It’s often said that, “age is nothing but a number.” But in the inspiring fashion documentary Advanced Style, the golden years are elevated to such enviable heights, younger viewers may actually walk away biting the styles of the seniors in their midst. Based on photographer Ari Seth Cohen’s popular blog and book of the same name, and directed by Lina Plioplyte, the film is a vibrant celebration of elderly New York women and the wardrobes they’ve been carefully curating for decades.
Throughout the film, audiences are introduced to a gallery of grande dames aged 62 to 95 who all turn heads by following their muse wherever it takes them. Textile designer Debra Rapoport, 69, wows with handmade accessories that blur the lines between clothing and fine art. Painter Ilona Royce Smithkin, 91, wins over everyone she meets with a coquettish bat of her extravagant red eyelashes, created from her own hair. Harlem dance legend Jacquie Tajah Murdock, 84, is just as stunning today as she was when she first took the stage at the Apollo in the 1940s. Cosmopolitan magazine veteran Joyce Carpati, 82, is a vision of timeless elegance. Boutique owner Lynn Dell, 81, has a personality as sparkling as her bedazzled outfits. Stylist Tziporah Salamon, 64, builds looks the way museums build exhibitions. And the late Zelda Kaplan, filmed at age 95, reminds us why the New York nightlife scene will never be the same without her African-print-clad presence on the dance floor.
Even more striking than the clothes, however, are the women who inhabit them. At turns bold, brash, vulnerable, and heartbreakingly honest, these veterans of the concrete jungle trust and confide in the camera in ways that few interview subjects are brave enough to attempt. They are unapologetically and fully themselves. Which, in the end, is the most advanced style secret of all.
Advanced Style opens in theaters Friday September 26, and will be available on VOD and DVD October 7.
Emily Rems is a feminist writer, editor, rock star, playwright, and occasional plus-size model living in New York’s East Village. Best known as managing editor of BUST magazine, Emily is also a music and film commentator for New York’s NPR affiliate WNYC, and is the drummer for the horror-punk band the Grasshoppers. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in the anthologies Cassette from my Ex and Zinester’s Guide to NYC, and her short stories have been published in Rum Punch Press, Lumen, Prose ‘N Cons Mystery Magazine, Writing Raw, and PoemMemoirStory. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for fiction in 2015 and is working on a novel. Follow her on Twitter @emilyrems.