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Friday, 03 January 2014

Elder Fashion Sense

As many TGB readers know from the saga of my hair loss, in 2013 I adopted the wearing of hats whenever I step out my door to hide the bald spot at my crown.

I have slowly accumulated a variety of attractive hats for both summer and winter weather and they draw attention from strangers who sometimes stop me with compliments. Few people wear hats these days and fewer than that wear fashionable ones, so I stand out.

The second big personal change during 2013 has been another kind loss, more on the positive end of the life scale: 35 pounds gone or about 22 percent of my body weight. (This number doesn't have real meaning unless and until it is the same a year from now.)

A month or so ago, a checkout woman at a local market – someone I've come to know by name – evinced amazement as I pushed my cart through her aisle: “Wow,” she said. “You look wonderful. What changed?”

It would be churlish to dwell upon what her opinion of my appearance had been before then so instead, I preened.

It was, of course, the combination of weight loss – finally enough to be noticed – together with the day's hat that drew her attention.

Although I don't believe it entered into the checkout clerk's comment, there is a third noticeable thing about me: it is not uncommon for someone to say to me, “My, you're so dressed up.”

Apparently, being in public in clean, attractive clothes selected to fit well, that match or contrast pleasingly along with shoes and hat that enhance the outfit is something to be remarked upon, however rude it sounds to do so.

Compared to a year ago, I have few clothes. Ninety percent of my pre-weight-loss wardrobe is now unwearable and so far I've bought mostly bare essentials - just enough pants, sweaters, blouses, jackets, etc. that can be mixed and matched - to get by for awhile as I shed a few more pounds.

Since I cannot afford to run out and purchase an entire new wardrobe, I am being selective for the long-term: quality materials and workmanship, and an ageless kind of style (which by definition tends to a certain formality) - all of which are extremely hard to find these days without paying more money by magnitudes than I have to spend.

However frugal I need to be, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to start my wardrobe from scratch and that led me to a blog many of you may know that I have followed from its beginning and have featured here in the past: Advanced Style.

The young proprietor, Ari Seth Cohen, photographs elder women (and a few men) he spies on the streets of Manhattan (and elsewhere), women who enjoy dressing well, often elaborately, each of whom creates her own unique style.

Cohen published an Advanced Style book in 2012 and this year he will release the Advanced Style documentary. Here is a trailer for that doc filled with gorgeous, fantastic, elder women who enjoy dressing up:

Aren't they wonderful? Compared to how these women dress, I am but a small, brown sparrow and although they might encourage me to have as much fun as they do, I would be way overdressed for the 'burb I live in (I already am) and equally so for most circumstances in the nearby city of Portland.

But checking in with Advanced Style allowed me to run across a recent interview with Ari Seth Cohen at the New York City Senior Planet website. They asked him about some of the women he has come to know well during the life of his blog:

”There’s one woman, Ilona, who’s 93 and lives in the West Village. She climbs three flights of steps every day. She’s an artist who painted the Kennedy children.

“At 80-something she started to do a cabaret act and is now a cabaret singer – she’s really incredible. She has long eyelashes that she makes from her own hair.

“Ruth Kobin does Pilates at 102. She introduced me to Bananagrams (a game like Scrabble) and beat me three times.

“She’s so with it, she still lives by herself. She says watching football and playing Bananagrams keeps her going. And so does the Pilates. They’re all incredible.

Cohen says that over the five years he's been shooting elder women's fashion in the streets, he has learned that they all have more energy than he does:

”There’s a woman, Joy, who’s 80 years old. She’s go go go go go, and shows me we have to continue to be passionate about different things.

“They’ve inspired me to work harder and be healthier. Because they’re all so vital, healthy, active and…I need to join a gym.”

You can read the entire interview at Senior Planet. And it's great fun to scroll through Cohen's selections for the Best of 2013 Advanced Style photographs here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dan Gogerty: Weed Wars: The Lost Art of Cultivating


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

This is a great post, Ronni, and thanks to your introduction to Advanced Style through your blog list, I've been following it for quite a long time now. It is wonderful (and inspiring)and I especially like the occasional videos presented by these women talking about their lives and philosophies.

You may enjoy Julia Twigg's work on elders and fashion.
A BBC link is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03lpjy0

Couples and Chronic Illness; Fashion and Dress in Later Life
Duration: 28 minutes
First broadcast: Wednesday 18 December 2013
Fashion and dress in later life: Laurie Taylor talks to the sociologist, Julia Twigg, about her study into the links between clothing and age. Throughout history certain forms and styles of dress have been deemed appropriate for people as they get older. Older women, in particular, have been advised to dress in toned down, covered up styles. Drawing on fashion theory and cultural gerontology, Professor Twigg interviewed older women, fashion editors, clothing designers and retailers

By the way, my blog, AgingOurWay, isn't created by an elder, but by an elder-admirer. Would it fit on your list of elderblogs?

I have been a fan of Advanced Style for months. If I could manage what you've done with your weight loss I know that website would inspire me to dress better than I do now. It's got to be exciting for you to revamp your wardrobe even if you are doing it in baby steps. Congratulations!

Ronni,

Where else could you dress like these women except in "The City"? That's what I love most about New York.

I used to have a big gold hat that I wore whenever I went to New York but I took it off and carried it for my train ride home to Philadelphia,because I looked sensational in that hat in Manhattan but like a candidate for the asylum wearing the same hat in the Quaker City.

That is one of the many reasons that I "Heart" New York!

Today's blog is better than sliced bread!! New York, Chicago, Lake Oswego, Palm Coast, FL, just go for this wonderful human spirit.....Be You!!!

It's -21 degrees Celsius in Toronto this morning and has been icy cold for more than 1 week. As I look at the dress code for outdoor wear, it is truly depressing. I've found a couple of great fur hats ( a grey fox and a mink pillbox that I held onto for 20 plus years) that look good with most of my coats. The fur hats keep my head warm( I also suffer with thinning hair) and have also brought many positive comments as I go about my errands.
Be well and stay warm, Jeanette aka postworksavvy

I love the line about "dressing for the theater of my life every day."

I know you are writing from a woman's perspective, but for months I have been railing about how most, if not all, senior men dress. I have even done blog articles on it. Why men lose all of their fashion sense when they retire I do not know. Why do they start wearing their pants up near their chests? Why the white patent leather shoes and what's with those dopey 1930's cab drivers hats they are so fond of. Someone should really write a "Guide to old men's fashions".

I see these posts and want to dress with more pizzazz, but I can't bear clothes that scratch, bind, or make noise any longer. It takes some serious effort to look like these ladies, and I'll never tire of admiring and looking at them, but I'll likely continue being a blue shirt, khaki pants kind of woman.

I love that blog. He inspires me to step beyond brown into a bit of glitz. He inspires others, and he records us for the future.

I think big cities inspire you to dress stylishly. Arizona is very casual and you will see gold lame and jeans being worn at the opera here. Neither look out of place.

My wardrobe is not trendy and I have always preferred classic styles.

Bless the daring elder women who set trends with vibrant colors and eye catching styles, but I dress for comfort. I do coordinate my accessories to my outfit and try to look as attractive as possible, but I am certainly not going to get many compliments. The few times someone commented on how nice I look lifted my spirits, however. One time stands out. A few years ago I was walking down the street in San Francisco and a man turned around and said, "You look fabulous, darling." As you see, that experience will always stay with me as a lovely memory. We are never too old to enjoy being told we look attractive.

Lest you consider me flippant, I have overcome my inceasing baldness on top by growing lots of hair on the chin. I don't have the weight-loss problem, but the beard also takes attention away from my ill-fitting, out-of-fashion clothes. --Henry Lowenstern

Bravo Ronni! What a wonderful blog and those super 'dames'--you've just got to love them!
And (with more than a little envy in my remark} congratulations to you for your will power sticking to your new regime through one year. Hooray! As one who always has at least 10 lbs. to lose, I well know how hard it is.

Congratulations on the weight loss and new look. Glad you enjoy wearing hats. I have one from when we lived in SF that I wore to keep my hair from flying all over. The other hats I've given away. I had a large collection that a friend was glad to take for her grandchildren's play time.

I love hats and I know you look great in them. I've lost some weight and am in that in between stage also. Two of my favorite "newer" pieces of clothing I found in consignment shops in Portland. My style at 71, if any, has returned to tee and jeans. Same stuff I wore at 10. My "nice" clothes were work related, still have some that are wearable and am beginning to fit in them again. I am just casual to the core but its me. As my sons like to say, I clean up pretty good when I need to do so.

Perhaps we should hear from one of my all time favorite people, the beloved Gilda Radner, who proclaimed..

"I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn't itch.!"

Love this post. Just ordered the book Advanced Style yesterday. Marvelous creativity and it supports my mantra of living a creative life everyday and in everything you do! Congrats on the weight loss. I am working on mine too...

Ronnie, thanks for reading (and linking to) our interview with Ari. And yes, thinning hair or not, hats work! When we can't wear great-looking shoes anymore, what we put on our heads can help us feel whimsical, extravagant, quirky, elegant - or just a little taller. Thank you for your thoughtful posts.

I love Ari's site and check it every day. Congrats on the weight loss! I love hats, and modeled them as a teen. I wish they would come back into style.

This is way cool! I still enjoy fashion, clothes, makeup and hairstyles (although "less is more" on all fronts). I haven't checked out all the links yet, but I will.

Where I live just outside Seattle is, if anything, less formal than Portland, and I dress accordingly. However, like Ronni and others, I do my best to wear clothes that fit my now 5'2", 95# frame and more or less go together. I have short hair and haven't worn hats much yet, but I'm open to the idea.

I've been able to find some great, good quality clothes at Goodwill, Value Village, etc. Yesterday I bought a winter white Gap sweater in super condition at Goodwill. It would retail for about $70 but I paid $6.99. Now, that's a deal!

Yes, two words - "thrift shopping" - you can change your size and your look for very little. It does require an investment of time to sort thru the junk and find the treasures.

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