If you are familiar with Ari Seth Cohen’s blog Advanced Style, you’ve already seen the photographs and interviews he’s done with older women (and some men) who have loads of style, panache, elegance, and wit. Most of the photographs were taken in New York City, which does seem to have an abundance of fabulous dames. (He’s also got some recent shots of Italians, and plans to branch out to other areas.)
If you haven’t seen the blog, the book Advanced Style is a great introduction to the concept of having style throughout your life. Ranging from flat-out elegant (think Grace Kelly, Lena Horne, Lauren Bacall) to wild and colorful (think Betsey Johnson), these women really know who they are. In a society that worships youth, it’s really inspiring to see women dress and age on their own terms. One of Cohen’s subjects, Ilona Royce Smithkin says, “If you try to imitate too much, you will look like nothing. Never compare. You are you!” Another quote, from Lubi, is “Some might see it as gray hair, age, genetics, stress, etc. I see if differently. I see it as platinum elegance.” Oh, me too!
There is also a terrific interview at the end of the book between Dita von Teese (elegant cabaret artiste) and Ilona Royce Smithkin. Their discussion about fashion and style bridges the age gap, with both of them talking about personal style and how it influences their lives.
My all-time favorite book is Auntie Mame, a character who epitomizes the idea of individual style and flair at any age Really one of the most fun books ever written (I’m not so wild about the movie versions). I’m also a huge fan of RuPaul, who personifies “eleganza” and fabulousness. I am still working on my own style, and trying to be less conservative and have more flair. Or at least a bit more elegance.
I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Advanced Style and/or check out the blog. I think you’ll love it! I leave you with one of my favorite shots of my grandmother Lee, in her late 70s, on a cruise in 1960.