Break out of a style rut in retirement

style rut in retirement

Happy Sunday, friends!  Today let’s sit down and talk about ways to break out of a style rut in retirement

A few of you have emailed me to specifically discuss how you want to look in retirement…more than one said, “I am in a style rut and retired.”

Then last Thursday evening, I received another email asking me to explain why I dress with 5 Style Adjectives…why that specific number?

Please remember these videos on my Youtube Channel….



Let’s get started and get you out of that style rut in retirement.


retired style rut

Though I am not fully retired, I no longer dress for the professional office life.

Today’s outfit is one that is UNIQUELY ME…it speaks to my five style adjectives.

I believe I am telling anyone who sees me that I am creative, polished, approachable, joyful, and current with the clothing I wear.

I did not include comfortable or relaxed because those two adjectives can trip me, pesonally, up and lead to a type of sloppy style I do not want to project.

So why 5 adjectives…not three or four?

I have always believed that five adjectives help us to create our best, confident, unique selves every day.

They support each other with what we want to say that is unique to us, and also serve as a check and balance.

With a smaller number of adjectives, I might look like generic styles…classic, bohemian, romantic, etc.

So, I created my own formula to help me build a style that is unique to me. 

I picked out five descriptive words which I desired to say with my clothing selections each time I left the house. Five seemed like the perfect combination.

If I included more on my list, then I would not be focused on messages that are unique to me and building a personal style.  It would get out of control…a mess with shopping, and a mess in my closet.

After selecting my new five style adjectives for this new phase of my life, I began to take them shopping with me.

If the outfit or the garment does not say these adjectives, then I do not  buy them or have them in my closet.

This helps me to leave more clothing behind and not have a closet full of mistakes.

I call the five words MY FOUNDATIONAL FIVE: PERSONAL STYLE BUILDING BLOCKS and I followed this for 11 years. 

Recently, I tried a different direction and quickly returned to my five….because these five adjectives are me…Pam-style.

style rut in retirement

My five adjectives are:

Joyfuldoes this look put a confident smile on my face, so I leave the house with joy

Approachabledoes this look say to anyone, you can talk to me…I am not above you, I am here for you?  I am friendly.

Creative (Artistic)does this look reflect my artistic, love of style either in the outfits or the accessories and show that I love life?

Polished does this look communicate put together, purposeful, well thought out?

Currentdoes this look reflect I am young at heart, active, engaged in life?

Now, some of you have become tripped up trying to come up with five…do not worry about the number that much….only ask yourself…


Maybe there are only four adjectives you want to speak with your style every day…that is fine…just be careful not to limit yourself too much…smaller numbers can lead to generic style…not unique.

The adjective “polished” keeps my “creative” adjective in check…so that I do not purchase pieces that are too bohemian for me.

The word “current” allows me some fun with fashion and says I am engaged…which I enjoy…as long as it also speaks the other four adjectives.

A woman once told me that she wanted to have the same style as Diane Keaton.

OK…describe Diane Keaton with five adjectives…what does her overall style tell the world about Diane.

Then ask yourself….how am I different from Diane Keaton?  Do I want to stick to her adjectives or what can I add that takes her style and makes it unique to me.

WARNING:  If there are famous ladies you want to emulate, then make sure you know the difference between their real personal style or a character they portrayed.

style rut in retirement

I advocate that the best way to begin is to write down exactly what you want to tell the world, friends, and family about you in retirement with what you wear.

What style adjectives give you confidence when you go out every day including the more casual looks for running errands?

And yes…write down your positives and think about them as you do this…EVERYONE has a long list of postives.

We are all beautiful, ladies.

Make sure your list of adjectives fits the life you currently lead. 

style rut in retirement

Style is still important in retirement because it gives us confidence and joy.

We are more likely to volunteer…to speak to others around us…to show up for gatherings…if we feel confident about how we look.

We should never look at how we dress in retirement as retiring our style!  That would keep us from really enjoying all that is available to us in a new phase of life.

After you write down your initial list, then look for ways to combine the list into fewer words.  

Once you select your FOUNDATIONAL FIVE then use them for shopping, for cleaning out your closet, and for every outfit…except maybe what to wear in the garden!

Ask yourself as you try on every piece of a total look…does this outfit speak these five words about me…if not…then kiss it goodbye.

It is so important to practice consistency and decide to live by your adjectives…or you will waist money.

That is when we end up with a closet full of clothing we do not wear.  Make sure your clothing speaks your five adjectives.

style rut in retirement

Get excited…retirement is a time to refresh and sharpen a new you!  

I do love the fact that so many of my friends get my style.  They will tell me when they see something they know I will love….because my personal style is distinct.

Pam-style is unique to me and no one else.  That is how it should be….you should be uniquely you.

For more in-depth information, watch the two videos I have at the top of the page.  

And please let me know if I can help….you only have to think…WHAT DO I WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW ABOUT ME WITH WHAT I WEAR?

Tomorrow I am going to show you another outfit featuring a July style purchase that speaks my five adjectives.

Maybe this will help you do this for yourself some day….


retired style rut

This jacket was one of my birthday gift purchases from July and speaks my adjectives!

First of all, I have to tell you that these are INC. skinny jeans from Macy’s that I have owned for years…I just recently lost enough weight to get back in them!!  Woo Hoo…score!

I love these jeans and just might want to get a new pair this fall.

The Quilted Button Front Universal Thread Jacket at Target is sold out in Misses, but I have linked to the women’s sizes.

It is a reversible jacket, and the blue is more the kingfisher blue in my color palette, than the light blue it appears on line.

Because of that shade of blue, it looks great with my burnt orange Universal Thread V-Neck tee…I really like these tee shirts and have them in colors meant for a vibrant autumn.

Of course, many of you will be familiar with my Worlds Find necklace.

I really believe with a wardrobe built on my five adjectives, that I could style a different look every day if I wanted to….no rut here!

I know this is long, but I so hope it helps those of you who feel stuck in a style rut in retirement.

So, please ask any questions…make comments…or just let me know how I can help.  This should be fun…not stressful.  Our wardrobes are a support system to help us have a life of pure enjoyment.

Let’s build that confidence together and always……………………………………..


By Pamela Lutrell

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style rut in retirement


  1. Thank you Pamela for this post. I am retired and before I retired I wore business casual but since retiring I am at lose at what to wear. Last winter I mostly wore leggings because I try to walk everyday and now this summer I wear shorts because in Middle Tn. it is so hot and humid. My problem is going out for lunch/dinner during the week or even going out on the weekends. Any help would be so grateful.

  2. Hi Dianne, It would help you to decide what you want to say with your style over all. If you choose your five adjectives, then every time you to to lunch or dinner…or anywhere you are dressing beyond workout clothing or work around the house clothing…use your adjectives to put together those outfits. And use your adjectives to decide what stays in your closet and what goes. You need to think through…What do I want to tell the world about me with my dress at this time of my life? I believe we are needed more in this world…to be participants…than ever before. Retired life is more about staying home…these days our wisdom and experience are needed in a variety of places. When I attend a non-profit planning meeting, I may want to add one of those past professional jackets to a nice pair of denim. Of course, if I am working at a food bank, I would be much more casual. What do you want your life to be right now and what do you want to communicate to others about you through your dress? Put some thought to it…make some notes…and develop a 5 adjective plan of action for your wardrobe. I hope that helps. We are needed and need to be out making a difference in our families and communities with confidence.

  3. Hello Pam! Since I’ve recently retired, I just reviewed my Five. I am going to switch out Strong for Joyful (which I borrowed from you) and am now comfortable with my list. I also think it better fits my now ‘semi-retired’ lifestyle. Thank you for your insight!

  4. Thank you for sharing Sheri! Joyful helps to keep me leaving the house with a smile!! So glad to have you here!

  5. Thank you for your continuing encouragement to be our best. Things I struggle with: 1. Trying to buy quality, lasting items which then are rather vanilla. (Forgive me, but I think the coastal grandmother look is vanilla and a bit safe. I do wear it to look “put together” but it doesn’t exude much pizazz. I blend in.) While I don’t want my clothing to say “look at me”, I do want to look interesting and current. 2. Trying to stay within a budget and being mindful of excess. 3. Not crowding my closet and drawers with things I do not see. I still struggle with how to add my personality to an outfit – which piece should have the color, the accessories that would add a spark. (There’s another topic for you: decluttering your jewelry box!). I think I have my style adjectives in place, but need to weed my wardrobe with them in mind. Such angst in fashion :). I will review your videos – much good advice in them. I must also add some regimen to my retirement in addressing my closet, but that’s another issue! I’m thinking of the daily ending to our before-school announcements during teaching days, and how I need to apply it more than ever: “Make it a great day – or not – the choice is yours!” Thanks for all you do, Pam.

  6. It is a great day and a gift! Thank you…using my adjectives to weed out my wardrobe along with my color palette made a huge difference and benefitted Goodwill! It can be overwhelming, but there is so much fun and peace to walking into a closet that you can see reflects you and where everything goes together. Forget trying to be a trend that is not you! If Coastal Grandmother is boring to you…then you need a creative, artistic, or interesting bent to your wardrobe. Every time you get dressed, before you leave the house ask in the mirror…does this look speak my five adjectives…if it does, head out with confidence…if it doesn’t then make tweaks until it does.
    True confession: Leigh Ann and Mr. B will verify that I have trouble decluttering jewelry. But I will see what I can come up with!

  7. Thank you, Pam. Your outfit today is one of my favorites on you! (Maybe because it happens to hit my adjectives too :)). I think retirement is a major life change that calls for some new wardrobe items, just like any new stage of life. However, in retirement at first I just bought versions of what I wore to work, without realizing that my new life would be more varied in activity, less scheduled, more active (I know, didn’t see that one coming!), and much more casual. We are also taking long trips, and that requires serious travel clothing. So I wish I had waited a while before buying “retirement” clothes. The advice to buy for your real life is so true but hard to implement during a major life decision. The foundational five has helped me immensely, so much more than labels. I switched out my workaday “polished” for “casual.” I will always be sort of sporty-polished, but I need the reminder to stay more relaxed.

  8. Thanks for sharing, Linda! I use my adjectives for road trip style, because we always stop at interesting places and I want to feel my confident best. I am able to do that with leggings and comfort wear….but I am a huge fan of leggings and I know not everyone is. Also, our dog almost always travels with us and I wear clothing that is good for dealing with him as well.

  9. I couldn’t believe how much more I liked your style with the shirt underneath the jacket!!! You needed the color!! I was using five words to describe my style when I found you but you must know that this was my Bachelors & career field!! I love how you describe the use and reason behind the words!!!! Thank you so much for your posts!! They are a blessing!! Your attack finally got my mom to be careful & take precautions in her gated area!! May you have a blessed Sunday!!!

  10. Thank you Natalie! I like it much better with the orange tee also! And thank you for the word about your mom…that is why I shared the story of my attack is to help others.

  11. Thank you, I’ve been retired for several years. While I’m a relaxed classic style Gal I like to add creative touches a necklace, earrings or jacket. I love you leather flats. I’ve been looking for something similar.

  12. Hi Cathy! I found these a couple of years ago and they are Clark’s. Very comfy and polished!

  13. Good morning. This is a great column. I find your ‘5’ very helpful. Recently, “3” is being promoted, but you’re right that it’s too generic — and more probing questions have to be asked to drill down to find what is effective. I’m recently retired, and it’s a tough adjustment: no need for beautiful work trousers and blouses. I’m sure it will evolve but I find my 5 brings out two key aspects of my style. (I’m a Gemini, so I think in twins – LOL.) I place casual and active on one side and classic and tailored on the other. Between the two sides is current. So your 5 really works for me. Thanks!

  14. This gives me a lot to think about! I retired in June and since I worked in a school haven’t really felt the impact yet. I am worried about the future for me. I find when I’m home I don’t put on make up in the morning and choose comfy shorts or leggings to putter around in. I need to make different decisions when I get up in the morning now. Some days I’ll just be hanging around and others I hope to be getting out and about. You give me motivation to look my best even if I don’t really see anyone in the course of a day. This will all be new for me come September and I need to really make a plan! I’ll be reading your posts, past and future, to help me not become a frump!

  15. I am here for you Linda to look and feel your best every day ! I find it so much easier after I work out in the morning to dress for the day. I just feel better when I do. If zi know I am in the yard all day, I don’t do that. If I don’t fix up first thing in the morning, I am more likely to run errands not looking my best and inevitably I run into someone I know!!

  16. I really like this post. I am retired and do feel like I’m in a rut with clothing. I’m not sure where to turn and do buy things I don’t need. I’m going to watch your videos when I have some time I’m sure they will help.

  17. When I retired twelve years ago, I definitely fell into a fashion rut that was decidedly frumpy when I was at home. I looked good when I went out to run errands or shop, but at home, I had the attitude that no one was seeing me, so it didn’t really matter what I wore. That lasted through the summer because I have always had a hard time dressing for summer anyway. In the fall, I decided to turn things around. I cleared my closet of anything that didn’t fit, was faded, stained or that I just didn’t like. I had to decide how I wanted to look for me which was the equivalent of your foundational five. This is more important now that I am a caregiver & spend a lot of time at home. Looking my best keeps my spirits from flagging.

  18. As you know, I’ve been using the Foundational Five for years. It has saved me money when shopping and practically eliminated shopping mistakes. I will still make the occasional error there, but they have become rare and truly, they only happen if I try to shop online. I review my adjectives when I transition to a new season and find that they have occasionally changed somewhat. Retirement threw me for a serious loop because I love/loved my dresses and suits and pumps. I kept quite a few favorites and wear them to church and when going to dressier places. Many had to go, but I donated them and it made me happy to know that someone was going to enjoy them in her own business life. The adjectives really do help! I keep them in my wallet. I’ve done the same with home decor which helps in the same way as the adjectives do for clothing choices!

  19. Pam, you helped me with adjectives a few months ago, and it has been a TREMENDOUS help! I actually had 4 adjectives, and added JOYFUL today. I always want to remember the joy cause it’s such an important part of life. Thank you for the encouragement you give all of us every day.

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