Wardrobe Tips—and Life Lessons—from 'Advanced Style' Stars

The most fashionable (and fabulous) New Yorkers are found in an age demographic you might not expect.

Lynn Dell in Advanced Style; Source: Ari Seth Cohen, New York City
Lynn Dell in Advanced Style; Source: Ari Seth Cohen, New York City
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You're never too old to play dress-up. And if you've ever been in New York City during Fashion Week, you've witnessed the streets transform into runways, as hopeful fashionistas from all walks of life put the childhood pastime into practice by strutting in their most extravagant ensembles. The true street style stars, however, are the ones that have had years to master the art of dressing. Photographer and blogger Ari Seth Cohen sees the real beauty in the women that often get overlooked—not because of their attire but because of their age. His over-50-year-old subjects sparked such intrigue, they now star in a documentary, entitled Advanced Style, that premieres today.

Dressing is a very small part of their lives; they approach all of it with the same philosophy, which is, ‘Have fun. Be playful. Be loud. Be unapologetic.’”

–Lina Plioplyte, Director

The film begins with Cohen approaching a stylish woman in her sixties, telling her how beautiful she is and asking to take her picture, similar to the approach used on younger downtown divas (or so we imagine). Following the lives of seven women from different decades that each has her own story and personal style—from boho bike-riders to glam retired dancers to classic Chanel collectors—all share the same exuberant outlook on life. We got to speak with a few of the film's stars, Debra Rapoport, 69, and Joyce Carpati, 82, who offered up some great wardrobe tips and life lessons. 

Ilona Smithkin, Joyce Carpati and Lynn Dell in <em>Advanced Style</em>; <em>Source: Ari Seth Cohen, New York City</em>
Ilona Smithkin, Joyce Carpati and Lynn Dell in Advanced Style; Source: Ari Seth Cohen, New York City

I’ve always played with clothes, since I was about three, and I’ve always been very carefree, so it’s not that with age I’ve gotten more flamboyant."

–Debra Rapoport, 69

How would you describe your personal style?

DR: “I guess I call it eclectic because I mix and match a lot of things, and as Ari labeled me, ‘I’m gifted at thrifted.’ People send me things from all over that they are no longer wearing, and I accept it, and most of them are wonderful. I only shop in thrift shops because, at this age, there’s nothing I really need. It’s the challenge, the quest.”

JC: “Well, I think it’s elegant, simplistic and minimal, but I do use a lot of wonderful accessories. I start with a really clear slate, and then I add to it and do whatever I want to make it look elegant—yes, that’s the word I’d use.” 

How has your style evolved?

DR: “I think it just gets more and more playful. I’ve always played with clothes, since I was about three, and I’ve always been very carefree, so it’s not that with age I’ve gotten more flamboyant. I think it just keeps building.”

JC: "I don't know that it's evolved so much. If anything, I think it's gotten a little more sophisticated because I feel that, as I get older, I don't care to look younger; that's something I never wanted to do. I always wanted to grow old gracefully, to look as attractive as I could. Let's face it: you can't look younger, you don't want to look younger, and I think it's rather foolish. But to look as well as you can at any age is important to me—and I hope I've succeeded."

Debra Rapoport in <em>Advanced Style</em>; <em>Source: Ari Seth Cohen, New York </em><em>City</em>
Debra Rapoport in Advanced Style; Source: Ari Seth Cohen, New York City

What are the most meaningful wardrobe pieces you own?

DR: “I have a dress that I wore to one of the openings in London and one of the book-signings. It’s a dress I made for my wedding that I hand-painted and put together. It looks better on me now than it did 40 years ago. And then, because my mother didn’t think that dress was going to be ready in time, she went out and bought me the most amazing dress from Afghanistan, and I still have it and treasure it. Most of my other ethnic garments, I’ve given away, but that I think I will always keep because it was a gift from her. Those are the two pieces that are really of value to me.”

I don't care to look younger; that's something I never wanted to do. I always wanted to grow old gracefully, to look as attractive as I could."

–Joyce Carpati, 82

JC: "There's an Yves Saint Laurent—and I don't buy that many Yves Saint Laurents, in fact not at all—that I got many years ago in Geneva, [where] my cousins live. We went into this shop, and there was this, I would say, glorious YSL coat dress. I remember the huge circular skirt it had tied at the waist, and these lovely balloon sleeves. It's a black wonderful wool, which I still have, and I think I'm going to take it out and start to wear again because it has a wonderful memory for me. Just putting on an original—it's probably the only YSL that I have from that period that's an original—[and] having it, and it still looks beautiful. As you can imagine, his work will always look beautiful. I think I love that the most. I was with my cousins, and we went in; she bought something, and I bought something, and that was memorable."

Tziporah Salamon in <em>Advanced Style</em>; <em>Source: Ari Seth Cohen, New York </em><em>City</em>
Tziporah Salamon in Advanced Style; Source: Ari Seth Cohen, New York City

Do you have any tips for our readers about developing their own personal styles?

DR: “Mostly to just keep on playing: Stand in front of the mirror, and just be an object and admire yourself. See how you feel, see how you look. You can judge yourself, but don’t be harsh; be a positive critic. Just play because it is a game, it is a ritual. Enjoy the process. And don’t go by trends. Fashion is the industry in consumerism; personal style is really your own creative statement. I always say, ‘Style is healing,’ because it’s one of the easiest and first ways we can express ourselves and present ourselves to the world. But first and foremost, it’s how we see ourselves and want to put ourselves out there.”

JC: "First of all, you have to know yourself. You have to recognize your own flaws, and work from there. I think that someone has to know their own body and what looks good on them. I'm sure you see women who are wearing things they shouldn't wear. I think if you know yourself, you can do wonderful things with fashion."

Advanced Style hits theaters today, but catch a sneak peek below in the film's trailer:

Associate Editor at StyleBistro. California native, Brooklyn resident & country girl at heart. Follow me on Twitter: @katie_ddavidson Follow me: Google
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