A new film celebrates the wonderful women who became stars through Ari Seth Cohen's love of Advanced Style
“I never wanted to look young, I wanted to look great.” So says the timelessly elegant Joyce Carpati, an 80-year-old New Yorker, former Cosmopolitan employee and one of seven glamorous women over the age of 60 to feature in Ari Seth Cohen and Lina Plioplyte’s joyous documentary Advanced Style. Cohen met these striking and formidable women, whom he now regards as family, on the streets of New York after moving to the city in his early 20s. Struck by their personal style and their confidence, he would ask to shoot their picture for his budding Advanced Style blog, which has since developed into a book and now a film. “It’s always a different reaction, I never know what I am going to get,” he says, laughing. “Today I went out and every woman told me no.”
“I never wanted to look young, I wanted to look great” — Joyce Carpati
The film follows Joyce, Lynn, Ilona, Deborah, Zelda, Tziporah and Jackie as they navigate the city clad in their carefully sourced, always eyecatching outfits. Bright colours, big hats, vintage dresses and wild accessories are all worn with an assurance and playfulness that is a delight to see. Particularly because, as nonagenarian style icon Iris Apfel states at the beginning of the film, once a woman reaches a certain age she finds herself practically invisible in society. “I think the thing about each one of them is that they’ve always been creative, they’ve always been stylish and active, then they hit a certain age and they still want to be contributing something,” says Cohen, whose affinity for society’s older denizens he credits to his relationship with his beloved grandmother.
Stately Jackie, a former dancer at the legendary Apollo theatre in Harlem; childlike Ilona, who at 93 still performs a cabaret act and wears red eyelashes made out of her own hair; elegant and poised Joyce; flamboyant boutique owner Lynn; philosophical performance artist Deborah and cycling enthusiast Tziporah make for a charming, and needless to say, chic cast. From going about their daily lives and scouring vintage shops for their inventive ensembles, to appearing on the Ricki Lake show and modelling for a recent, landmark Lanvin campaign, these ladies counter the idea that advancing age equals decline. Indeed, as each makes clear, it was only once they reached the euphemistic “certain age” that they came into their own and fulfilled the ambitions of their youth. “The film answers my own fears and my own worries about getting older,” says Pliloplyte, who befriended Cohen when he first moved to New York. “I started the project trying to find an answer why most of us stop dressing up when we get to 30 or 40 and here are these women who enjoy life to fullest, dressing in their own sense of what’s cool and what’s beautiful.”
Text by Laura Allsop
Clip courtesy of Dogwoof