I’ve been thinking a lot about retirement these days, even when I’m in the midst of work. I’m realizing with the pandemic, the clothing wardrobe I needed before the crisis is very different than the one I’ll probably need post-pandemic and my departure from full-time employment.
In my role as a department director, I attended numerous business meetings, chaired several planning committees, traveled to conferences, and did a bit of public speaking. I have shoes, dress pants, and skirts, jackets, and blazers, blouses and scarves, and jewelry. It is almost like having a set of uniforms or my armor. I’m realizing that I have made a fairly large financial investment in a work-appropriate wardrobe. It was expected.
But now with the pandemic, I really just need a professional look on top and can get away with shorts and flip flops or my slippers on the bottom. My pandemic life, working from home, means I attend a continuous series of on-line meetings. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Go to Meeting and BlueJeans are all platforms that don’t require getting fully dressed and being put together. What I find interesting is that I haven’t purchased anything new for work since last fall and I don’t think I will before I retire. In fact, I haven’t put on a pair of regular shoes yet. This has never happened to me before.
I’ve always had a few items that are activity-related, like work-out wear, running, biking, and hiking clothes. But I don’t really have casual clothes. I’m understanding that my clothing is tied to my identity today, but going forward, I’m not at all sure what my new identity will be. I don’t want to buy things just to buy them, so I’m waiting. I wonder sometimes if others who have transitioned from an executive position to a more casual lifestyle experienced this perception of a changing identity?
Clothing is just a part of it though. I have been coloring my hair for years and years. Up until now, I just didn’t feel like I was “old” enough to be gray or at least let it go salt and pepper. With the pandemic though it was nearly four months before we were allowed to get a cut and color at a salon. By then I had decided if I’m already a grandmother and I’m retiring, I’m going more natural. As my hair has changed, sometimes when I walk by a mirror or a glass with a reflection, I don’t recognize myself.
For relaxation and to complete a more polished look, I used to go and get a manicure and pedicure every month. I found that I loved the warm water soak, the scrubbing, and especially the massage. When things were stressful at work I called this “self-care”. Now I haven’t had a mani-pedi for over six months!
I’m becoming really confused at this point. What is my new identity? Who will I be after I retire? What things will I be doing? What clothing will I need? How will I want to look?
I’m excited about trying something new as far as my identity and my look, but at this point, I think I’ll just cozy up by the fire, and put a warm blanket on my lap because fall is approaching. I’m thinking I can save some money for now and wait and see what spring and retirement brings.
If you have already traveled this road already, I would love to hear how you navigated converting a work wardrobe into a retirement one. Did you store it away, donate to the thrift store, or share it with others? Did you do this over time or did you purge the old and go on a shopping spree for the new? I would love to hear your story. Please share it in the comments section!
Barbara is the new star of the Rock Your Retirement show! For one year, she'll let Kathe Kline tag along as she goes through her retirement journey.