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