Friday, June 15, 2012

Inspiration: Advanced Style




"I was never fearful of being extraordinarily different. I would rather be considered different and somewhat mysterious than ignored."-Lubi, Advanced Style

I wasn't sure how much Advanced Style, the blog, has had an influence on me, until I read the book. "Read" is a bit of a misnomer, as there isn't much to READ per say, as there is to LOOK. The beautifully bound hardcover (quite a bargain at $20.58 on Amazon) is luscious to look at- wonderfully turned-out street style as photographed by Ari Seth Cohen.


I had quite an unexpected reaction while browsing the book. There I was, sipping my coffee at the Java Bean, leafing through the glossy pages, and what-daya-know, I started to cry. Yes, a mist of tears rained from out of my eyeballs and started to sprinkle the pages of my book. Good lord. I felt oddly tingly as my eyes were bailing out cap-fulls of sea water, all because I was inexplicably moved. Why was I so moved? All I can say is that I found it deeply touching to see the wide array of older women being treated like 12 year-old super model cover girls. Perhaps, it was the mix of the sharp photography, and the glossy magazine quality of the paper that gave me this rather strange sensation. I sensed women (and men) of a certain age being honored, and well, quite frankly RELISHED. It felt like looking at a fashion magazine and seeing rare subjects out of context. The pictures were of women in their element: colorful and stylish and full of life. But rather than depicting tween models or movie starlets cavorting however, I was looking at "older" women, outfitted with the patina of real life, gloriously at ease in their own histories- and gasp- THRIVING in the limelight. What deliciousness, what visual eye candy; I ate the pages up like colorful bon-bons, such a treat to see these ladies- TO TRULY SEE THEM, not as once-was (as in you must have been beautiful, back in your day) but, AS IS, and true beauties in their own right, right here in the right now.

It seems I wasn't the only one who had such a visceral reaction to the Advanced Style book. Twitter pal, Tanya (twitter: @tanyalochridge) had a very similar reaction. She wrote about it on her blog last month- in her post, Tanya writes about being moved by the women of Advanced Style: "These are women who have lived full and long lives -- they have interesting stories to tell and experiences to share with the world. And, for all too long, they...we...have been invisible." The revolutionary quality of Cohen's work, for me at least, is the simple fact that he CHOSE to see, and then capture on film, what the fashion industry has chosen to deem, at least up until this point, as INVISIBLE. 

In a society where you're taught that losing that nubile size 2 figure you sported in your twenties, and being relegated to the sartorial sidelines by your mid-30's, is to be expected, it is a revelation to see older women being relished. Fact: the machine of fashion discards the middle-aged woman. There seems to be focus for the young (and the skinny), and as an aging American proper, one must cheerifully accept your new ghost-town status, and step aside for the parade of the svelte and the restless. Oh, lucky, lucky you, if you can stave off your obsolescence a few years longer by managing to stay rail thin, but assuredly, the natural gains of gravity (the fuller jaw, the stouter stomach, the thickening thighs) will diminish your societal shine. At best, you'll be given the "must have been quite a looker in her day," award, then forced to abdicate the crown of May Queen and dutifully transition into the grey garb afforded the Spinster/Crone. 

This ceremony is unceremonious- as nobody is watching you when it happens. All eyes are on the 12 year old woman/child strutting the catwalks, whose bread stick thighs can chastely pull off that platform-and-hot-pant look that your womanly hips will automatically translate as hayseed bimbo. Which the fashion gods have heartlessly dictated as de rigueur for the season. You meanwhile, unreasonably are feeling more and more like rigor mortis. Tears may wreck your mascara. Don't worry, there's nobody watching. 

So cry all you want. And feel free to trade in the stylish LBD for something a little less starlet, and more practical. I assure you, when your spirit is properly bled, you'll unblinkingly consider rolling out in the out-dated mom jeans/over-sized T-shirt combo, or go shamelessly supernova in a pair of shapeless sweatpants. To paraphrase poet T.S. Eliot: You are OUT, not with a bang, but a whimper.

Imagine the irrelevance you may feel in your 80's, 70's, and 60's.  Why, just picture the effort it takes to be considered a fashion force in your 50's (hello, Madonna!), and dare I say it: your forties. Because, even at my baby-faced 47, I feel it. I certainly feel overlooked by the fashion industry, as if my body shape, my tastes, and my real life life-style, no longer matter. Going into a fast fashion store in the mall is an exercise in resisting body dysmorphic disorder. Why a Misses' XL and size 14 sleeves are often too tight on my average woman's frame is a mystery to me.  And as much as I love fashion,  there's no practical use for  a pair of platforms and a studded leather bathing suit worn as evening wear in my wardrobe. What I need are some viable options: not the ubiquitous bum grazing mini-dresses,  but some wearable and well-designed above-the-knee numbers- so why are they so hard to find THIS season? 

I do wish for a place where we can be seen, on our own turf, as we are, for who we are- not as we once were. I feel this invisible class is fostered by our society at large: our cult of youth has come at great expense- we no longer honoring aging.  We shuffle a whole generation to the sidelines. I feel this tragedy is bolstered by a fashion industry that has long ago eschewed the manufacture of true style by cranking out landfill  after landfill of disposable + profitable shill. The chronic worship of the new comes with a stiff price tag- the untimely scrapping of everything else, including quality, wisdom, and dignity. 

Evolution is stymied when we sequester our own timelines. When we segregate generations from each other, it is a senseless loss for all involved. While this flaw runs throughout the cultural fabric as a whole, it has clearly unraveled our code of fashion. When fashion is made only ala mode, it corrals whole populations/generations into this realm of invisibility. Open your eyes and see for yourself.

I feel that Cohen, with his camera, has cracked open a chasm, allowing opportunity for each of us to SEE our elders. Not as people who populate the periphery, but as players on the center stage.  Stars in their own right, each, a bright and beautiful and ageless spirit. They come richly ornamented, celebrated and well versed in the art of living. The men and women who populate Cohen's universe offer a glimpse of vital and creative expression. They existed before he ever set his lens on them- but now they exist in OUR universe, and offer each of us a chance of escape from our ghastly, youth-obsessed ghetto.

Hence the misting over coffee + bagel that morning at the Java Bean. Advanced Style is the call of a revolution. It is perhaps the gentlest revolution you'll ever take part in. In the Advanced Style revolution, there are no casualties of consequence. It harms no one. I'm certain it'll make celebrities of the people featured in the book: Ilona, Mimi, Maryann, and the many others who share their vivid style on Cohen's pages. But the revolution goes farther than token appreciation of these lovely talismans of style. 

The revolution continues with your own pair of eyes. To just look around you and SEE for yourself: men and women of a certain age surround you.  SEE them on their terms, see them for what they are: exquisite creatures of expression and aplomb. SEE them as relevant, as visible, as BEAUTIFUL, and you'll find yourself neck-tie deep in a colorful world that has long been waiting for you- the glorious (and stylish) continuum of the human experience. And today, it comes with a marvelous handbag.

BUY THE BOOK:




47 comments:

jesse.anne.o said...

In reading his post earlier today, I also got misty. What started as a good idea turned into something revolutionary. I'm glad people have been open about communicating what his work has done for them...and that he hasn't held back communicating that to us, as well.

Anupriya DG said...

One of your best outfits. EVER. :)

And the book does look incredible......makes me long to see the awesome pictures inside.....what inspirations all of them must be!

Joanna van said...

Love the outfit. I think I was four the last time I was a size two. Glad to see you had some profound inspiration!

http://dividingmoments.blogspot.com/

Susan Partlan said...

Bella, I've missed you :).

I bought the book as a gift for a friend and enjoyed reading it myself then letting a neighbor have a go at it before actually giving it to my friend. An advanced style maven herself she was happy to receive it. She recognized Judith!

Thank you for this beautiful post, and in case you don't recognize my name this is the former Susan Tiner.

Patti said...

Thanks for this beautiful post, Bella. You got me feeling wet at the eyes too. I don't want any of us over-45's to feel *done* with life! I can't wait to receive my copy of this wonderful book, and then pass it around. You rock.

Catie Beatty said...

Awesome!! That skirt is amazing!

DeniseAngela said...

I have just got my copy & what a honest beautiful post....love your skirt. Hope you have a relaxing weekend!

Kitty said...

Thoughtful post and what a fab outfit Bella, one of my favourites yet.xx.

anne m bray said...

Amen! You voice the issue so eloquently. I'd rather err on the side of bag lady than go quietly into the twilight.

sylvia @ 40PlusStyle said...

What an amazing review of the book and essay about women over 40. I think you are right that advanced style has done much for women's style over 40 and bringing it to everyone's attention. Let's hope it translates into more designers doing something for that age group. I also LOVE your inspired outfit. Love the flower and your little bag. Beautiful!

The Dutch Lady of Fashion said...

Thank you Bella, I get emotional with your text too. You just put into words the feelings of so many...

Have a good, blessful weekend!

Gigi

janiece said...

As someone else about to turn 47, and as a fellow lover of Advanced Style, i salute this post. Yes to all of it. Oh, and you look fab!

Melanie said...

First, to state the obvious: You are STUNNING in that outfit! Heads must turn when you enter a room, you are an undeniable force.

When I first discovered Advanced Style I had hope. These women were beacons of light - they showed me that anything is possible, and their fearlessness in living life on their own terms, including in their style, is an inspiration beyond words.

I am still hopeful that the financial clout of the 40+ boomer generation will attract more marketing focus and respect covering all facets of our lives.

This is a great piece, Bella!

Veshoevius said...

What a marvellous and beautiful post - "When we segregate generations from each other, it is a senseless loss for all involved." So true. So many nuggets of wisdom in what you've said. (I think you could a rock studded leather bathing suit as evening wear though! You've got way more imagination than most to totally make it yours)

I must buy the book and I love your outfit tribute to it - the skirt is awesome!

SACRAMENTO said...

Best EVER ENSEMBLE, MY GORGEOUS SISTER, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
I am at a loss for words.
LOVE,LOVE, LOVE a rabiar!!!
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Sara said...

beautiful post! Enjoyed reading this, you are always so right! :)
And great inspiration, you look marvellous as always! :)

thorne garnet said...

Love that book and blog. I like that Mr Cohen includes all kinds of older ladies (rich looking, arty, street-style) and not just the over the top dressers. (Love them ,too) Thanks for addressing the plus size, tiny sleeve issues. What up with that? It seems to happen at lower priced stores. Once I almost couldn't get a jacket off, my arms got suck in the sleeves. Oh, by the way....what stripes of awesomeness are you wearing? Love the skirt

Hang T. Tran said...

I really love this look Bella!
This morning, I looked for this book in Kinokunya, one of the biggest book store in Bangkok but they haven't got it. I do hope they will. I do wish to look as beautiful as those gorgeous ladies when I grow older. It's not only clothes, it's the attitude that inspires me so much.
Thanks for sharing
Wishing you a nice weekend Bella!
xxx
Hang

pao said...

Here, here. Advanced Style is what got me going. Wonderful post, left me verklempt. As does your outfit. Way to bloom, girl!

Consider Me Lovely said...

BELLA!! This has to be my favorite look of all time that you've won on your blog!! Breathtaking. The advanced style ladies are surely an awesome source of inspiration!

superheidi said...

Oh my! You look g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s!

Please may I? said...

Thats the best skirt I have ever seem!!!! You looks amazing. As for the hat.... well I am in even of the whole outfit. You rock girl.

X x

frumpfactor said...

Great post, Bella. Way to blow the lid off the dangers of disposability -- of all kinds -- in the fashion world.

Forest City Fashionista said...

Bella, this is such a f**ckingaweseome post--full of truth, hope and inspiration, it almost moved me to tears! I did have the same reaction as you when I received my copy of the book, especially as I know some of the women in it, and I felt so damn privileged to have met them, and to be living now, when people like Ari are celebrating those of us who have long past our crop top and hot pants years (if we ever had them) and yet still feel beautiful, and sexy and are not afraid to show the world how awesome we are. And speaking of awesome, I think that is my most favourite outfit I've ever seen you in. I'm going to put a link to this post on my blog. Keep rockin' girl!!

La Dama said...

I really love and adorar how you captured the inspiration of Advance style ladies.
This one of my many favorite outfits amor. The stripe ruffled skirt has me lusting over you. You are a divina estrella.
Besones

That's Not My Age said...

Well, said. This is a fantastic post! The fashion world's obsession with youth is so unrealistic & unrepresentative, I'm all for an Advanced Style Revolution.

Jamillah said...

bella, you gave me chills reading this. one of my biggest fashion icons is my ageless grand aunt and the thing that gets me is she has so much integrity in not only how she looks but in the pride in her life. this book reminds me so much of that spirit she has; a spirit that only comes with age, experience, love and pride.

also, i die for your outfit, friend.

The Foolish Aesthete said...

I LOVE LOVE this striped outfit (what a fabulous skirt!) and am so inspired always by Advanced Style. My grandmother, who passed at 96 yrs, never let her age deter her. She used to own a clothing business and dressed accordingly, even when she was stuck in a hospital bed already! Head-to-toe white with accessories was one of her signature looks. And she would never let herself be seen without lipstick or painted nails.

Thank you for this amazing post! -- J xxx

Kate said...

I LOVE Advanced Style- so inspirational!!

Reva said...

First, you look so smashing and so YOU! Beautiful and real!!!!!!!!!
Second, Yes! Yes! Yes! to Advanced Style and for Ari, who has the nads to contiune the revolution in a super-big way!
Great article, Bella!
Big love hugs,
Reeves

Penny Dreadful Vintage said...

You rock Bella. You JUST ROCK xx

Penny Dreadful Vintage

Style Mentor™ said...

Bella, this is just brilliant! You make me laugh and you are so right on with everything you say. The Advanced Style book came at just the right time. In a way, it gave me permission to embrace the style I had buried for years. Thank you for writing this post!

Terri said...

Your post is such a beatifully written RANT and I can see that this gentle revolution has given you courage. I love the look!

kaffesoester said...

You look absolutely amazing! This look is so inspiring - and will certainly have me looking for items to create something in the same spirit. I can't wait to get my hands on that book - and share it with my 68-year old mother! Thank you for a fantastic post!

Miss Simmonds Says said...

Advanced Style is a wonderful thing, it makes me look forward to years of experimenting with dress and not looking boring! You look gorgeous, that skirt is amazing! xxx

Vix said...

Best outfit ever! You are amazing. I adore you. xxx

The Style Crone said...

Well Bella, you did it again with your writing. You were the one that made me cry this morning. You eloquently articulate what so many of us think and feel. I am so honored that you included the SC photo and anytime that I can lay my eyes on the IFs is a good day for me. Your artful outfit is stunning and THE HAT. Fabulous from every direction. You are a powerful voice and a talented leader and your ability to touch so many with your words and your creative self expression is a gift.

Luna Tiger said...

These ladies are amazing and so inspiring !
http://selenite.weebly.com

Clairejustine said...

You look great love your outfit,this sounds a great book :)

Krista said...

You write beautifully and your honesty is from the heart. I can't wait to get the book, I've just ordered it. This outfit is so yummy, the ruffles in the skirt are too sweet but OMG the leopard heels peeping out, eeeeek!!!! Love the love bracelet too...I get to meet you :) soon
xxoo
Krista

Lakota [Faith Hope and Charity Shopping] said...

Wow Bella. What a post. The outfit is great I agree, but your writing here is fantastic. You nailed it completely - a really resonant piece of writing x

Crazy Ravens Studio said...

I LOVE this outfit. You look like Titanic's Rose on Crack (that is meant to be kinder than it sounds) I love your inspiration sources too.

Bella Q said...

Thank you Krista and Lakota for the comps on my writing. Lakota, I'm often taken with your clever prose so what a double compliment! And Crazy Raven/artist extraorinaire- I love the Rose on Crack analogy! Thank you!

Misfits Vintage said...

Easily my favourite outfit of yours EVER Bella! you look amazing - and thank you for saying what we all feel and know and NEED to know. We're not dead yet!!!

Did I tell you how frickin exquisite you look???

Sarah xxx

Heather Fonseca said...

Oh Bella what a wonderful article! I hope you'll post it to ifb's links a la mode.
I saw the book at Barnes & noble but I was busy with the kids and unable to get to it. Clearly I need to go back.

Heather Fonseca said...

Yea! Ifb picked up the article for links a la mode. Congrats Bella!

Elena said...

Amazing post!!! Love how you dress!

Kisses, Elena

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