You could say that the chic women (and a few men) who Ari Seth Cohen photographs for his street-style blog have been around the runway a few times. That’s because the fashionistas the 31-year-old New Yorker shoots for Advanced Style are in their 60s and beyond. The chronicler of sleek, sartorially brave seniors releases an image-filled book by the same name May 22 ($35, Powerhouse Books). We caught up with him about why older can be bolder.
What inspired you to start this blog?
Part of it was my grandmother, Bluma, who passed away six years ago. I was very close with her when I was growing up, and I was inspired by her spirit and her intellect. And she also had these great scrapbooks of older women who were all dolled up. It was like everyone of her generation dressed up no matter how much money they had.
So when did you start documenting women of a certain age?
When I moved to New York City, I’d walk around and see all these older people who were so active. They were also all so dressed up! Then it hit me that I wanted to inspire people by photographing them.
You shoot everyone from 60-something rocker chicks to an elegant, 80-year-old jazz dancer. What do they have in common?
I think all these women think positive thoughts. They’re determined to be happy and live life to the fullest; even if they have pain, they fight through it. They’ve got a dedication to enjoying things.
How is that joie de vivre reflected in their clothes?
I think they’ve developed a sense of freedom and confidence. And perhaps they used to dress for a day job, and now they can just please themselves and express themselves.
How do they express themselves?
Often, it’s through accessories. With their bodies changing, there might be clothes they don’t want to wear, but the accessories become more important. Maybe it’s a dramatic hat or a great pair of gloves.
What do you think younger women take away from seeing these chic seniors?
I think the point is not to fear getting older — embrace every stage of your life. There’s such an obsession with youth culture, I’m just trying to show examples of women who feel a confidence within themselves. Now I get emails from young girls, and they say they’re not afraid of aging.
What do these older people get out of being documented?
Every day, a woman or man I photograph will say, “You made my day, you made me feel good about myself.” I like that I’m giving them visibility.
What style lessons can we learn from our elders? Express staffers look back to their grandparents for inspiration.
“Growing up, I always complimented my grandma for her simple pearl earrings. I adored her, and I loved how pretty they were on her. She wore them everywhere and with everything. For my 13th birthday, she sent me my own pair. Those simple pearl studs have become my wardrobe staple. In fact, I’m wearing them today. And she’s still around, so I never hesitate to tell her how lovely her pearls still look on her!” – Morgan Schneider, world editor
“When I was a kid, the old photos of my Grandma Nellie looked so chic — she was young in the 1920s, and black-and-white snapshots of her featured fur wraps, flapperish frocks and, always, a “look-how-much-fun-I’m-having!” smile. By the time I knew her, she wasn’t as movie-starrish, but she still rocked a dramatic red lip and dressed up for parties. I think of her now when I’m tempted to not make an effort to fancy up for dinner out — or I forget my favorite lip gloss.” – Jennifer Barger, styles editor
“My grandfather always told me I could marry whoever I wanted, as long as he met two qualifications: he be a good parallel parker and own at least ONE suit. He wanted to make sure I ended up with a man who had a little class and was ready for anything.” – Holley Simmons, assistant lifestyles editor
“My grandmother, Lucille, owned a bar in South Carolina with my grandfather called the Casablanca. She was a lounge singer there, and was always done up with beehive hair, Shalimar perfume and a flowy, forgiving-but-glam tunic. She taught me that movement and comfort need to be considered as much as style. I think about her when I wear low heels, though flats were too casual for a lady like her. Still, she had to be able to regulate if things got out of control at the bar.” Shauna Miller, senior arts editor