Fashion is a most fickle art form commonly reserved for the young. In a culture obsessed with youth it can be easy for older women to be left on the side of the sartorial highway, doomed to wear shapeless sacks from M&S for the rest of their lives. In research for this article I looked through several magazines aimed at the average middle-aged lady. They were packed full of time saving cleaning tips and a worrying amount of advice for coping with straying husbands (a sad reminder that marriage is by no means the happily-ever-after Disney dream of my childhood). Furthermore, the fashion pages were measly and showed only a few bland cardigans and lifeless linen trousers. These are clothes chosen to help women blend into the background, Stepford style. The pages they turn to for inspiration and advice push them into the fashion graveyard, a fate that follows them into old age, and I think it’s tragic. I believe that the clothes you wear should be an expression of your personal style and creativity, a way of defining yourself and setting you apart from the faceless crowd. Having looked at these magazines and the street style in my hometown (white, middle class suburbia) I was fooled into believing that upon hitting thirty-five my fashion life would be over.
That was until I stumbled upon the blog ‘Advanced Style’. The writer of this quirky gem is New Yorker Ari Seth Cohen, who roams the streets of this most fashion forward metropolis to find older people who still insist on living life to the fullest, through their clothing and creativity. In his own words, ‘Advanced Style offers proof from the wise and silver-haired set that personal style advances with age.’ The blog has become so popular that Cohen has published a book, also called ‘Advanced Style’, to accompany it, featuring interviews, wardrobes, stories and advice from stylish sidewalks the world over. With such a unique reource we can all look forward to ageing and looking effortlessly stylish at the same time.
Having perused practically every entry from the past five years, I have been converted, and in future will be looking to the older generation for inspiration. After all, these ladies and gentlemen have worldly experience; they understand how to dress for their body shape, and don’t jump on every trend going. They also hold the key to future catwalk looks. We all know that fashion is merely a circle of recycled looks — think seventies boho and nineties grunge. These people, members of our family, lived through the original eras and could be harbouring vintage gold mines in their wardrobes. Instead of spending all your money at Beyond Retro, try going through your dear old nanny’s closet instead. I’m not saying that every look rocked by the blue rinse brigade is going to work for you — even Charlotte Free can’t make a shopping trolley and a plastic headscarf look chic — but next time you find yourself searching for street style inspiration look to the old folks with their statement jewellery, sharp tailoring and all round fabulous attitude to fashion. Better yet, talk to a few of them and hear their fashion experiences first hand.Here are a few of our favourite photographs courtesy of Ari Seth Cohen:
And now a couple of the world’s favourite preened pensioners:
By Marina Esteve