In 2008, Ari Seth Cohen began the blog, Advanced Style, dedicated to showcasing the beauty of fashionable older women. Now, six years later, the blog has thousands of followers, a published book, and a new documentary directed by Lina Piloplyte. ADVANCED STYLE premiered at this year’s Toronto Hot Docs film festival, and I got to chat with Ari, Lina, and four of the wonderful women featured in the film.
“I had always been close to older people, so when I moved to New York and saw these vibrant, vital, and active women dressed amazingly, I knew I had to know them,” Cohen tells me, describing his idea for Advanced Style. “I realized that images of fashionable, interesting and inspiring older women weren’t out in the world, so I started a blog and put them out there.”
After seeing Cohen’s blog, Piloplyte knew that it was something she had to capture on film. She explained, “I thought the idea was fabulous and I asked him if I may take some videos of them.” Though a feature film was never her intention, she knew one had to be made. “We just did three or four minute clips about ladies’ closets, and that took off on the Internet. People responded wildly to them; there was no question that there had to be a feature length documentary.”
The women of ADVANCED STYLE have been in love with fashion since they were young girls, and only now as they reach their golden years are they finally getting the attention they deserve. “I’ve waited since I was 12-years-old for this! All my life I wanted to go to Hollywood and here I am!” The 81-year-old, self-proclaimed, Countess of Glamour Lynn Dell, tells me. Though enthusiastic, the Countess does have one hesitation about the film. “I’m very excited, but I do have mixed feelings about being in the movie that I haven’t seen. They tell me there are a few things I did in there that might be naughty!”
Tziporah Salamon, the youngest of the group at 64, begs to differ, coming back at Dell saying, “Lynn, come on! At 81 you’re worried about naughty? I’m the naughtiest one. If you did something then it’s already done, you can’t go back.” Cohen then joked, “Well you guys can blame Lina, not me.” Salamon began to laugh, saying, “Whenever he doesn’t like something he blames it on her, and she him. They always blame it on each other!” The room erupts in laughter, Cohen assuring me that I’m “getting the real scoop here.”
Those weren’t the only feisty comments made during the interview. 84-year-old, Joyce Carpati got quite aroused when the discussion of politics somehow came up. After Dell proposed that the women should “Campaign throughout the world! A world tour! World peace through Advanced Style!”, Carpati’s political tirade began. She excitedly proclaimed, “We should go to Russia to see Putin and ask him, ‘What the heck are you doing!’” This was only Joyce’s first mention of Putin, many more would follow throughout the interview.
Dell suggested, “We’ll have a session at the UN!”, to which 69-year-old, Debra Rapoport replied, “The film is going to pave the way, and then we’ll be invited and we’ll go.” Carpati saw this as another opportunity to say, “And let’s start with Putin!” she then “flipped the books”, asking me, “Did you ever meet such women in your life?” I obviously replied that I had not. “You know what? You won’t!” Carpati said. There was a momentary silence in the room, quite rare for the eager group of ladies. Carpati saw this as the perfect opportunity to bring back her political agenda, saying, “I want to meet Putin! Many times I thought, ‘I’d like to see this man and give him a piece of my mind’. What the heck is he doing out there starting all this trouble?” At this point Cohen thought it was best to stop with the Putin talk, telling Joyce, “We’re not getting political.” Dell jumped back in, defending Carpati, and said, “Well, God didn’t put her near the UN for nothing!” At this point the room was in a frenzy, Rapoport proclaiming, “Joyce get him!”
After Cohen finally calmed the women down, the interview was coming to a close. I asked each of the women if they had any final words. “I just modeled nude for a photographer and it was just the most freeing thing I’ve ever done!” Rapoport said, to the rest of the womens’ surprise. “Never be sorry for what you did. Never, never.” Joyce told us. Unfortunately, my time with the ladies was up. “This poor guy’s going to need a psychiatrist after this!” Dell told the room as I was leaving. Anyone know a good shrink?