Ari Seth Cohen is changing the country’s image of aging women one confidently dressed woman at a time. Ari, blogger and author of the book Advanced Style, defines his subjects as women over fifty who embrace their age and leave the house feeling great about how they look. His blog posts on Advanced Style feature women who are having fun with fashion and breaking our notion that fashion is only for the young people.
His movie, Advanced Style the Documentary, was released in the US this fall. I’ve been watching for it and when I saw it was coming to the wine country I called a few friends to make a movie date. We gathered the Thursday before Thanksgiving for the 3 o’clock showing at the Cameo Theater in St. Helena (great theater, by the way!). Nearly the whole audience was in Ari’s demographic. In our foursome, three of us are just barely in our 60s and one person is in her 50s.
We couldn’t wait to talk about the movie as soon as it was over but we all needed a bathroom stop first. I was standing in line while audience member was washing her hands. She took a look at her face in the mirror. “Wasn’t that a great movie? I cried so much all my makeup is off!” she said. We chatted about how inspiring the women were. “Well, you look great, too!” she said, looking me up and down. I took the compliment with grace, even though this movie might make you want to rethink your outfit, go home and come back out into the world dressed up just a little bit more.
We went off to enjoy Happy Hour at Archetype. I started out by asking my movie buddies if they had tears too. I sure had them! My friend Debra said, “I got from somewhere that you get to a certain age and it’s over. I just turned 60 and I’m feeling old and not pretty. Watching these women on screen made me flip a switch and see how it’s really in your attitude. Women in their 90s were still doing their thing.”
Joyce, one of the women profiled in the movie said, “I never wanted to look young. I wanted to look great.”
At fifty, sixty, and beyond we don’t have the option of looking young–it’s not in the cards–but we can be inspired by Joyce and choose to look and feel great. I think we can feel youthful while still being age appropriate.
It starts by waking up in the morning and conciously making choices that will please ourselves throughout the day.
Do I want to wear this? Or that? Do I want to feel boyish or feminine? Do I want to add sparkle or texture? Do I want to wear a dress or my favorite jeans? Which accessories do I want to wear today to finish my outfit?
Where do the tears come from?
I would love to hear more from people who shed tears during that movie because I’m not exactly sure what mine were about. Maybe hearing other people talk about it would help me figure it out. Here’s a possible list for starters.
1. Could it be that it’s a joy to hear women talk about their love of fashion? Especially women of a certain age?
2. Could it be that despite their hardships–and life has hardships–they still cared about how they looked?
3. Could it be that I realize what has passed and I can’t change that?
4. Could it be that I am acutely aware that I don’t know what the future holds?
5. Could it be my heart was full seeing women with courage to stand out and be visible in a country that tends to disregard its elders?
6. Could it be the heartache I have witnessed from years and years of working with clients and seeing the pain women when they judge themselves harshly, compare themselves to unreal airbrushed images from the media, or make fit issues in clothes mean that something’s wrong with their bodies instead of the clothing?
My rough experience selling the world on fashion for the woman over 40
I remember vividly back in 2000 when my first book, 40 Over 40: 40 Things Every Woman Over 40 Needs to Know About Getting Dressed was a few months from hitting the bookshelves. My publisher called me to break the news. “We’ve hired a PR expert to handle your book launch. She says your book is going to be a PR problem, not a PR opportunity.”
“What do you mean a PR problem?” I asked.
She said, “In the PR world, no one’s interested in women over 40. They don’t see women over 40 as a group that has style, glamour or anything to offer. The media is interested in young people. We don’t have a lot of expectations for getting this book getting much traction.”
OUCH! I was outraged. Women over forty and well beyond are my clients and they have a lot to offer the world. I’d written a whole book on the subject of fashion and women over 40 and no one was interested? How could this huge demographic be written off like that? That PR person was so wrong in my view. We do matter! We do count! We are fabulous!!
Well, you can imagine my delight when 40 Over 40 got plenty of attention without help from the PR person I might add. The Chicago Tribune did a full page article on the subject of my book. And guess who lived in Chicago? Oprah! And guess who called me wanting to have me share some tips with Oprah’s audience of … oh, maybe a bazillion? Yes, The Oprah Winfrey Show. That book made it into several languages so I guess perhaps there was some interest out there after all. I felt vindicated!
That was about fifteen years ago and I’m still here and my clients are still here and we’re enjoying getting up and dressing to express themselves and have fun with fashion. It doesn’t end. Fashion doesn’t expire with advancing age.
Advanced Style is a winner
What do the women in Advanced Style show us? They show us what it looks like to be willing to stand out and be noticed. They show us confidence and beauty, radiance and aliveness. Thank you Ari Seth Cohen for catapulting “advanced style” into the modern age.
Tomorrow I’m sharing the impressions of a friend and colleague, Sue, who was there in Toronto in April when Ari Seth Cohen premiered his film at the Toronto Film Festival. Not only did my pal get to meet Ari, she got to meet some of the ladies in the film as well!