By Cecilia Allen
Dismiss any conventional ideas you have about beauty, style, fashion and aging in Advanced Style. Director Lina Plioplyte and street photographer Ari Seth Cohen’s warm-hearted documentary showcases an array of New York women who express themselves through their proud and unique individualistic styles. Ranging in age from 60 through to 90 and from majestic to harlequin like flamboyance, these ladies illustrate the benefits of aging without abandoning their unique style or fundamental approach to aging.
Western culture’s increasing obsession with youth and beauty is large on scale. Cohen poses the question “Why do we only look towards young people as our fashion and beauty icons? Why not older women?”
Based on his own Grandmothers unique style and vibrant approach to aging, Cohen set out to prove to the world that aging can be anything but daunting. “These women really challenge our notion of getting older, they really embrace their age, feel good about themselves; and every time they leave the house, they look and feel their best,” he says.
The old saying age before beauty implies one is exclusive of the other, but the woman photographed and written about by Cohen in his famed blog Advanced Style and consecutive book of the same name dismiss the conventional ideas about beauty and ageing and show us, that with age comes grace and confidence.
The film delves into the lives of seven New York women, these women are not the rich upper class women with wardrobes full of designer labels that you would expect – apart from one woman who promises her granddaughter she will inherit a collection of Chanel handbags – instead these are women from across different lines of wealth and ethnicity. One of the glamorous ladies says it might take years to fully complete one outfit, from finding the right set of earrings to a hat that matches.
The women, of whom the film focuses, speak openly about their lives, their experience of aging and their style. Some of the women have partners or families but a number of them are single and openly admit that finding love or having children was not a priority. One of the interviewees, Tziporah Salamon, quite simply says “My hats and bags are my children.”
Among the most captivating interviewees is Jacquie “Tajah” Murdock, who started out at 17 as one of the original Apollo Theater dancers in Harlem and at 82 landed an ad campaign for Lanvin. She recalls that in her era people dressed to the nines to hit the town on Friday and Saturday nights even if they were domestic workers.
The documentary is sweet and funny with just an occasional hint of melancholy. The pace of the film seems too quick for any of the subjects to leave a strong impression and also raises some questions which could have been explored further. Among the films strengths is its democratic embrace of woman from different backgrounds and the message it sends to its audience. The women in this film prove style is ageless and with age come grace.
3 out of 5 stars.