What to Wear When You’re Retired


I thought , perhaps , you might want to cover what an older (but not feeling older) woman in my situation could wear in different situations.
I don’t think I would be the only one interested. ( there seems to be advice for the “new Mum”, and the “woman going back into the workforce”  but, an older woman going out of the workforce doesn’t seem to get much notice. I am not critisizing , this is just what I have noticed. I think, sadly, that we are lumped together with the frumpy image of ,maybe, a woman without makeup, going around in an
ill fitting track suit who has given up. This is CERTAINLY NOT ME, and I think there are many others who would agree with me.

Do you think you could cover smart, casual attire for the older, retired woman who still wants to be well groomed when she is, perhaps , in the following situations…..

1) Going to B.B.Qs with family & friends. ( I live in a suburb of lovely Adelaide so we often eat outdoors whenever we can, lucky us)

2) Visiting grandchildren at school functions. ( I thoroughly enjoy my grandchildren & have a lot of time with them, lucky me!)

3) Food shopping, going to library,going to big shopping centres & meeting friends & looking at clothes.

4) Family celebrations. ( birthdays , special birthdays & milestones &

5) Beach holidays. ( we usually visit lovely Trinity beach near Cairns when we can in our winter, lucky us!)

6) Travelling ( whether by plane or boat)

7) lunching

My thoughts on clothing when you’re retired are:

  • That your requirements aren’t too much different from the clothes you’d need as someone who works in a smart casual environment and have an active social life.
  • That many retired women start dressing really old and frumpy for fear of dressing too young and “muttony”.
  • Many older women become very comfort driven, so clothing needs to fulfill that need and not be binding of uncomfortable.

So what do you need in your wardrobe?

What’s your personal style?  Do you prefer pants or skirts?  Do you wear heels or only flats?  What are your must haves and your will never wears?

What to Wear when You've Retired
  1.  Look for styles that are current and modern.  Many of your everyday errand style clothing would be similar to that of a busy mother, as they are practical and easy care.    Just because you are older than the average mother, doesn’t mean you have to dress ‘old lady’.
  2. Be aware that your drive for comfort make make you want to wear clothes that are too large for you.  To avoid this, look for fabrics that have some stretch so that you can move easily, without wearing larger sizes.
  3. Don’t wear too much volume at once.  It’s common for women as they age to want to cover up their bodies more and they can end up wearing two voluminous garments at the same time, and that will swamp your frame and make you look larger.  Instead, one garment can be worn at a time with volume, the other needs to be more fitted.
  4. Be careful of the ‘old lady’ shops.  Ones that are aimed at older women can tend to be frumpy.  They may have a few more modern pieces, but   if you’ve lost your sense of style and worry about looking too young, you may need some help from a stylish friend or image consultant when shopping.
  5. Jackets are a great way to cover up your more likely, softer, mid-section.  Look for softer jackets rather than classic jackets.  Jackets made from materials with some stretch will be much more comfortable and wearable.  Throwing a jacket over jeans and a knit top will instantly make you look more pulled together.
  6. Don’t forget to accessorize.  The older you get, you can become bolder with your accessories.  Anything too dainty can look too young or immature.
  7. Claim your style, be bold.   You have got to an age where you can choose to dress as you please, with no employer to tell you what to wear, dress to express your creativity and your personality.  Enjoy the process of getting dressed each day, seize it as an opportunity rather than just something that has to be done so that you are not naked.

For inspiration check out the blog Advanced Style.  Notice how the outfits are put together and how they are accessorized.



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  • Many, many thanks for answering my questions, Imogen. I TOTALLY agree with all of your comments & choices. I am currently changing my style ( I feel it is time to change the way I have dressed the last 7 years or so ) & your answers have inspired me to dress to “ME” , and, as you pointed out, not to dress for an age! I do so enjoy reading all of your blogs.
    Thank, again,

      • I have already purchased bigger and chunkier jewellery.
        I also now have some woollen waterfall cardigans to layer with. I really feel the cold and this seems a more updated way to be warm and smart! I am going to also try tights! (New for me) I have decided to go with some tunics. I feel I can wear them but I have always struggled to get a dress to suit me.I am going to wear scarves more and make sure I get into the habit of wearing my new jewellery most of the time. I am now going for more fitted tops when it is warmer weather.I can see that you can still be smart when you are both warm and comfortable. I have mainly worn pants before (for warmth) but will now try a few skirts. My 3 daughters and myself looked at my signature style and it is …
        Creative, Polished and Elegant! I am very comfortable with that!
        Regards and thanks again, Imogen…MaryAnn

    • Thank you for thinking of us, I’m 68, retired, running a business part time and watching grandkids. Yes I want to look stylish and chic at my age. Your ideas are great.

  • Outstanding question and response! Yes, there are many of us out here and this post is just awesome. Thanks.

  • Hi Imogen,
    Just a general comment: after 30 years of professional life I ended up not working again when we repatriated to Australia from overseas and it was a shock working out how to dress as I tended to either dress up too much or go too casual, forgetting make-up and accessories. There is a happy medium. Now I’m over 60, dressing is no different from when I was 50. Trends have really changed, so a very good handbag (which can be casual or dressy) and good jewellery with casual clothes take you nearly everywhere i.e. the modern emphasis is very much on accessories and the total look.
    I think colour coordination is the most important thing and can help you look polished. Black pants and top with a white jacket (summer) or black and white jacket (winter) and low-heeled sandals or boots can be an easy “go to” ensemble, with well-styled accessories. Black and white, navy and white, beige and white – all good for summer. (You can add a coloured bag etc. ) Black and navy, black and brown – good for winter and go beautifully with the soft neutral pink now in fashion and all neutrals. Don’t forget red which goes with an amazing number of colours. Note that scarves also help pull colour choices together. You look best if you look “pulled together” and neat but sporty rather than office-like.
    The hairdresser needs to be visited once a month and the manicurist. Also fake tan is flattering for older arms and neck.
    You just have to put a bit of time into pulling together outfits for each part of your life, rather than grabbing something and hoping it will look OK. Unstudied elegance doesn’t come easily 🙂

    • Michaela, your comment was very interesting and I agreed with much of it, but I hope that you don’t mind me butting in and adding my own comment? I used to wear a lot of black when I was younger, but now that I am over 60 I find it is a bit too harsh. Many over 60s still look great in black,and obviously you are one of them, however navy or brown are often more flattering for women of a certain age!

      • I agree – I have always minimised wearing black (except as a background) as I feel it drowns me. But what is important I think is that the colour palette(s) you use suit you. I tend to go with “autumn” colours, darker in winter and have everything mixing and matching (as I did when I worked full time). My big problems dressing these days are shops – most of which only target the teen to thirties group (look at most skirt lengths) and shoes – they’re all too wide for me these days. So I sew – I search for great fabrics and then pinch ideas from either patterns or clothes shops. And try not to look like mutton dressed as lamb.

  • Now that I am retired (57), I don’t understand how I found the time to hold down a job! Art classes, Book Clubs, Knitting Circle (really hip projects), university lectures, family and friend parties, volunteer work, work-outs, out-and-about errands (no slacking on appearance), doctor’s appointments, opera, jazz, traveling, and rock concerts…….and I don’t have any children! Sadly, there are also more funerals than in previous decades of my life and with every one I am sad, but leave with a great appreciation of this wonderful, joyful gift of life. My wardrobe must reflect me, highlight strengths, and hide flaws. Everyone ages differently and finding the perfect pieces for each occasion for my figure I set aside a “play date” with my closet once or twice a week to reconfigure and create the palette of my wardrobe.. What fun retirement is!!!

    • Lisa

      I agree. But how odd that we were bold and innovative in our working lives but not our working wardrobes, and now that we’re retired, we’re both! Or at least trying to be. Like you (and others here), I’m reconfiguring and recreating my wardrobe and having fun with it.

    • Lisa, you have a real zest for life. No kids either and I sometimes worry about what it will be like for me when I’m older… but your comments remind me to be positive. You’re cool. Thanks!

  • Excellent comments for a forgotten emerging market, Imogen. A huge challenge for me at 64, and I’m sure many of your readers, is coping with the reshaped and larger body. The skinny leg pants in all shops (even older ladies’ retailers) emphasises what is above the knee and if you are short, volume on top to balance the look can swamp you. I have to be very careful with proportions.

    Strong jewellery and quality accessories re valid points but thank you again for addressing our needs.

  • I am 65 and still love to dress and look classey the same as I did when I was young. I have never been one to follow trends, jeans, sweet pants slouchy clothes even when home. I have tried to stay current and often make many of my own clothes to keep things exciting. I find that I have developed a confidence wherein I can wear bolder jewlery, brighter colors and in doing so, I get compliments daily on how I dress. Postiive ones at that. As I have continued to become bolder in a tasteful way, I find that I get more compliments. Nothing looks worse than any woman who puts no effort into her appearance. Regardless of what people say, you are judged by your appearance. If you look sloppy and unkept/out of style, it gives the appearance you live the rest of your life the same way. I was always told by my mother you will always be judged by your appearance and it is usually the first impression you make on people you eet. The rest follows.

    I will be retiring this year and also plan to start a blog on style for women over 60. I think we have a lot to offer and we cannot be hidden and remain behind the curtain. Style puts spice into life and gives us something to enjoy and lookforward to along with all the other exciting things that come our way at this time in our life.

      • Yes if there is a style blog for women ove 60 who feel they need to be stylish and dress fashionably, and not look ‘grandmarish’, then I am all for it!! There are a lot of us ‘baby boomers’ who feel this way and as our numbers are increasing we should be catered for and not become categorized into looking our aged!!!

        • There are a number of style blogs for those who are past 40, 50, etc…

          Go to “A Femme D’un Certain Age” …. you might like her approach. If not, poke around in her sidebar. She lists a number of other blogs, and you’re bound to find one that resonates with you.

          I particularly like “Passage Des Perles” and “The Vivienne Files.”

  • I am not retired but I helped a lot of retired women choose their clothing during my employment at a local clothing boutique. The common hesitation I saw was – ” Oh! that is too young for me” It also depends on how you dressed up before retirement and who is in your circle. We think peer influence is only on kids or teenagers but we are affected by our peers at all ages.

    Everybody is different but I met a lot of women who preferred loose fitting, darker colored and less flashy outfits mostly (even if they secretly wanted to change their wardrobe) because everyone in their circle would dress up in similar ways.

  • Thank you so much for addressing this issue. I AM retired-for 1 year now. And figuring out how to dress has been a challenge. I refuse to schlump around the house in crops and a tee and crocs. I love fashion, and don’t plan to give it up now that I’m not in the workforce. Its hard enough to be of the “invisible” age. Again, thank you for putting this in the spot light. I love your suggestions.

  • Finally, someone has addressed the older woman!
    Aside from us being “lumped” there is no magazine strictly for the older woman but your site has given me hope! It’s like an Emag for retired women. Thank you!

  • Thank you for these wonderful suggestions. As a young retiree, I retired with my husband about five years ago at age 52, I’ve been at a loss as to what to wear. I admit I’ve fallen into the jeans, tee shirt and polar fleece jacket uniform. When it’s too warm for the polar fleece, I wear an old large denim shirt instead. Not the best look I admit. I had my first wake up call about how I dress while on a vacation to Italy, but I’ve been unsure how to change it. Your suggestions give me ideas I can understand. Thank you thank you thank you!

    • I recently read one of those French women don’t … books and the author said she NEVER wore jeans. Personally I love them – as long as they fit well and make my bottom and legs look good. I wear them in indigo, brown and dark green and would possibly go with brights if they weren’t skin tight. What’s that lovely phrase? “Neat but not gaudy”? Jeans are a great background for your best colours. I like to wear coral and rust with my jeans or various other colours (like turquoise etc) that work and tie a complete outfit together (like matching earrings and/or scarf). Don’t give up your jeans if they’re comfortable, just make sure they fit well and flatter you.

  • Really enjoy your encouragement re dressing with vigorous style and watching the need to “accumulate”. Would love more on shoes and bags with the outfits you posted. Diana in La.

  • This is brilliant advice, I’ve just turned fifty and retired from my job but not life! Thanks Imogen, I’m a recent discoverer of your blog and am bowled over by the amount of fantastic information available here. Thank you for helping me sort out my sorry closet!

    • Thanks so much! I really believe there is no reason to get dowdy and old – not matter what your stage in life (and sadly, I’ve seen it at all ages – even the 20s an 30s!

  • Please tell me where the stylish options are for older women. Everything I see in the stores looks the same – frumpy and boring. I don’t want to dress like a teenager, but I don’t want to wear matronly clothing. Being petite narrows my shopping options even further. Clothing manufacturers are doing a great job of ignoring women my age.

  • Thank you. I really feel overlooked. I have a double whammy being a large tall woman in that the size 14 and over sized stores cater to frumpy or fifteen. I’m dumping my closet out today and rebuilding. This was the incentive I needed. I can see I just need basics. My clothes are two sizes two large or just plain too old.

  • Hi Imogen, thanks so much for this info, it is exactly what I have been looking for. It can be hard to know what to wear when older, but you have made it simple. You articles are great, and your videos with jill Chivers are truly inspirational. Thanks again. Jinine

  • I’ve been looking for this exact information! What about at home? I’d like to look fairly nice if someone should pop in, but I don’t want to ruin anything with bleach etc from cleaning. Any suggestions?

    • How much time do you spend bleaching things? You might want to wear cleaning clothes (that you don’t mind getting bleach on) for the time you are actually cleaning – but do you want to spend all day every day in cleaning clothes?

    • Dear Dale,
      I am currently remodeling and painting a house, so I understand wanting to look presentable but not wanting to ruin good clothes! I give myself the morning to be dressed up and do things with friends or run errands, then change into my old tees and paint splattered pair of jeans to do heavy construction or painting work in the afternoon and evening. If I am going out in the evening, I may reverse this, doing my dress up in the evening and dirty work in the morning.

      I have also covered my clothes with an apron, a hospital worker’s smock, or one of those cheap plastic rain ponchos. These things are easy to find at a thrift store. I have even used a kitchen garbage bag with holes cut out for head and arms. I use a plastic shower cap to protect my hair. If I am wearing long sleeves, I use cheap elastic fabric covered hair scrunchie: I roll up the sleeves over it to keep the sleeves up and out of the way. And I always wear the proper gloves and mask (N 92, respirator, etc.) type for the work I am doing and any solvents or paints I am using.

      Is bleaching required for the cleaning you are doing? Are you using bleach to sanitize a hard surface or for cleaning fabrics? You may be able to find a non-bleaching cleanser or natural cleanser to use instead. Baking soda, borax, vinegar, castile soap, or just plain hot water or steam may do the trick, according to what you are cleaning.

      You deserve to dress nicely for yourself. Use a separate set of clothes, or get a good cover-up to protect your clothes.

  • Thank you so much. Finally an article for senior dressing. I am 74, I love colour, sparkles and read the book “ How not to look Old “ several years ago and it helped me a lot. I love putting different sharp outfits together. Just wish I could still wear high heels!

    • Thank you Donna for reading! I love that you’re still vibrant and interested in your style – I get you with the high heels (since having my bunion removed I’ve not been able to wear any heel). Hopefully there is lots of other great information here that is non-age related that you can apply to your style!

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