no longer a novelty, but just part of who I am at sixty-six. And my body shows no signs of returning to its former svelte-ish-ness, despite exercise and nutritional tweaks. I’ll no doubt talk about those “tweaks” in a later post. Meanwhile, I accept that I have changed. But I’m still playing around with how I want to reflect the new me in my style. And in the past few days, I’ve been trying to think how I would define my new style identity.

For instance, remember the problematic yellow Rag and Bone pants I bought a couple of years ago? They are so comfortable. I love wearing them. But I struggled to find looks that incorporated the pants and still felt like me. The outfit on the left is a perfectly good outfit. But I hate it. Even though it incorporates some elements which I love: the pants, the sweater, the bag. The whole thing is too…. I don’t know… soft and insipid, maybe? Too been-there-done-that? I much prefer the cropped, boxy tee, the sneakers, and the white jacket on the right. More modern. Less ladies-who-lunch. More casual and more tailored at the same time.

No. no, no… versus much better.

Anyway, I’m not looking for solutions to the yellow pant conundrum. Gad. We’ve been down that road, my friends. But I am looking for a way to quantify, or describe my style now.

I wore the outfit below to a physio appointment followed by a coffee date one day last week. I love, love this outfit. The lilac tank from Everlane is new. I was happy when I saw that the new tank matches my old lilac Vince sweater. This lilac sweater has been a much loved part of my summer closet for years, and I don’t wear it enough. My cotton cargo pants with their enormous pockets and my chunky sandals give the lady-like colours on top a bit of an edge. I felt like a million bucks in this outfit. And looked exactly myself. I might even say “authentic” if I didn’t hate the overuse of that word. Ha.

A favourite outfit in my summer closet. Lilac Everlane tank, lilac Vince sweater, old black cotton cargo pants, and black Birkenstock sandals.
Ladylike colour, but still edgy enough to feel great.

So, lately, besides closet rummaging, and looking for outfits which make me feel like me, I’ve been doing some reading and listening to videos about various ways to define one’s personal style. And the method that interests me most is the “three word rule.” This is not a new concept. Blogger Chriselle Lim described it in an article back in 2016: “Think about your style in three words. Mine are clean, polished, and feminine. When I don’t know what to wear, I just go back to those” (source.)

My interest in the “three word rule” has recently been revived by two of my favourite vloggers Allison Bornstein and Alyssa Beltempo. I’ve been listening to what these ladies have to say about the “three word rule,” looking at lists of words, and thinking how I might go about identifying my own three words. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Oh, I know the whole thing sounds arbitrary. And of course it is. But it’s fun to play around with, as long as we don’t get all bent out of shape trying to follow what are essentially our own rules. I mean we choose the words. And if they don’t work we can just pick new ones. Maybe we can even be rebels and choose four words.

Yep, these days besides rummaging in my summer closet, I’ve been rummaging in my brain. Always a dangerous thing. Ha.

I’ll let you know how the search for my three style descriptors turns out. One way or the other.

I should add that I don’t have outfits planned for those depressingly hot and humid days we get every summer here in Ottawa. Other than old shorts and a tank top I would not wear out in public. Like the wimp I am, I usually stay hunkered down at home with my book on the hottest days. I am definitely a summer party pooper in the heat.

Now how about you my friends? How would you define your summer style?

P.S. Below are some links to clothing I’ve mentioned in this post. Or as close as I can come if the pieces I own are no longer available.

Everlane tank tops. Everlane boxy tee shirt. White Theory blazer. Rag and Bone Simone pants, in black, and checked. I own both a black pair and a navy and white checked pair. Similar Lafayette 148 shirt. I’m tempted to order this Everlane linen shirt in black or white. Birkenstock sandals, similar to mine. Cream crochet sweater similar to mine, but better. Vince lightweight cashmere sweaters here, here, and here. Stan Smith Adidas in original green. Similar red cross-body bag.

P.P.S. All the links to clothing are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will earn a commission which helps to pay for the blog.

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63 thoughts on “More Summer Closet Rummaging”

  1. I would say that my summer style is: spare, calm, neutral. With occasional bursts of bright colour (very occasional). We are about to experience 40 degree heat for the first time ever here in the UK so I think the above three descriptors will be very handy. I cannot abide any kind of faff whatsoever (that is the spare), dislike clothes that make me feel constricted or self-aware (the calm) and stick to my normal palette of black, white, stone for most of the time (as neutral as it gets). My aim in summer weather is not to feel uncomfortable, to stay as cool as I can and to look like a normal person, not someone who has gone insane and decided to expose as much flesh as possible because it is now hot. For some mad reason my insta and fb feeds have been flooded with ads for the most appalling clothes for the older woman, the kind of gear that makes me want to weep/clench fists. Voluminous. Jokey. Whimsical. Highly patterned. The kaftan must surely be on its way…

    1. Annie, I agree. I’ve been saying for a while I want clothes made for grown women. It didn’t used to be this hard to find clothes. Fashion for women our age is insulting. The styles look like they’re aimed for an 8 year old, sex kitten or needing a walker. I’ve been ruffled, puffed and floraled to death.

  2. Lovely outfits! It is so effortless and happiness radiating when one finds an outfit that just feels like oneself and without faffing about,no?
    We have very warm weather,exhausting,but,early in the morning it’s beautiful! I’ve had coffee this morning with friends,wearing navy blue dress and red crossbody bag! So,it is summer dresses time again!
    Dresses have to be wider( but not like a tent), flowy,silk,fine cotton,linen …
    I have to think about three words!
    Dottoressa

  3. I do that ! Re: giving an outfit a trial run somewhere nearby so you can see if it works. If it doesn’t you’ll soon be back home to take it off ! I also do the same with new footwear to see how comfortable it will be.
    I also have a little red crossbody bag, a present from a dear friend, that I wear with black and white outfits for a pop of colour. Love the striped skirt and black top combo.

  4. That lilac colour really suits you . I wear lots of white tops in the summer sunshine but then sometimes surprise myself by combining stronger colours . Rust , navy & white or leaf green & mustard or dusty red , green & black . I think it looks better than it sounds !
    My summer style in three words ? We’ll just now I’d say pink , sticky & bad tempered in our abnormal 40 degrees . I don’t suppose that sounds unusual to some of your commenters but UK summers are normally gentle sunshine with cool breezes & regular showers . No AC here & our little electric fan is being monopolised by the dog .

    1. I am yearning for stronger colours now that my hair is white. Those temperatures are definitely a huge change for you guys. I remember the summer of 2005 when we were in Yorkshire and it was unusually hot and sunny … or so we were told by our hosts. Hence everyone we saw in Whitby had pink arms and shoulders. 🙂

  5. I never get tired of your rummaging posts. They are so inspirational. Like today….I have a white linen, sort of unstructured jacket, and the bell rang when I thought how nicely the cropped white tee would work with it. My longer tees just look sloppy, but the shorter one will certainly fill the bill. Keep your wardrobe inspiration coming.

  6. Love this post Sue! I have a black and white gingham check midi skirt that resembles your skirt, but I’ve never worn it. And I have an adorable red cross-body bag that I hadn’t thought to wear with it. I haven’t been able to get the right look, but you nailed it with the black tank. I also like the button down shirt with it although that’s a more formal look. I’ll try again to find a combination that suits me. Thanks for the inspiration!
    P.S. From your last post, I have pants like yours, need to find the perfect « ready outfit » like you did. Too hot here now but those pants will be great for shoulder seasons.

  7. My summer style is based on loosish linen or cotton dresses. At the height of our summer it’s too hot and humid to contemplate any kind of trousers and jeans are especially unimaginable to me. Dresses, some with short sleeves and some sleeveless, are my sanity savers. I make sure that they’re not see-through so slips aren’t required. I wear them with Birkenstocks or sandals and a long necklace, perhaps a ring or two, and earrings if masks are not required, and I’m done. Have you thought of wearing the yellow pants with a solid colour tee, perhaps brown like the colour of your sandals? The striped tee in the photo doesn’t have enough heft to balance the pants.

    1. No, you’re right… that striped tee is not strong enough with the yellow pants. The whole outfit is too soft. I just put it together as an example of something I would have worn a few years ago when the stripe in the tee would have looked good with my hair as it was then.

  8. Hi, I read your blogs faithfully and really enjoy all of them, Your reading posts are especially appreciated other than my to read list grows longer and longer.
    Today, I am replying for the first time. I have been noticing this 3 word “thing” for a while. It is not new and it dates way back further than 2016. I recall a styling workbook published in hard copy here in Vancouver at least 20 years ago that was all about that concept. I read it over and over again and really tried to stick down my three words and finally gave up. Now the “torture” begins again.

    1. I am not surprised that the “three word rule” is even older than I thought. Just like “having our colours done” everything comes round again, doesn’t it? I kind of laughed when I read an article crediting the idea to someone on TikTok.

  9. With your height, I think those yellow pants would look good with a plain black t-shirt and your black Birks for shoes. Pretty sure you must have a not too heavy black sweater you could throw over your shoulders as an accessory. Or perhaps you have already bought the Everlane black linen shirt. That would work, too.

    1. Yep. I have worn the pants with a black tee and they look good. I may order that Everlane shirt in black, though, to have a breezy summer shirt that will go with everything.

  10. OK, here’s my thoughts on the 3-word “thing”:

    First Step: Figure out the “general” look I’m leaning toward.
    For me, that’s fairly easy because I’ve always been drawn to a neutral palette which relies on texture, line, and proportions for interest. I’m at the opposite end of spectrum from feminine, bohemian, and colorful looks; ruffles, flowing fabric, and patterns make me happiest when I see them on others. Classic is fine but can get restrictive and a mite dull after years of wearing “appropriate teacher outfits”. Maybe my minimalistic Nordic/ Scandinavian sensibilities are coming into play here here?

    Second Step: Refine the “general” look to fit ME.
    This is a bit trickier because my 72 year-old self has gone through several decades of changing whims, trends, body shapes, and fashion budgets. I do know that I’m much more interested in a responsible approach to fashion these days—reducing my consumption, choosing items I’ll wear in frequently in my daily life, and looking for pieces which promise longevity in my closet. I am also becoming conscious of how my body is starting to dictate what it will let me wear—high heels, fitted waistbands, and too much “gaff and faff” are uncomfortable and even dangerous. BUT, on the other side of the coin (as my father used to say) I’m loving the fact that there is no longer anyone who can sniff in disapproval at what I’m wearing. For an ex-teacher, that is liberation—and I’m game to try things I’d never have worn in front of a classroom of critical eyes.

    So, looking at the above, I guess I’m going for FOUR words: Responsible Nordic Comfort with an Edge—RNCE? Sounds like a new COVID vaccine but maybe that’s in step with the times?

    1. I love that, Marily. Very well thought out. I’m the same with patterned bohemian looks. And with looks that are too feminine. I feel as if I’m wearing someone else’s clothes. I remember years ago I tried the “sexy secretary” look as it was called a few years later. Slim skirt, heels, conservative fitted (but not tight) sweater. It was part of my trying to figure out what to wear as a new teacher. I wanted to look more grown up and instead I felt like I was in a play. Maybe playing Marian the librarian from The Music Man. Ha.

  11. Your articles always challenge me.
    For the love of money I have not been able to come up with 3 words to describe my style.
    I am in a Facebook group encouraging a circular community, they cover colours and style and encourage thrift shopping and donating any lurkers in your wardrobe. In this group I have noticed members appear to stick to their descriptor and colour when choosing clothes or accessories.
    I, like you, have embraced my natural hair colour, so have found some clothes do not sit well in my wardrobe.
    Maybe 1 word I feel strongly about is “Current”, I do not want to be the person who is ignored in life as I age.
    Looking for the other 2!!!
    Thank you for always challenging my thoughts.
    Jeanette

    1. THat’s where I am, Jeanette. I’m still flailing. But I have nailed down, as you have, that one of my words must be something that means “current.” I don’t want to look as if my clothes might smell of mothballs. Even when they are technically vintage.

  12. No reader fatigue here! I’m still all over the shop with my wardrobe since retiring so the reminder about the three words could be a great pointer! Thank you

  13. Pretty sure my three words are currently Tailored Boho Color. I like a classic, fitted base, but I always need to add a splash of color, an embroidered top, some Bakelite bangles, something to make it more “me”….

  14. Perhaps Susan, when searching for your identity it might be time to move away from how you look to who you are as a person.. Try on these three descriptors – kind, helpful, reliable. Do you want to be remembered fondly for what you wore or for how well you treated others.

    1. Hmm. Not sure how to respond to this, Linda. I don’t think I said I was looking for words to describe my “identity”… but my “style identity”, which I do believe is something different. Having said that, I do want my outside to reflect how I feel on the inside, so style is related to my overall identity. As I get older I want what I wear to reflect how I have changed and who I’ve become, but I’ll never be someone who doesn’t care about style. The three word style descriptor idea interests me and playing around with it is just a bit of fun as far as I’m concerned. That is why I started this blog, to be able to chat about things which interest me, and fashion is most definitely one of those things. But make no mistake, it’s not the only thing I care about. Not sure if that was what you meant. Your words “it’s time” imply that you think as we age style should not concern us. That you think caring about style is shallow and quite frankly I’ve had enough of that kind of shaming.

    2. Hi Linda- I’m sure that you meant this as a gentle reminder that it’s important to care about our “insides” and how we treat others and ourselves – I don’t think there is any contradiction in doing that and also caring and thinking, talking and writing about our “outsides”. While I’m sure you didn’t intend this, your comment came off as extremely judgmental to the point of implying that Susan is shallow and “thinks too much” about her appearance. Instead, what I have come to believe from reading her blog is that she is an extremely thoughtful, kind, intelligent, giving and conscientious wife, daughter, sister, friend, teacher and community member who also has a great sense of her own style and is kind enough to make time to write and share her thoughts about clothing and all manner of things.

      1. Thank you, Kristi, for expressing the thoughts of this avid reader of Sue’s blog in your generous and gracious response to Linda.

        Your thoughtful response makes me think you and Sue have a great deal in common.

  15. I refuse to be shamed from loving great style and from enjoying dressing stylishly!!! Plus I enjoy articles like yours!!! I’m in my mid-fifties and was in the business for years with my Bachelors in Fashion Merchandizing and one in Business Administration as well!! That is my interest!!! It isn’t small thinking!! Only people without a creative bone in their body and closed minded think this is a waste of time!! We bring beauty to our husbands, son’s and daughters lives!! We also bring beauty and creativity to all people we see daily!!! Join in or just enjoy it but how dare you bad-mouth the people that enjoy fashion and dress fashionably!!!!!

    1. I hear you, Natalie. I mean we all have to get dressed in the morning, we might as well try to do it in a way that makes us happy. Still, I think that some people are genuinely not interested in fashion or style. Or sometimes have given up trying to find clothes that they love that fit them. Having said that I still get “the look” from people sometimes that says talking about clothes is only for teenagers. Ha.

  16. I’d love to see your red chore jacket, a blue or grey top/jacket/sweater with the beautiful yellow trousers. They are to flattering not to wear often.

    1. Hmm. Not sure the bright red with the yellow would be me. It would certainly be eye-catching. Just not sure I could carry it off. Worth a try though. 🙂

  17. Hi Sue – thanks for this post. I think the red tank and the skirt can work with the addition of the cream sweater/accessory and the red bag – just a red variation on the black tank with sneakers instead of sandals?

    Quite a few years ago, 2 Vancouver women wrote a book called “Style Statement” – and I was lucky enough to have a free consultation with them. Through a long series of questions, they came up with 2 words to define and refine your style – I think you can buy the book very cheaply somewhere as the business came to an acrimonious end. Or get the gist here https://40plusstyle.com/how-to-discover-your-style-statement/ They asked questions like: “What would you wear to the Oscars? If Annie Leibovitz took your photo, how would you art-direct? Top on your list of places to travel? Piece of art that has moved you the most in your life? What is your favorite time of day? What do you like to be doing then? How does it make you feel? How would your best friend describe your personality? Your style?…”

    My husband had a great time spoofing the process and decided his style was “Repetitive Redundant” (he does love a blue shirt) which still makes us laugh. Anyway, something fun for a lazy summer afternoon?

  18. Sheila Cooper Caine

    About ten years ago a friend and I did the whole “journey” with House of Colour; colour analysis, style and makeup. I am a Spring, Classic style personality with 20% romantic. My three words are Elegant, Refined and Dignified and I feel they still fit today. Classics struggle with casual looks so retirement dressing has been challenging for me but since the lockdown period I have noticed the romantic part of me is coming more to the fore and I am looking less “formal”. It probably started with lockdown longer hair. Love your blog and wardrobe rummages. An avid reader myself, I really appreciate your book recommendations.

    1. I’m on board with the less formal looks, too, Sheila. Or less work-y. Sneakers have come in so handy for me in making classic jackets and dress pants look more casual and edgy.

  19. I saw Alyssa’s video. Where I am and what I’m doing reflects what I want to project but if I had to choose three words they would be: minimal, classic, modern.

  20. Many of my go-to outfit formulas are no longer flattering as I am no longer svelt-ish, as you say. Although I have maintained my weight, things have shifted in my sixties and I seem powerless to stop it.
    Please continue to share your style explorations, and thanks for your writing. I look forward to it. (And it’s possible to be helpful, kind, reliable and *stylish.*

  21. I enjoy all your blogs and vlogs, Sue and all the hard work and thought you put in to creating each one. Thank You !
    I always enjoy the various styling outfits you put together and the ” why” it works or doesn’t work, behind each one.
    I thought I had my “style personality” figured out and then over time I have “lost” 3 inches in height, which has really messed up my proportion styling . My outfits that use to be my favourites no longer look right in the mirror as the proportions are off. It is a work in progress again.
    So Thank You to you and all the followers who have posted comments about what works for them and what doesn’t. It is all appreciated.

  22. Late to the party, again, and will have to go away to think about those three words. And to assist me in doing so, I’ve dug out my copy of the book Brenda mentioned, Style Statement. Apparently, I gave up on the process of discovering my Style Statement all those years ago when it turned out to involve pages of worksheets — including tricky and probing questions. . . might push it a bit further now that you’ve reminded me to pull it off the shelf. Or not. We’ll see. Meanwhile, I’ll be wearing linen dresses — of which I seem to have acquired a variety. . . Temperatures are (finally) climbing here on the West Coast (I’d be happiest if they didn’t go beyond 24C, but seems they just might).

    1. Back just to add that there are only TWO words “to live by” in a “Style Statement [that] defines your authentic self.” Perhaps that’s why I gave up on this project a decade ago! 😉

      1. In relation to all the questions… wondering how the style formula would accommodate my fishing and camping into my style self. Much more fun to just play around with words I think.

    2. I can’t be doing worksheets either. I envy you those linen dresses. I love a loose, shortish dress (not too short), with sneakers. Tried one on at the Nordstrom Anniversary sale, but demurred because the neckline was really bad on me. Rest of the dress I love. But I knew I’d never be able to get past that neckline.

  23. I love your rummaging, and it is something I continue to do, now I only work one day a week and don’t have the night social life I did. It is fun and you are definitely an inspiration in trying different combinations, as my style is non fussy. Trying to look stylish but comfortable in my older retirement age is an ongoing challenge. I have whittled my clothes down considerably and I am aiming for an all purpose wardrobe with a couple of fancy outfits.
    I agree with someone else who said that purple top suits you.

  24. Your yellow pants are amazing. I bought a pair in a similar shade a couple years ago and I often wear them with a thin denim semi-fitted button-up shirt. I also like them with a black tshirt and denim jacket. I happened upon a very cute pair of Mis Mooz (a favourite shoe brand for me) yellow sandals on clearance and I love the way they look with cropped jeans and with a white linen casual dress that I wear when it’s too hot for anything else. Whenever I wear my yellow sandals I always feel good. One day I was at the post office and my neighbour…an elderly gentleman who retired from farming years ago …. commented, “I really love your yellow sandals”. It made my day. I thought if a sage old guy in his 80’s who I’m quite had zero interest in fashion was commenting on my yellow sandals then they must be special.

  25. Hi Sue,
    After a week off and then a very busy return to work week, I’m catching up on your posts. I love the yellow pants. I hope that you find more ways to wear them that are “you.”
    About that cream-colored sweater – have you tried it on top of an oversized shirt (or is that not a style you would like)? I remember that you purchased an oversized shirt and I think that the tails coming out from the bottom might solve the too-cropped problem.
    My summer style is too darn lazy. I live in tee shirts and shorts. I’ve pulled on couple nicer tops on a weekend evening and a pair of linen slacks, put on a little perfume and nicer jewelry and that is about it. We haven’t eaten out and I don’t dress up to go to the grocery store. I thought that I might dress up a bit more this summer, but so far it hasn’t happened. The summer isn’t over yet! Perhaps I’ll still manage something a little nicer a few times.

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