It seems like everyone is working harder than ever. I work primarily with professional women and all of my clients, including myself, are barely treading water. My client, Ms. Incandescent, a CEO who runs a company that employs hundreds of people, was out of touch for months simply because her workload had been unsustainable. When we were finally able to connect, she told me her company has been understaffed by about 25%. Much of this was due to the great resignation, many of these resignations being Baby Boomers.
This is a far cry from what we anticipated the workplace would look like when the pandemic started in 2020. I can vividly recall my own fears that March when NYC first went into lockdown and I was tormented by chilling memories of the 2008 economic collapse that took me nearly 10 years to claw back from after my business barely survived it. Back in 2008, I was 34. I had time. In 2020, at the start of the pandemic, I was 46, and without nearly the amount of time, energy, or runway I had back then to come back from another scathing financial disaster. It would be over if things went south. There would be no second comeback for my business.
The Great Retirement is a Subset of the Great Resignation
Yet, here I am in 2022 having just calculated my business growth for the first quarter, and my business is up 109% compared to the first quarter of 2021. I hired an assistant and, like my clients, I am struggling to keep up with my workload. Maybe people in the ‘financial know’ may have seen this coming, but to the average person, like myself, and without an ear to the finance train trestle, nobody anticipated that there would be no financial collapse, there would be a great resignation, or that more than half of these people would be over the age of 55 who would leave the workplace. The pandemic pushed more than 3 million Baby Boomers into premature retirement. Some left due to layoffs, others left due to being part of the vulnerable age group for illness, and others felt it was the right time to just leave having built up enough of a financial cushion to do so.
I’m not going to lie, as a moody middle child Gen X’er, a generation that prefers to do its thing with less fanfare and who can find the whole Baby Boomer presence overwhelming at times, on the one hand, I’m like, “finally, something that will make this huge, loud, sanctimonious group of people shuffle off. Make haste already, won’t ya?” But I realize, this comes from the fact that I am part of the commonly overlooked and ignored generation that grew up unsupervised and from broken homes, and who usually gets skipped or doesn’t even register on lists that cite all the different generational years. The outward response to my generation being ignored is usually met with the typical Gen X shrug, partnered with our classic, “whatever, man,” like we don’t care, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t looking forward to finally getting our moment in the sun after years of Baby Boomers getting theirs. To make matters worse, we Gen X’ers also contend with our much cuter and younger siblings who get all the attention, The Millennials.
That said, the Great Retirement, the subset name for the Baby Boomer population who are part of the Great Resignation, has had far greater negative consequences than the positive side effect of Gen X finally getting its moment in the sun. Baby Boomers outsize my much smaller Gen X generation despite the fact that Baby Boomers are dying off and Gen X will finally outsize the Boomer population by 2028. Baby Boomers were the largest living adult generation until 2019, according to Pew Research. Currently, as it stands, Millennials are the largest living adult generation, but Millennials are a young generation, comparatively, and not all ready to fill the shoes of the exiting Boomer retirees. In 2021, the latest data available, Millennials approximately numbered 73.2 million, Boomers 70.2 million, and Gen X only 65.2 million. Employers are dependent on the outsize Baby Boomer cohort, whose exit is contributing to growing shortages of workers everywhere.
Boomers Want Career Flexibility Not Career Ends
Credit where credit is due, I have always been grateful for how Baby Boomers redefined retirement and aging. I clearly recall my grandfathers—both of The Greatest Generation— retiring at around the age of 65, as if the clock ran out and they had to leave their work to putter in boredom until they died. I think about my mom who was born smack in the middle of the Baby Boom generation and won’t be retiring until she’s in her early 70s and has plans after retirement to consult or work part-time in her profession in some capacity. Part of working this long has been because she’s been a widow for over two decades and is an educator who needs to work in order to get maximum benefits. Yet, that aside, the other reason is indicative of how Boomers are redefining what aging looks like and how they want to use their retirement years. According to a Gallup poll, a solid 10% of Americans claimed they planned to work long past retirement age. Certainly, part of that is due to most Americans famously not having enough money set aside for their senior years along with an obsession with the American way of finding meaning through work, but we also have to credit how Boomers have redefined aging and vitality. As the generation following behind them, on this, I applaud and am grateful for what Boomers have paved. See? I’m not entirely salty about Boomers. The pandemic curtailed this Boomer retirement plan of working past retirement for a variety of reasons and that’s disappointing because if there is anything Boomers don’t put up with it’s standing idly by while life is decided for them.
Boomers refusing to shuffle off has also been good for the economy. Gen X has long worried over the fact that the outsized generation before them will basically sop up most of Social Security income before any of us X’ers will have the chance to benefit. Now with more Boomers retiring earlier than planned, these worries are becoming more fully realized even quicker. Adding to that, Boomers’ presence in the workplace helped compensate for things like reduced immigration and the falling birth rates. Additionally, The Great Retirement is potentially inflationary. Employers will be competing for a smaller labor pool and will have to pay higher wages, which means raising the prices of their products. This could contribute to a wage-price spiral, where rising prices lead empowered workers to demand raises to keep up, fueling even more inflation.
Employers who are smart are considering how to retain their Boomer-aged employees from being part of the Great Retirement by improving labor conditions, evaluating age discrimination in the workplace, and how they can make their workplace more appealing for workers, not just Boomers, but all employees who want to stick around. I’ve been saying it for months, it’s an employee, not an employer-driven workplace currently. Companies that are examining how they support their aging employees post-pandemic are likely the ones who will maintain retention as polls are showing that many Boomers do have an interest in remaining connected to their jobs at some capacity in semi-retirement through things like reduced hours, consulting, or flexible hours. Yet, sadly, only one in five retirees of a large pool polled by the Harris Poll for Express Employment Professionals, a staffing agency, claimed their company had any interest in options like this.
All That Said, You Decided to Retire. How to Rebuild Your Wardrobe Now
For whatever reason, you decided to retire during the pandemic. I received a request from a reader who was part of The Great Resignation and couldn’t be happier with her choice to retire. As with many women entering this new phase of life, 90% of this reader’s wardrobe is work-related and she is now in the process of rethinking what she needs in her closet. She requested a blog post on the topic. As luck would have it, I recently built a capsule for a client who is going through something similar and as luck would have it again, she agreed to let me share what I have done for her so far.
My client, who I have named Mrs. Ebullient due to her very cheery, personable, and affable personality, reached out when she realized that her retirement wardrobe was lacking and was struggling to figure out how to reshape and correct it. Mrs. Ebullient is a young Canadian retiree and former government employee. She wasn’t specific in her reasons for retirement but being only 55 —actually a cool Gen X’er, not a Boomer — she is in a position where she still has decades of enjoyable retirement years ahead and deserves a wardrobe to match all the possibilities to come.
We all go through phases in life, at all ages, where we have to reconsider what we wear, where suddenly what has been working no longer does. Our personal style may not change but what we need to wear and what fits changes. It’s like we need to get to know ourselves all over again. In Mrs. Ebullient’s case, this seemed very true. How does she take her style and transform it for this new life? It was time to get professional help.
Mrs. Ebullient’s Retirement Capsule
Shop Mrs. Ebullient’s Capsule
1 Linen Cardigan 2 Cookie Cardigan 3 Linen Boyfriend Cardigan 4 Soft Stretch Supima Tee 5 Pima Cotton Shaped V-Neck 6 Layering Tank 7 Linen Camp Shirt 8 Silvio Shirt 9 Irish Linen Shirt 10 Horn Gold Bracelet 11 Tortoise Hoop Earrings 12 Link Chain Necklace 13 Jasper Beaded Necklace 14 Buffalo Horn Beads 15 Interlock Drop Earrings 16 Rory Dress 17 Miastella Crossbody 18 Primula Hobo 19 Le Foulonné Crossbody 20 Perforated Leather Belt 21 Cotton Linen Boy Blazer 22 The Danza 23 Gizeh Sandals 24 The Cerchio 25 The Lizza Nuova 26 The Medio 27 The Felize 28 The Edetta 29 Ribbed Polo 30 Recycled Denim Skirt 31Denim Jacket 32 Hockley Jean in Hemlock 33 Sammataro Jean 34 Utility Straight Leg Pant 35 Suit(ish) Pull on Pant 36 High-Rise Girlfriend Chino 37 Original Cheeky Jean 38 Modal Scarf
I put together Mrs. Ebullient’s Capsule with a few things in mind. The first was her personal style, which I resonated with strongly. As with me, Mrs. Ebullient tended toward basics and preferred using fewer clothes, and likes neutral colors. She enjoys and wears nice things but was looking to cut back on her clothing spending in retirement. My strategy to choose luxury resale items was predicated on my feeling that there was no reason someone should have to lower their usual standards simply because their life is becoming more casual. The items that don’t have links are the items that are luxury resale and not available. These items primarily came from Max Mara’s more casual lines, like Weekend Max Mara, and Akris Punto. A retirement life does not mean having to pick through racks of cheap clothes you’d wear to early bird dinner at 4 pm. Why not go for elevated and polished casual? Mrs. Ebullient is a very long way off before she’s taking the senior bus to bingo night. Certainly, the type of clothing chosen would need to resonate with her new lifestyle, but the quality itself, why compromise? I was determined to create an elegant and upscale retirement look that was wearable and approachable and realistic, all while remaining within her target budget.
I also wanted to show Mrs. Ebullient how she could do more with less by manipulating the pieces in her wardrobe and showing her how to dress them up and down by simply mixing them differently or choosing different shoes and accessories. I certainly didn’t need to show Mrs. Ebullient how to style a t-shirt and jeans by themselves, but if I could show her how to take those basic pieces and looks and amp them up slightly with just a few tweaks, Mrs. Ebullient could maximize her wardrobe for all different needs.
Overall, my goal was to create a sporty, elegant, and refined capsule that looked polished and wearable and one that she could effortlessly throw together so she could wear the pieces to run to the store to grab a gallon of milk, get dinner with friends, attend a party, and also pack to go on an adventure somewhere fun with her husband.
The Looks Created Using the Pieces from Mrs. Ebullients Retirement Capsule
These are the looks I created as examples to show how the pieces I selected for Mrs. Ebullient could be styled so she could decide which of the selections made the most sense for her to purchase. While she likely won’t buy everything and not all of it will fit, this capsule creates a workable framework that she and I will use as we continue to flesh things out. It has become very helpful for clients to see beyond just shopping selections and to see how each piece would be used in multiple ways in their wardrobes. These outfit options also allowed Mrs. Ebullient to track each piece she was interested in and track how each one was used so she could easily figure out which additional pieces to buy. Take a look at all the looks I created.
Next Steps for Mrs. Ebullient’s Retirement Capsule
As I was finishing up this post, I received an email from Mrs. Ebullient. When I put the capsule together, she was traveling and ordered things while away so we didn’t communicate much. It was only in that email that I learned how pleased Mrs. Ebullient was with what she has received so far. She said she, “no longer looks like a middle-aged frump.” Next, we will review the purchases Mrs. Ebullient will be keeping, address what additional buys, based on those keeps, will be needed to round out her wardrobe, and Mrs. Ebullient will be off to enjoy her wonderful retirement life…until next season when we’ll be doing it all again for fall. Well, I’m pretty sure we will.
Mrs. Ebullient has been an absolute pleasure, joy, and ease to work with and I look forward to further fleshing out this incredible retirement capsule. If you are entering this next phase of your life from your own Great Resignation or Great Retirement, I hope you feel inspired to look great on this next leg of your journey.
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Bridgette, this is a gorgeous capsule! I could easily dress for my business casual job from this capsule.
This was one of my more favorite capsules too. It came together incredibly easily and I would wear much of it myself. I was so happy to hear that Mrs. Ebullient was equally pleased.
“finally, something that will make this huge, loud, sanctimonious group of people shuffle off. Make haste already, won’t ya?” Ouch 🤕
But I love the capsule!
LOL, oh the dear and tender Baby Boomers, the lot of you will always manage to zero in on that one little zing despite there also being a paragraph of praise for being the amazing thought changers. The reason why Gen X doesn’t usually have the same reaction to small slings and arrows or people finding parts of us annoying? We were basically ignored from the time we were born, called lazy, were going to be named “Generation Nowhere” or “The Lost Generation” and, as I said in my post, often don’t even get listed as one of the generations. We’re used to either being criticized or overlooked. It’s why we have shoulder shrugging and eye-rolling down to a science and it’s also why we don’t entirely understand the Boomer perspective.
But thanks, it was one of my favorite capsules too.
Yup. Fellow Xr here. I look around at my age group peers who are so smart, hardworking, creative, and conscientious and remember all the times we were called “slackers” in the past and how often we are still completely left out of the conversation today.
Right? I hope they are enjoying their Google and their Amazon! The funniest part is we were named the slackers by The Boomers, and they partly had a hand in raising us! Hilarious!
It’s nice to have another X in the mix to step in because I feel like I have been explaining my position over and over again to Boomers on Facebook for that one tiny sentence. Good grief. To paraphrase what I said to another Boomer who seemed mildly bothered by what I said, but not terribly so: Boomers have to understand the perspective from where the statement comes from, the Gen X perspective, which is following behind them and has always lived in the shadows living largely ignored not only by society but by their own parents. The stereotype is not meant to be literal but more a commentary in general on the societal position Gen X has always been in: deeply sandwiched between these two behemoth generations. We came after the Boomers and then right behind us, this massive generation sprang up. There is no money in us, nobody cares. Companies jumped from targeting Boomers and right to Millennials. We’ve basically been the latch key kids since we were young. So, yea, from that perspective, of course, we’d like Boomers to shuffle off so, maybe, we could get some time to not have them all overshadowing us. But that’s not like some commentary on who the Baby Boomers are as people. It’s more a commentary on the unfortunate position and low birth rates of those born between 1964 and 1980 are in.
But, crikey, you make one commentary, and feelings get a bit hurt. Have they been so big and so focused on themselves that they haven’t even thought about what it must have been like to trail behind them? I just wonder why it bothers a Boomer so much when a Gen X just offers an opinion of what it has felt like to live in that massive wake as a commentary or a feeling? I just offered a personal experience from a different perspective, that’s all. It never ceases to surprise me how the Boomer generation seems to lack that ability not be able to stop and think, “hmm, yea, that had to be tough, to be considered so insignificant that your generation often barely registers.”
Butt-hurt comments may well be coming from those born at the end of the Boomer generation. You know, those poor, unfortunate soles born in the early ’60s who do not exactly relate to Boomers, who have also been robbed of an idenity, but are not Xers either.
Oh jeez, those are poor unfortunate souls, much like many of those born on the generational cusps. Someone used the term Generation Jones, I believe, to define those born at the end of the Baby Boom. I had not heard of this because I am a late X but I will have to research this more!
Nope, not for this late Boomer anyway. I find Bridgette’s comments hilarious and spot on.
I agree with Carlene (and yes, I’m a boomer). Kind of harsh, and made me almost quit reading an otherwise excellent post. No need to tear down another group to build up your own.
Oh Sweet Louise, Laura. Tear down a group to build up your own? Do you mean like Boomers named us the nowhere generation or the lost generation or called us slackers? And where did I “tear an entire generation down?” I think that’s a bit hyperbolic, no? I literally didn’t tear down a generation, I gave one playful zing that I explained the perspective from which it came, and took ownership and complete responsibility for my feelings. I didn’t say it was true and I explained why I felt that way. I then went on for an ENTIRE paragraph to explain what Boomers did that was so great. I praised all of you for the strides you have made around aging and vitality and for paving the way. I guess I don’t get it. If it were me, and I came from a much larger generation and someone from a smaller more marginalized one that has been overshadowed their entire lives made a comment like that, I would have the ability to look at it and think, “well, sure, from that perspective, I can see why someone would feel that way and say something in jest. They’ve spent their lives being told they would amount to nothing, don’t even register on generation lists, nobody cares about them. Of course, they would want us to back off a bit and give them some breathing room.” It’s no different than someone joking about middle child syndrome. Perhaps Generation X would be more understanding of The Boomers if they took even a second to consider Gen X and what it’s been like for them.
I just have to back Bridgette up here — if you want to read more of our Xer perspective, and how we’re literally left out, this one does nicely (from 2020). https://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/2020/03/forgotten-generation-x-slackers-no-more-showing-boomers-and-millennials-how-to-deal-when-reality-bites.html
Perhaps other generations are just surprised to hear we exist and have opinions? 😉
At any rate, I don’t want to hijack Bridgette’s post – she has some fantastic insights on the culture at large here, not to mention a killer capsule full of inspiration. I know I’ll be referring back to it. So it’s a good thing you *didn’t* stop reading!
Thanks, Silver. I appreciate another X’s viewpoint and that was a great article you shared. It’s funny, in many ways, that the reactions from the Boomers I have been getting prove exactly what makes Boomers so different from Gen X. You know darn well that if some millennial wrote a post about getting excited for us to make haste, we’d be like, “whatever, peace out!”
The whole thing is funny and annoying at the same time because, in any situation where there is a majority and a minority, the majority always expects that you understand them and usually doesn’t bother trying to understand the minority’s perspective. It’s interesting that it’s happening here.
Thank you for offering your thoughts on creating a post retirement wardrobe!
This is a great capsule. I also am a recent retiree and am challenged at having to make the transition. I shop a lot at MMLafleur and am happy to see some of their pieces here too. You gave me some excellent ideas on how to build my stylish retirement self. Thank you for the great ideas.
Hi Susan, oh absolutely! M.M. has really changed their game now that women are working from home and Mrs. Ebullient told me she loves the MM pants she purchased. I think they can absolutely be worn after retirement! I am glad the ideas helped!
So how do you feel about this group wearing/not wearing stockings? I’m self conscious about my older looking legs, but panty hose are a non starter.
I feel that people should wear whatever makes them feel comfortable and confident. Quite frankly, I’m tired of women seeking out permission from other women to do what’s right for them. If you don’t want to wear them, there are definitely alternatives. You could use a product like Sally Hansen Airbursh Legs or use a tanning moisturizer and even try spray tanning. I am white as a ghost and don’t have particularly nice legs and as I age they’re certainly not getting any better. I do what can, I know I won’t wear pantyhose in hot weather, and on occasion when it’s right I have worn them. I prefer Silk Reflections because they are super smooth and lovely, and I move on with my life. That’s what works for me. I hope that helps.
As an almost Gen-X’er (1960), I LOL’d x 10 to “finally, something that will make this huge, loud, sanctimonious group of people shuffle off. ” Couldn’t agree more! And as for Ms Ebullient’s awesome retirement wardrobe, I’ll have what she’s having please.
Okay, yes, technically I’m a Boomer, BUT I can laugh at myself and roll my eyes like an X-er any day. Did I mention that wardrobe is fabulous?
Thanks, Marian. I was pleased with it too. Even though I am only 48, I would wear pretty much all of it myself!
Well, I’m glad there is at least one Boomer who could put themselves in the shoes of an X’er for a second and see the perspective from there this comment came from. I was beginning to wonder if this generation was devoid of empathy or a sense of humor. Thanks for restoring my confidence, Marian!
As a retired woman of 72, this is right up my lane. I’m wondering, would you every suggest the Rory dress worn unbuttoned over pants or skirt as a light topper?
As a Gen X at 55 I so appreciated this article. I’m retired because I’m disabled which is different but not. I live in retirement clothing which is athleisure(because I have really bad pain days) or my casual elegant style clothing. It really took me awhile to find my style again until I realized I just needed to be me!! I am free to be me and that is wonderful!!
At some point we just have to let go and it is so freeing when we do.