I avoided watching the documentary "Advanced Style" as I feared I wouldn't like those old ladies in outlandish get-ups. As a card-carrying WOACA myself, I would be embarrassed for those of us hoping to age gracefully, not glaringly. I was wrong of course. Like the dress you won't try on because it looks terrible on the hanger, and once on it flatters— the film was a treat.
First there was a blog (2008), then a book (2012), followed by the movie in 2014. Ari Seth Cohen, now 33, was new to New York from California and working in a bookstore when he began photographing mature women on the streets. He admits to missing his grandmothers. He was also responding to popular blogs that tend to ignore those older than fifty. He discovered some gently stylish women and some quirky characters whose "looks" went hand-in-hand with their personalities.
A judgment call on my part, I lumped the quirky personalities with show-offs and disdained the whole dress-as-theatre thing. It's a fine line indeed— to express yourself through what you wear or to exist solely as a walking canvas for your creations. Iris Apfel and Beatrix Ost would be two of the former. I worried that Ari's "girls" might be of the latter.
Iris Apfel does make a brief appearance as an elder statesperson. She always has something wonderful to say. Beatrix Ost is only glimpsed briefly and not mentioned. Interestingly, the post I ran on Beatrix has been read far-and-away more than any other—3,220 views at this writing.
|Iris and Beatrix: beyond advanced|
"Advanced Style" is about women who are not necessarily on the highest tiers of fashion, design and art. They are New Yorkers, which makes them leading unique lives. As one says, "We walk a lot. That's why we stay in such good shape". Plus they go out. You can't live in New York City and not go out. Believe me, I tried it. Too much to do, too much to see.
|Attention well deserved|
He focuses on seven women from 62 to 95. None of them are donning wild get-ups only to attract attention, though they like it and are aware how they look. One does admit to wishing she had married and knows she treats her clothing like the children she never had. Another, in her 80s and legally blind, is still in the market for a nice man who likes to go out and is "rich of course."
|A head for fashion...|
|Never too old to be a supermodel|
One woman runs a vintage boutique while caring for an ailing husband and cheating death a few times. She knows when she can manage full makeup and hair, she's feeling great. This is most of the time. At one point Ari must ask her to tone it down so others can have their day in the sun.
|No shrinking violet|
Another, elegantly beautiful, needs only a little prodding to belt out an aria and relish center stage. It was fascinating to watch another, a Betsy Johnson look-alike, turn up with spiky hair in various hues from blonde to pink to purple and sport some amazing bracelets made from toilet paper rolls.
The most outlandish of the group, at first glance, uses her own bright-red hair to fashion long false eyelashes. She's the one I fell in love with and would scoop up to take home. She sings cabaret, dances, draws, paints and teaches. She leaps so much as walks with joy in her steps. Yet she knows, as we can see, all the pains of advanced (physical) age— so much so she "won't buy green bananas".
|She leaped into my heart|
As life itself is unpredictable this documentary has a surprise turn of events. I won't spoil it for you. "Advanced Style" won't show you how to put an outfit together, but it will teach you that much more about Life.