Advanced Style Older & Wiser1fmL

There are two reasons I started blogging, in 2008. The first was that not long after I’d left a job as fashion editor on a glossy magazine, the internet became A Thing. When most of my freelance work shifted online, I realised there was an opportunity to create an independent space where I could talk about style, midlife and stuff. The second, and possibly the most significant, was the launch of photographer Ari Seth Cohen’s fabulous Advanced Style blog. ‘I’d never really seen ageing portrayed in a way that inspired me, so I started doing it myself,’ says Ari of his street-style shots of flamboyant women aged 60 and beyond: fashion freedom fighters like Iris Apfel, artist Beatrix Ost and beauty entrepreneur and stylist Linda Rodin, women who were styling it out on the streets of New York, not sitting at home in elasticated waist slacks and slippers.

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Advanced Stylista on the Upper East Side

Eight years down the line, the Advanced Style phenomenon has gone global. The proliferation of older-style blogs has resulted in the increased visibility of mature women online and in print. Advanced Style became a book that sold over 100,000 copies and was followed by a film; Ari’s second book Advanced Style: Older & Wiser has just been published. ‘It’s really incredible to see that the fashion industry is paying attention to ageing,’ he tells me when I interview him for the FT.

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One of the more recent Advanced Style superstars, jewellery designer Sarah Jane Adams, picks the phone up when I call Ari in LA. Sarah Jane is in America for the Older & Wiser book launch, so I ask her thoughts on the Advanced Style phenomenon, ‘I believe Ari is the person who started this change in perception of older people,” she says. ‘He is the revolutionary leading the way in a movement that is giving a voice and visibility back to elders.’

Sarah Jane Adams copyedit

Adam’s life was thrown into orbit after an appearance on the Advanced Style site. ‘Through a set of amazing circumstances, Ari featured me on his blog, Adidas then reposted it and things started to go a little crazy!’ Grey Model Agency signed Adams and a burgeoning career followed, including a recent appearance on the cover of WWD. With over 56,000 followers on Instagram (@saramaijewels) and the popular hashtag #mywrinklesaremystripes, the designer is now exerting her own influence online. ‘I have always used my clothes as a form of communication,” she adds. “My protection, armour, camouflage, a daily reflection of my mood. I dress for myself rather than to impress. My followers repeatedly tell me that I inspire them to live a fuller, more courageous life.’

Has the Advanced Style phenomenon had an impact on Ari himself, does the 34-year-old feel older and wiser? ‘It’s impossible not to gain insight from all the incredible women I’ve met. Seeing how they put things together – the colours and textures – really sharpens your eye.’

Read the full feature HERE.

31 thoughts on “Advanced Style: Older & Wiser an interview with Ari Seth Cohen

  1. I love the pics and blog. Thanks. I need help….I think.

    60 this year and I’ve lost my style. Not frumpy but have relocated from the south UK to the north east, had a grandchild and all in the last year. I had a close friend in my previous location and it seems that we’d picked up each other’s dress style. I realised it was getting a bit ‘old and dated’ looking but lost my own style in the process.

  2. I’m with you Elsa. I’m 63 , recently retired from work (yay!! It suits me). My wardrobe looked like a funeral directors, black on black on black. I love black, ( I blame the punks), but as a total look it ain’t working for me anymore. But I’m not a peach person either. So I’m learning, reading, watching and looking at women I admire (think Tilda Swinton and Annie Lennox). Good news is I’ve time to peruse fancy second hand shops and I’ve picked up some exquisite bits for good prices. I’m trying to think of this time as a time for me to think outside the box and redefine myself in my ‘new age’. Whatever happens my five year old granddaughter will no longer be able to say ” grandmas boring and black”. She’s right, it’s how I felt. Give yourself time to play with ideas and check out all the sites and people mentioned by Alyson, it’ll help you work out what you love and what you don’t. It’s funny how easy it is to give yourself a hard time for not knowing how to be. We’ve not done this bit before.

  3. It’s a thrill to see so many articles and posts on “Advanced Style” in all forms. But I’m remaining torn on this issue. While I admire Ari Seth Cohen for bringing the older woman (and now gentleman) to fruition, not all of us costume–and I get the “tone” of this is that only if you are different and flamboyant will one be noticed. For me, it really is a subject that tears me apart.
    But I will say, Sarah Jane Adams–I wish she was my BFF. I LOVE her style and her looks and everything about her. She is that girl that I want to hang with even though I’m far more basic. She is that friend who brings out your wild side. She’s is cool personified!
    For all the attention that AS is bringing to we over 60’s, it has not had a pragmatic impact on the fashion or beauty industries to hire, on a regular basis, older women. And when older women ARE hired it’s almost like a patronizing moment. In addition, ageism still runs rampant among Corporate America (I don’t know if the same holds true for Europe and the UK).
    I wrote a post about this:
    and received such a wide mix of comments, Mr. Cohen commenting and not agreeing with me–but he was gracious and kind in his wording.
    Either way, he’s correct in stating that we do need to start the conversations about this.
    Thank you for a great, great post!!!

    1. There’s a problem with age discrimination here, too, Catherine and yes we do need to start the conversation. We do need to see more older women in the media and the workforce – that’s why we have a new political party: the Women’s Equality Party. Hopefully thing’s are starting to change…

  4. I am 67 & my mother is 89 and I inherited her great style. We do not however wear ‘costumes’ and far too much makeup! There’s nothing like a great handbag, cashmere pullover teamed with a Burberry or statement scarf worn with a trench coat from Zara and in my case gold bangles, studs or hoop earrings and in my mothers case her great collection of silver jewellery. Her rings are noticed everywhere.
    Our makeup is natural, our freckles shine through, our eyes are done tastefully and lipstick is peachy, not harsh. Not to brag but we look great, not comical, blend but turn heads too.
    I don’t understand the overdone look?

  5. I agree with Catherine and Susan. If you’ve always been a minimalist and never worn mad clothes and bright clashing colours, it seems a little harsh that the only way to appear interesting in old age is to look like a clown. Do Jane Birkin, Catherine de Neuve, Judi Dench or even Helen Mirren do this? I doubt it! There are other style tribes, as pointed out in your book. Bring on Margaret Howell, flat shoes and understated makeup and jewellery.

  6. I get the in your face kind of freedom that wearing flamboyant clothing and making a style statement gets you. If getting noticed equals power than the goal is achieved. As long as the woman wearing it can pull it off with their attitude and charisma it can work, But there is a fine line between looking bizarre and like you are trying too hard which does not equate with good taste to me.

  7. I so agree with Susan…costumes..geez..make you #1. Look a fool #2 make you look older..I’ll go for the LV.Hermes.Dior.touch and pearls ….but NOT all at the same time.

  8. It takes great bone structure and self-confidence to pull off these flamboyant looks, plus living in an arty environment where boldness and creativity are admired. Otherwise you run the risk of becoming the town crazy lady.

  9. While I applaud the confidence and uniqueness of these women I would feel like the crazy aunt come to visit. One of the things I have enjoyed about being in my mid-fifties is the chance to focus on highlighting who I am without getting lost in the clothes. Heard a wonderful interview on NPR saying at one time when we dressed it was to bring attention to who we are and not our outfit. Comments should be “you look nice” not ” I like your outfit”. Sort of like fragrances should be, a whisper not a shout.

  10. I was able to meet Sarah Jane very briefly at the Advanced Style Older & Wiser book signing a couple of weeks ago, and found her to be very warm and down-to-earth, a true delight!

  11. I think there are some very elegant women featured on the Advanced Style blog, as well as some wearing things much more flamboyant than I would wear. I am sure that some have great confidence and others don’t, as we all do, but I do think its sad that we need to criticize and compete with one another. I don’t think men do that to the same extent.

  12. The ones who criticize and judge. It really says more about them than the people they are criticizing. It’s really sad.

  13. Couldn’t agree more. Isn’t there room for everyone? And the so-called mad aunt look plays into the scary old witch-woman trope that continues to keep older women feeling like they must be ‘discreet’ for fear of frightening the horses. In western society the voice of older women has been silent for generations but it’s waking now with a roar. Get used to it!

  14. I agree with so much here. Nearing 60, two heart attacks, two newly minted grandchildren (so strange new role as a grandparent), stopped working and lost my confidence and direction. I tried the subtle, neutral, boringly tasteful clothing approach and tinted my hair beige (I looked like dust before my time) because the ‘everything fades as you get older thing’ and became invisible in every way. I don’t have to impress anyone and I just follow my gut instinct. I get it wrong sometimes but I still love experimenting and I have the luxury of time to browse blogs and investigate charity shops for inspiration. It’s just as much fun as being young and trendy but it takes a bit more time and confidence.

  15. I LOVE WHAT HE HAS DONE!Now if HE could just get the YOUNGER SET out of the SPANDEX EXERCISE PANTS……..WE might SEE BEAUTY ALL AROUND US AGAIN!I went to a BOOK SIGNING for the NEW BOOK here in CALIFORNIA and it was SO MUCH FUN………I wrote about it I think YOU saw it on my blog!I met SARA JANE……….what a DELIGHT SHE IS!I ADORED HER STORY how he discovered HER.(A DAUGHTER did a hashtag!)
    These women are to be ADMIRED…………….

  16. I love all that Advanced Style has showcased but I am in agreement that the flamboyance of those featured is not a true reflection of our generation. My friend and I started our blog as we felt there was little out there for our 60 plus lifestyle that was a little more down to earth and affordable, yet stylish. We have made contact with some amazing women round the world and are so proud to be part of the baby boomer generation and all that it is bringing to the on-line community. Keep it up ladies – we have a lot of life in us and a lot to offer.

  17. As a photographer, male, New York City resident, and friend of many of these women, I find some of these comments to be discouraging. Crazy aunt? ahhh… no one has to dress like Sarah. Because no one can. The point is to _inspire_ others, to show the art of the possible. To avoid blandness. All black. As my friend Sue Kreitzman says, ‘beige kills.’ And many of the women featured by Ari are not ‘flamboyant’, they are the epitome of elegance. Just like the one in the first photo.

  18. These women march to their own drummers, and yes, we all will feel freer when we do the same. We have to follow our own tastes and styles, colors and shapes, though. I am much more an Ines de la Fressange type (really, I wish!) but I applaud all women who refuse to become invisible. xox

  19. The most stylish women I see in everyday life are: under ten and over sixty. They wear what they want,and just get on with it. What is it with women of my age and all this talk of “oh, you need to be an artist with great bone-structure…?” By wearing [possibly] clashing colours/textures and [definitely] trendy clothes, you’re not breaking any laws. You’re just being true to yourself. Where’s the harm in that? What’s with this fear of looking crazy/different? Aren’t we all a little too old to care SO much what people think of us? As my Mother- the best dressed-woman ever!- always says: “if they’re going to look, give them something to look at!!”

  20. Thank you all for taking the time to comment. Yes, some of the Advanced Stylistas are theatrical and flamboyant but as Denton says some are incredibly elegant; style is individual. I think we should all wear what makes us happy, be kind to each other and set a good example to the younger generation. They are looking up to us (and if they’re not, they should be!)

  21. I’m shocked by home many ugly comments there are about older women who march to their own drummer. I am 50, and one of the best parts of being a certain age is wearing exactly what pleases me and no one else. Why survive half a century just to worry what anyone else thinks and limit one’s creativity? The one thing that is never stylish is conforming to someone else’s notion of what style is and being critical of others who don’t.

  22. Hi, I often visit your blog, but this topic has finally made me actually sit down and write something. 🙂 I absolutely admire the ladies mentioned but yes … what celebrities can we probably can’t. However, it’s maybe more about inspiration, a path that we can also take not losing our own style and personality in the process. When talking about ladies/ people our older age, we often forget that there is a choice between being and old-fashioned probably sad looking person and a wrinkled 😉 and mature but fresh and young looking one. I think that clothes and accessories pay a great role in making us look and feel old or just the opposite young and atractive. I often ask myself a question: Who do I want to be? Somebody who people point out on a street because I look unatractive, or the opposite – even though I obviously can’t hide my wrinkled face – because I look interesting, and ….. maybe, just maybe younger than I actually am? But even if not younger it wouldn’t matter because probably while looking good I would feel better and more self- confident. I’m 60, and I also run my own blog . Since I started doing so, I realised how insecure older women are, and how seemingly unimportant things like clothes can actually change our lives. Thank you for this post – it helped me a lot convincing myself that actually what I am doing is worth my time and effort . In your free time I’d also like to invite you to visit my blog, I’m Polish but quite a few articles have already been translated into English. As it appeares it doesn’t matter wether we are British, American or Polish – we all have the same fears and insecurities – let’s fight them together 🙂 😀 Margot

  23. I have always loved fashion. Throughout my life I have either not had enough funds to dress like I would like, been in an environment where uniforms were required, lived in conservatively dressed regions or haven’t had the event or occasion to be able to dress up as much.
    Now I am 63, with longer than shoulder length natural silver hair, pale skinned, semi retired and on a limited budget. I am thicker in the bust and acquired batty upper underarms with a few extra pounds around my post menopausal body. My skin is not as luminescent as desired. I am continuously surprised by the reflection of myself in the mirror. I believe in embracing who you are and respecting each decade of life. I work with mostly 30 and under somethings and need to wear a uniform again. I love the Advanced Style Blog and applaud the women and men having confidence and fun with style, so colorful and free. I would be so grateful to have a little more conservative, budget conscious looks to be able to emulate. I already have comments from friends and family that I dress a little different but I don’t know if it’s a compliment or if they think I am a bit outrageous. Surely I am not the only one who is looking for inspiration to strive to be stylish, elegant and proud to be whatever age we are.

  24. I spent so many working years in boring offices where a dress code was mandatory – usually black. Or a suit. As a natural ‘bohemian hippy chick’ I have never worn a matching suit in my life and while black has its advantages, now I am retired I will wear what I damn well please (within the limit of an older body!). I love mismatched colour, distressed jeans, vibrant trainers (flat feet & bunions) strange jewellery picked up here there and everywhere – and paint what colours I like on my face! I believe we have many lives and as this is the one I happen to be in now & it may not last as long as I wish, I’m going to wear what I love best. Rock and Roll!

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