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Eight wardrobe must-haves

Moving from a work wardrobe to one that is better suited to retirement life can take some careful planning. Our new style columnist Connie Matthews is here to take out the guess work and give you inspiration with her top eight must-have wardrobe items.

As we progress through our later years we tend to spend more time at work. The children are off our hands, they need less time and are self-sufficient. All this gives us time to work longer hours and generate a higher level of income. Our thoughts turn towards investing more of our funds into our retirement years and rightly so. We spend our time researching superannuation or self-funded superannuation funds, talking to financial planners along with estate planners, maybe even looking through caravan, holiday and cruise brochures. All these are important areas that need to be cemented prior to us moving from the workforce.

As a personal stylist I find an area we overlook as we move towards retirement is the image we wish to portray once we finish our careers. It’s not uncommon to have an entire wardrobe full of three-piece suits – jackets, pencil skirts, pants with shirts, shoes and accessories – all designed for that day in the office, but not functional for retirement living. For myself, I could happily say ‘I have nothing to wear’ every morning and let my husband know what I thought of his ‘rolling eyes’.

Let’s take a look at Jane Fonda, 79 later this year, and Rhonda Burchmore, who has just turned 57. Both women look amazing, dress appropriately and present a much younger image than their contemporaries did when we were young. Today our 50s are the new 30s … and beyond. You can look equally as good and it’s all in your attitude – and some clever wardrobe tricks!

These are my top eight Items you should have in your wardrobe right now:

  1. Little black dress
  2. Knitwear
  3. Straight leg trouser
  4. Jacket
  5. White t-shirt or shirt
  6. Jeans
  7. Handbag
  8. Comfortable but chic footwear

Witchery V Neck Lace DressLittle black dress

Wherever possible, always look for a two-piece suit style. This gives us flexibility, expands our choices and carries us through all seasons and events with both pieces interchangeable with other items already in our wardrobe. You can then where the jacket with pants or jeans with a little knit or camisole underneath. Add a string of pearls, earrings, clutch bag and we are ready to go out to the theatre, dinner or party on.

For a one-piece option, the little black dress with V neck line from Witchery (see top picks) creates an illusion of height as does the front split. Pair with an envelope clutch to give it a more structured look for evening, formal or event wear. Just imagine a black and white hat for an event like the races and you’ve backed a winner!


Knitwear brings an elegant feel to almost every look. Imagine that comfortable feel paired with a scarf or pearls for that more classic appearance. Team it with the skirt from your two-piece suit and we have created a sophisticated look, but still a casual feel.

The good thing about knitwear is that you can pick up a variety of colours and styles relatively cheaply. UNIQLO stocks inexpensive, machine washable and exceptionally well made knitwear priced from $29.90 to $149.90 in almost every colour, available in all necklines, sweaters and cardigans. Materials include:

  • Extra fine merino wool
  • Cotton cashmere
  • Cashmere
  • Other knitwear
  • Cashmere blend

By the way, these pack into absolutely nothing and are ideal for travelling.

Perri Cutten Roma Pant 3530925_BlackWhite_02Straight leg trouser

A straight leg trouser is a classic piece that ensures a certain timeless elegance. Look for a good quality pair that fit you well and you’re sure to have a wardrobe staple for many years to come. The Perri Cutten Roma Pant is a great example. Visualise your new fine merino wool cardigan, elegant accessories, loafers or heels and you are totally set for any event. There is something quite chic and European with this particular look.

You could also pair these with a jacket to create a totally different look. Just imagine the number of up-to-the-minute looks created already. 

Perri Cutten SuitJacket

A simple trench coat is a wardrobe must-have that can bring a certain elegance to any outfit from dresses to jeans and everything in between. David Lawrence offers quality, flexibility and colours with its ‘Kelsey’ trench. Look for a trench in a beige or camel and you’ll soon be wearing it with absolutely everything.

Picture it over a cream cashmere sweater, paired with your straight leg trouser, red scarf for that pop of colour and black loafers. What a great look!

White t-shirt or shirt

Witchery The Long Cuff ShirtWithout a doubt t-shirts can be purchased everywhere. Target have a fabulous range starting from $10 offering you all necklines, sleeve lengths and easy care. This is a definite in any wardrobe, going with everything or adding extra warmth on those cooler days.

It can be dressed up, dressed down, add in accessories like long necklaces, drop earrings for that glam look, add in your straight leg trouser, a red cardigan and black loafers and you have a stunning casual look.

For a classic white shirt, Witchery’s Long Cuff Shirt (see top picks) offers a soft draping fabric designed with a relaxed fit look and concealed buttons.

Replace the t-shirt with this and our look has more polish. We keep the long necklace and earrings; just add our new trench, heels and we are on for dinner. 


Both Jeanswest and Just Jeans offer good value for money and, more importantly, a large variety in cut, colour, length and styles. Jeans need to fit well.

You absolutely need to walk out with the right fit for your body shape and I’m happy to say both stores offer great service just for you. Their pricing starts at around $75 a pair.

Just imagine high-waisted jeans teamed with your new white t-shirt or long cuff shirt, a camel cardigan, accessorised with a great belt and a camel heel or loafer. Throw your trench over the top for the cooler evening. It’s a simple, classic look that is elegant and refined.


SS16Adding a touch of class to any look only requires one expensive item. And a good quality leather bag is my top pick. Oroton’s Journey by Rose Embroidered Medium Tote, completes our new appearance perfectly. The colour works well with everything, is large enough for all our needs and has ‘great taste’ written all over it and will last a lifetime. It’s worth keeping an eye out for Oroton’s sales where you can save up to 50 per cent in some cases – it’s worth joining their mailing list!

It’s worth mentioning too that you may already have that ‘expensive bag’ hidden in the back of your cupboard. Take a look, you may be surprised. If it’s there, bring it out, give it a polish with a good leather conditioner and you have created another well-designed, carefully crafted look. That one well-appointed piece will make your entire appearance look luxurious – even if your t-shirt was only $10.

Comfortable but chic footwear

Country Road Gala High Heel CognacA neutral colour in a shoe will go a long way. Heels always makes any women feel ‘dressed up’, so try them on. You’ll love the way you look. Look for a camel or black pair that will go with anything.

Some days are just hard to wear heels and Nine West have great loafers for that polished off-duty feel at $129.95 (see top picks). Your wardrobe would be incomplete without a pair of flats. They are a total must and these ones are totally cool.

All retail stores I’ve mentioned are found throughout Australia. UNIQLO are only available in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. However, those that are tech-savvy, everything is available via online shopping. I have used the online shopping service with great success. It’s truly handy.

Clearly I’m a shopper. It’s my pleasure to let you know that all stores offer a loyalty program of some sort. I’ve got my trusty name with every single one, and the reason is that they offer deals all the time, sent straight to my inbox. Often these deals are just for their members and you can save up to 40% on particular days. So exciting! I love to save money where I can. Why? So I can spend it on something else. Perfume, here I come!

Yours in style, Connie

About the author

Alana Lowes

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