by Jade Newman

Meet the women using their style to challenge the ‘invisible elderly’ label

Being fashionable and trendy is often seen as something only young people can achieve. However, Jade Newman takes a look at the Advanced Style series, highlighting the elderly women who are using their style to challenge stereotypes.

Meet the women using their style to challenge the 'invisible elderly' label Subscript
The Advanced Style website, created by photographer and author Ari Seth Cohen, regularly shines a light on the elderly women who have amazing style 

In a youth-obsessed selfie era where sadly, many feel pressure to partake in costly plastic surgery, photographer Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style book, documentary, and blog offers readers an optimistic alternative on the inevitable aging process.

Cohen originally embraced the concept of showcasing fashion-focused images of inspirational elders in New York City, as an artistic homage to the passing of his beloved grandmother.  

The book has “blossomed into a global movement re-imaging the picture of aging”, and Cohen hopes to inspire others to look at age in a more positive and insightful way, rather than being worried about getting lines on their faces.

“The secret to growing old with exuberance is simply a matter of mindset”

Ari Seth Cohen in Advanced style older and wiser (powerHouse Books, 2016)

The book and blog feature many colourful and effervescent characters who use creativity to play with clothing. Fashion here is synonymous to a sip from the fountain of youth and is expressed as a tool to self-empowerment. The transparency of the fashion industry and its questionable ethics have been exposed in the recent press, so it is uplifting to witness here the more liberating side of style.

Some of the stand out Advanced Style models and forerunners of this mature movement are Ilona Royce Smithkin, 98, and Joyce Carpati, 86.

Ilona Royce Smithkin
A former teacher and current cabaret performer/artist, Ilona has always striven to uplift her surroundings and those in her presence through art, song, and storytelling. She was an empathetic teenager and at 18-years-old, handed out daisies in the street to passers-by who looked sad. Her aesthetic adds to her flamboyant persona as she is often adorned in rainbow colours, 1960’s sunglasses, statement jewellery, bold prints, orange lashes, D.I.Y umbrella capes and scarf dresses.

She continues to illuminate others within her community and online through platforms including Instagram. Here, an encouraging quote is added alongside each image enhancing her truly magical spirit.

Ilona credits her 80th birthday as a time when she finally became free from others’ expectations. She has since starred in documentaries and become an author, influencer, model and experimental painter.

“I am happy to have gained so much insight and knowledge in my old age. When one is ready to learn, or when one permits oneself to learn every day, you get an unexpected, wonderful sense of satisfaction”

Ilona Royce Smith in
Advanced Style Older and Wiser

Joyce Carpati
As an opera singer at 16, Joyce soaked up the elegance from the streets of Milan and to this day continues to translate continental taste into her style aesthetic. Her ladylike gloves, braids, pearls and perfectly put-together exterior, reflects an inner balanced yet determined drive. This passion is evident through Joyce’s career history – in 1972 she was one of the first female marketing managers for the globally renowned Hearst publications. Joyce’s intent is not to preserve youth but to enjoy the privilege of aging in grace.

“Style is about the right jewellery, the right know-how, the right neckline, and above all, the right attitude”

Joyce Carpati in Advanced Style

 Joyce’s clothing choices are a charming emblem of self-care and she credits her friends and family as being pivotal as pillars of strength to her success. She also promotes Tai-Chi, a healthy diet, and hobbies, as components of her positivity. As a fulfilled woman, she also is keen to uplift others and speaks of the need to be true to oneself and to find one’s own sense of style.

“Ladies, at this time of our lives, dare to do and say anything you like and do it with audacity”

Joyce Carpati in Advanced Style

Creative dressing has allowed Cohen’s muses to challenge the ‘invisible elderly’ status quo. Humour, courage and originality are the qualities which have stood the test of time here. Our more mature citizens should continue to be seen and treated in a more respected manner within society, and shout about their own, wonderfully unique style.