Today I am joining Elizabeth from the Vintage Contessa for our favorite time of the month, our monthly Ageless Style feature. You can find the archives for other women I have featured here. This month I am so happy to be featuring Sue Burpee, retired English teacher, and author of the delightful blog High Heels in the Wilderness. Elizabeth and I have been doing this series for almost four years and we both work very hard at finding stylish, interesting women to feature. Every month I think how am I going to find someone vibrant, fashionable, witty, and fun? Then along comes Sue. Welcome to Ageless Style-Sue Burpee.
In Sue’s words, she was “mourning, a little, the loss of my life in the classroom. Who would I be when I was no longer Ms Burpee? ” She imagined “how wonderful it would be to find a whole community of intelligent women, who wanted to sip their morning tea (or coffee) and chat about books, and clothes, and travel, and … well… life”. High Heels in the Wilderness was born.
How long have you been blogging?
I started my blog in 2014, about this time of year, in fact.
Has your blog evolved over time or has your concept remained the same from the start?
I’d say my blog has evolved over time. Although the subject matter is the same. Right from the start I wanted to write about fashion. But also about books and travel and just about life.
For a few months after I retired from teaching, I played around with ideas, and titles, researched how to write a blog, then ignored most of the advice, and just jumped in. For the first few years, I did everything myself and learned a ton about all the technical aspects. Then I grew weary of trying to solve tech problems and began to use a small tech company to help me. They helped me redesign my template the way I wanted. And they migrated all my posts from Blogger to Word Press. Now they host my blog and are only an e-mail away when things go wrong. What a relief that is!
When I moved to Word Press I also monetized my blog. Although I do this only through affiliate links at the moment.
I think my writing has improved since I started. I always used to tell my students that our writing improves only when we write regularly. Good to know that I was right about that.
How would you describe your style?
Ah. Now that is a tough question. I’m much more comfortable having someone else describe my style. But if I must, I would say that I like a minimalist look. Maybe a little bit preppy, although not as much as in years past. I love good quality, classic pieces. In the past I spent far more than I should have done on clothes. But I guess that’s why I still have so many of those pieces from years and years ago. I’ve loved sweaters and jeans with blazers and boots since I was in university. Only now I often change up the boots for sneakers. Since I have let my hair go white, I find I’m less tied to a classic look and moving more into edgy. But I’ll never be really edgy, I know that.
I know I learn from my readers every day what have you learned from your readers?
The fact that a community of wonderful women has grown up around my blog is the biggest surprise of my life. (Well, other than the fact that I stopped colouring my hair.)
When I worked as a teacher and department head in a large suburban school here in Ottawa, I always felt I had to hide my passion for fashion. Oh, everyone knew I loved clothes, but I never talked about them. I mean really talked about them, about trends, and fashion philosophy, and why something looks good with something else. I never did that because it always felt superficial.
So when I discovered that the women who read my blog are smart, and love fashion and books in equal measure I was gobsmacked. There really were women out there like me. Who knew? That’s the biggest thing I learned, I think.
But also that the bad press that the internet and social media get is sometimes all wrong. We can be interested in each other, and kind, and learn from each other, and value each others’ opinions. Even in today’s sometimes snarky world.
Who Inspires You and Why?
Other bloggers inspire me. Alyson Walsh of That’s Not My Age was one of the first blogs I read which inspired me to try my hand at writing. My friend Frances Sprout of the blog Materfamilias Writes inspires me. She has a PhD, raised four children, taught at university, and still loves to talk about clothes. Whenever I have felt a little silly confessing to friends that I write a blog, and I am met with a slightly superior and indulgent smile, I think of these women. If they aren’t embarrassed why should I be?
As far as fashion inspiration. Hmmm. Ines de la Fressange, Alexa Chung, the English vlogger and influencer Emma Hill, lots of younger vloggers who probably have no idea they’re being “followed” by someone as old as me. (ha.) Emma Thompson and Gillian Anderson for their hair. Those two ladies gave me the courage to abandon the hair dye.
I know you recently embraced your gray hair, has that changed your personal style in any way?
It has in ways that maybe only I can see. I am more comfortable with big and baggy. I embraced the big shirt and the half tuck. I am less worried about everything being “perfect.” Not that I ever thought I looked perfect, but I was always worried about being messy, or having a bad hair day. I’m more into looks that are a bit louche and edgy and not so much about being polished. But I don’t know if anyone can notice the change or if it’s more on the inside.
What is your favorite accessory?
A bracelet. Preferably vintage. Or something not too feminine, like Anne Marie Chagnon’s work. She’s a Canadian jewellry maker. . And my hoop earrings.
What are your favorite color combination?
I have no idea. I’m still playing around with that now that my own colouring has changed so much. I am loving grey and soft white at the moment.
Do you have a signature piece that defines your style?
A jacket. That’s about it. Jeans and a jacket.
What are your favorite beauty products and why can’t you live without them?
Skincare. Moisturiser. I have dry and sensitive skin. A sunscreen. And lately, since my hair is white, a bronzer. I never leave the house even to go skiing without doing something to my eyebrows. Now that my hair is so light that’s more important than ever.
Do you have any style rules that you live by, or do you choose to break the rules?
I don’t think I have any specific style rules.
What are your favorite online and or boutique sources?
Nothing that I can think of at the moment. I’m trying to find more sustainable brands and the stores which carry them. So my choices are all over the map at the moment.
Do you have a particular diet and or exercise regime that you follow?
No specific diet. Since my husband’s heart surgery we are careful about what we eat. Good fats, lots of fish, tons and tons of vegetables. He loves to cook. Thank goodness!
We are quite active. My husband is a former Phys. Ed. teacher and he’s always been very active. So I try to keep up. Ha. We canoe and cycle in the summer. I walk a lot with friends and without. I ride my exercise bike when it’s too rainy or snowy to walk. And we both cross-country ski. I try for 300 minutes of cardio exercise a week, and at least one weight work-out. I am a numbers person. That’s how I set my fitness goals.
Do you have any anti-aging foods and or supplements that are your go to’s
What advice do you have for women over 50
Oh gosh. This isn’t just for women over 50. I used to tell my students this. Learn new things. Never stop learning. Try new things. Travel, travel, travel. And not only on cruises and arranged group tours. Make your own plans, do research, and do your own thing. Read. Play. Find small pleasures. Sometimes it’s all about the small things.
GET SUE’S LOOK
I love Sue’s classic with a twist look. I featured her combat boot look here. You can read more about Sue’s fashion adventures here on her blog. Thank you so much Sue for allowing us a peek into your Ageless Style-Sue Burpee. Now pop over and visit Elizabeth to see who she is interviewing this month. We never discuss who we are featuring, so it is always a fun surprise for us as well.