On a dreary, rainy Saturday afternoon the weekend before last, I found myself in bed under the weather, making it the perfect recipe to kill some time exploring the never-ending streaming cosmos of my Netflix Queue. In a documentary sort of mood, the moment my eye caught the bright red feather boa laced around the neck of a lively looking older woman, I settled in for the afternoon’s entertainment.
What started out as a passion project for blogger Ari Seth Cohen, has sparked a book deal, a documentary…a movement. Ari’s blog, Advanced Style, is a celebration of aging, told through the expression of personal style. Unlike most fashion blogs of today, it chronicles women over 50, well into their 90s, who choose to defy the notion that aging means a woman cannot still savor a sense of style. It challenges the perception that the fashion industry, which unapologetically continues to cater to younger generations, shouldn’t discount women “of a certain age.”
In a collaboration with filmmaker Lina Plioplyte, Ari’s blog comes to life in documentary narrative form, following 7 of the New York women made famous through Advanced Style, ranging in ages 62-95. While their eclectic style, set against the vibrant background of New York City is the film’s premise, there’s something much deeper being explored here. Our youth-obsessed culture continues to create the belief that aging, something that’s as natural as breathing, is an experience to be feared. A culture that perpetuates the idea that over a certain age a woman should “tone it down,” effectively losing a part of herself in the process.
Sure, society’s preoccupation and constant nostalgia for youth, do drive certain facets of a woman’s relationship to fashion and beauty as she ages. Then again, maybe there are women that hit a particular age and simply decide that their priorities have changed, or perhaps fashion has never been a big part of their lives to begin with? What palpable comment is Advanced Style making when it comes to aging and appearance?
What the film does brilliantly that puts everything into context as I questioned this, is to address the concept of style. The message is clear: Style is eternal – it cannot be bought. Of course, you’re buying things in a monetary sense to help subsidize an expression, but true style is born out of how you choose to present yourself to the world. It’s your voice before you even open your mouth. It’s what you’re wearing. It’s how your hair is styled. It’s the statement made through bold lips, lined eyes, and brush strokes. Most significantly, it’s your attitude, how you carry yourself. Your attitude is directly linked to your appearance.
Throw on a pair of sweats to run errands (which I’ve been known to do and thoroughly enjoy!) and you’ll manage just fine; but take the time to style your hair, do your make-up, and put on something that makes you feel fabulous, and even I, can feel the difference in how I interact with the world. Your style…essentially, your brand, is what a woman should not lose as she ages.
Advanced Style is about those women who choose style, who choose to hold onto their brand. Their version just happens to be more colorful than what we’re likely used to seeing on most women in their twilight years. Alternatively, mature women who opt for a less colorful or eclectic approach to their style shouldn’t be discounted either. As long as they envelop their version of “style,” in whatever manner that means to them, that’s really what it’s about. Although, I can’t help but wonder given the number of women featured in Advanced Style throughout the years and its growing popularity, that perhaps…just perhaps, there are more of us colorful, eclectic types like the women featured in the documentary than there are not?
As I watched the film, it also got me to thinking about how I wanted to age. I have some time before I should even entertain the idea of freaking out about it really, but already, I can see it. I can’t say I look forward to birthdays with as much enthusiasm as much as I used to. I’ve already surpassed many of the big, celebratory milestones of youth-hood when I turned 30. The great news is that the 7 ladies profiled bring a fresh, affirming approach to aging.
It’s not about re-claiming your youth, it’s about being who you are, where you are, and not going quietly. It’s leaving this earth knowing you honored your truth. Even if it’s as simple, yet complicated, as how you present yourself to the world everyday. The takeaway is simple: Find your style and honor it. Rock it to the end. “Style is ageless.”
Advanced Style is available on Netflix streaming. It’s the perfect way to spend a dreary, rainy Saturday afternoon should you find yourself in a similar situation in the near future.