Monday, June 25, 2012

Advanced Style

Advanced Style

There are some  mornings when I awake with a bounce usually reserved for eight year olds.  My energy level is high as the clouds and the mirror is my friend, throwing back to me a reflection of bright eyes and happy outlook.  Then there are mornings when I crawl from my sheets with all the rapidity of an aged sloth.  I stare into the bathroom mirror and see a vision of myself that is less than all I would wish for.  My minds tries to name the person gazing prophetically back at me.  Margaret Rutherford?  Hermione Gingold?  Quentin Crisp? I splash cold water on my face.  I bend over and touch my toes.  But when I look back in the glass, there she still is, the foreshadowing of my future self.  How much longer do I have before Edward and I more accurately resemble the painting above instead of the photograph in the right corner?
What me?  Getting older? 
 Surely not.
Whilst I certainly do not consider myself old, one has to face facts.  I am no longer, shall we say, young.  It’s an odd place to be.  Rather like that time of transition from girl to woman when we weren’t quite sure how our appearances would shake out.  Our legs were too long for the rest of our bodies.  Our eyes were too big for our faces.  And then, like magic, the butterfly broke free of the chrysalis and everything coalesced into our own individual version of womanhood, a version we have retained, and relied upon, for years.  Not perfect perhaps, but pleasantly steady, for barring any poison ivy rash or bee sting, we pretty much knew what to expect when we looked in the mirror.
But now, just as we did in our early teen years, we are beginning to change.  Anyone over forty must feel it, surely.  A wee bit of ... um, slippage, here.  A few laugh lines there. And just like those early years, we still don’t know what this new version of ourselves will look like when this old age puberty is finally complete.  We spread out old photographs of grandmothers and aunts like tarot cards in a feeble attempt to divine the inevitable.  We become inordinately fond of older actresses who’ve managed the transition with grace, cherishing that now famous photo of a sixty-three year old Helen Mirren in her red bikini on an Italian beach.  We have been heard recently to remark how “amazing” Queen Elizabeth looks these days.  For myself, I can only hope there doesn’t come a morning when Dame Edna takes up permanent residence in my bathroom mirror.  But who knows?  I’m not quite there yet, so the jury’s still out.  
When viewed as a whole, the picture of old age style available to us when we were little girls was fairly bleak.  Times were different then.  Still considered a bit suspect, individuality was rarely celebrated.  The sartorial style of our schoolteachers was fairly uniform and succeeded chiefly in making them seem older than they actually were.  They fell pretty neatly into two or three categories. There were the matronly ones, formidable women poured into brooch-pinned shirtwaist dresses severely indented in the middle by thin leather belts.  The girdles these women wore were so effective they rendered their poor bodies as firm as car seats.  You could bounce quarters off their tummies, though I hasten to add I never tried.  On the other end of the spectrum sat the teachers who always reminded me of birds.  Tiny and timid, with pale pinched faces devoid of any type of make-up save a bit of red lipstick that was faded and smeared before noon, they seemed to always be waiting for a disaster of some sort or other and we were generally all too happy to oblige them.   Needless to say, if and when we girls gave any thought at all to what we might look like as older women, we looked around, we swallowed hard. 
Thankfully, mercifully, things have changed, and if you don’t believe me you have only to crack open the new book by Ari Seth Cohen, Advanced Style.  Mr. Cohen apparently got the idea for this book, and his delightful blog of the same name, from observing the enviable style of his own grandmother and within these glossy pages, he has captured the beauty, wit and individuality that can come with old age.  The women were all captured on the streets of New York City and they stroll through these pages with style in abundance.  It’s obvious each of them embraced her uniqueness a long time ago.  Advanced Style is fun to flip through and choose which of these ladies to hold up as a favourite example for your own future.  Fun, and difficult, for there is not a Dame Edna amongst them, I’m happy to say.
And personally speaking, I’m pretty envious of that outfit on page 84.....

Find the book HERE


  1. Pamela I have heard such wonderful things about this should inspire all of us of a certain age!

    Art by Karena
    Artist Series 2012

  2. The blog is an inspiration - I've enjoyed it nearly every day.
    What do I see when I look in the mirror?....Sometimes there's a shadow of Ma Kettle!

  3. LOL, Quentin Crisp ... I love it.
    I think you have time before you need to worry about the ageing face etc.

    I am having skin cancer surgery in a couple of weeks and it always reminds me that I should be content with the way things are because they can be much worse.

  4. Hello Pamela

    You will always be beautiful. With a heart such as yours, the joy will always radiate and you shall have a sparkle in your eye, a smile on your face and love in your heart. And in the words of the song: "who could ask for anything more"


  5. I'm buying the book for some inspiration. My husband and I recently discussed the fact that we are in the fall of our lives and I'd prefer to make it an unseasonable one if at all possible. Winter can be lonely and an un-stylish one can be punishment indeed!

  6. Oh yes, it's always an adventure to see who is in the mirror each morning. Some days it's my mother, other days it's still me, but looking somewhat out of focus....oh, no, wait, I just forgot my glasses! Only one thing for sure, it is no longer a youthful face. When the light is just right (or rather all wrong!) every line, every mark, every bump, every shadow pops out like a neon sign.
    I'm glad I'm sill alive. Of course, I am. I just want my young face (and body) back instead of this old face that mocks me every day!!

    I don't know who the woman in the book's cover photo is, but oh dear Lord, THAT is who I want to be!! She is striking, stunning, and beautifully put together.

    Maybe I'll just get another shower curtain to hang over that mirror and hang up a portrait of HER in the middle of it!

  7. I can't believe you posted on this book, on another blog I stumbled upon it before and delighted in these women of style, who pose at their age, where women (and men) are often easily overlooked!They are incredibly inspiring, don't you think?
    Like you, I have been feeling the years creeping up on me, but I do not fear the changes to come. I am curious how I will turn out to be. I have made peace with the fact that I too will eventually be a hot rocking grandma!

  8. It will have been at some point in my mid-40s when I finally accepted I wasn't always going to be young. With that came the realisation that my character, attitudes, affection, accomplishments, daily actions, intelligence, kindnesses and such were all far more important than the reflection in my mirror. Having been around some really gorgeous people over the years, I realised eventually that I ceased to see them after a time, like a new dress or a new pair of shoes just becomes another possession. I tend to sense people as I perceive them inside my mind and it is not their appearance that weighs most heavily. Growing old is a strange adventure on our way to death. It's not just the loss of looks, it's all the associations with our end that frightens. I don't think I'm being morbid, I've just ceased being oblivious and started paying more attention to other things. Love your reference to Quentin -he was fairly unique, wasn't he?

  9. Ha ha Pamela I'm with you there on every count, I'll be 63 in two months and that 'slippage' you mentioned has well and truly begun. I've been regularly visiting Ari's blog for a while now to try to give myself encouragement to....get on and be unique but sometimes I do waver a bit thinking I hope I don't look like 'mutton dressed as lamb' or a little too avantgarde for sense!

    Hugs Jane x

  10. Alas Pamela when I look in the mirror now it IS the old me looking back but I have to admit that I don't really mind the lines and the creases as they tell the story of my life, a life well lived.
    As for the way I is absolutely mutton dressed as lamb and I do not regret it for one minute!!!!!!!! xx

  11. I truly don't think you will in any way resemble the woman with whom you compare yourself in the above photo...I imagine a more delicate, kind-looking, softer elegance to shine through with an air of such grace and beauty about her..blond still, and smiling still...

  12. I have been reading Ari for some time now and even though I have a while to go to be in his category it does rip all the fear out of you.It makes you want to be who you are with all the joy possible.
    I do love your blog and wish you would credit your paintings. I know you probably do and I just can't find it. Tell me about the painting today. I would love an email. Luff one.

  13. i often visit his blog and now to be able to hold the book... well ... how lovely!
    i turned 67 this month. and because of years of yoga, things are holding up pretty well i guess. especially the neck. it's really easy. pretend you are a man shaving, that's all! they exercise their faces every day of their grown up lives (i guess unless they have a full beard!) and it keeps all that skin toned and firm. a lovely secret we can steal.
    alas... i have no "style."
    i tend toward color, comfort and clean. not in that order! lol.
    i love your winter cape. and your hair and i would call your own style 'enchanted being.'
    i mean in everything! the way you live your life. just beautifully!

  14. The glamorous old lady in your photograph was featured in The Lady magazine this week Pamela - along with other elderly glamorous ladies from the streets of N Y. They were absolutely lovely - not sure how it would go down in our village though - but I do try. But sometimes I too feel like an aged sloth (lovely description.)

  15. Dame Edna, you? I don't think so. The Snow Queen maybe, if she has big white dog.

  16. Oh Pamela, you made me laugh! I know exactly mean, mostly I don't think about it, but every now and then a glance in a mirror or a photo taken of me, gives me a little shock as I recognize how my appearance is changing. But you are right, today we have such great models for aging. You mentioned some great ones, and don't forget about Diane Keaton. I can't wait to look at this book!
    xx Sunday

  17. I meant to write "I know exactly what you mean"

  18. I'm going to have to check this one out! I often see the older ladies at the market and marvel at their style. Might have to start to snap some pics of them. My Dad says "getting older is a B but just think of the alternative."

  19. Once again, you've spoken straight to me! I, too, have become more keenly aware of no longer being young, but most definitely not yet "old." Shall we call them the "sandwich years"? I, too, am an English teacher, though hopefully a bit more modern than those stereotypes you described from days of yore. I am doing my darnedest to mature with grace. Nothing more pathetic than an "older" woman who is trying to hold onto her youth in ways that only accentuate the chronologically widening chasm. Here's to aging gracefully and stylishly!

  20. I can't seem to connect the number of years I've lived with the essence of who I am... in my mind I'm timeless. I look at my children and feel like I was their age only moments ago.
    When shopping, I try to remind myself of my actual age so that I dress "appropriately". Fortunately, I am not quite as limited as the "women of a certain" were several decades ago!
    I am off to purchase Advanced Style...


  21. Can't wait to look at this book. You read my mind with that bit about changing over 40. I seemed to look the same for so long (20 to 40, really) and then suddenly now I am not sure what will appear in the mirror every day. I am 42, which I know is still "very young" (as my husband's 87 year old grandmother says, and that DOES put things into perspective...), but still, the slippage is there. Hair getting thinner, fine lines appearing, the brow furrow seems to be becoming permanent now...oh and then the dentist had the gall to tell me my gums are receeding. I feel the urge to stay in bed some days. And weight...I can hardly eat anything. Yes, I definitely need some inspiration...can't wait to see this book.

    xo Terri

  22. I love that term or yours: "old age puberty." It is a transition in ourselves and in our friends, more noticeable in those we haven't seen in years. I also think this post is an argument for not doing any "work" since how we feel about ourselves can vary by our mood more than our reflection. I'm happy to see a book like Advanced Style get published.

  23. Oh my dear, I wish you all the graceful ageing you desire. In the past 30 years, I have experienced ageing with a sudden thump that left me quite winded. After we lost all we had to a wildfire, I suddenly was confronted by this hagged female in Salvation Army handouts, looking at me from a shop window. !0 years had gone by in the blinking of an eye. More recently, as my sister lay dieing, I aged 15 years in a matter of as many days. Now that old lady has taken permanent residence and has no intention of letting go of me.

    I sincerely hope that you, my dear, continue to age gracefully and keep enjoying your blessed state without alteration.

  24. Great...just great....and i am going to read this again when I'm old...;)

    T.D and Company.

  25. Thanks for sharing the blog and keep on updating the blog.

    shot for slim


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