Wednesday, July 18, 2012

When I get older

An image from the book 'Advanced Style' by Ari Seth Cohen

If you asked me what would follow a word association of old age and fashion, my answer would be ‘sensible shoes’. After all, when your age adds up to less than a dozen, the geriatric generation must involve the ultimate fashion submission. Of course they are of consequence to us, they raised us. First we did everything they told us to do, then we did everything they told us not to do, and finally we are amused with what they think we should do. But fashion? The keepers of the handbook of wisdom surely have something better to do with their time.

It was Iris Apfel that actually got me thinking otherwise. In a talk with Tavi Gevinson (that child wonder who flouts all age barriers on wisdom), she and Apfel discussed the perils of being fashionable. Of course that’s a bit of a catch-22, because once you are Tavi or Iris Apfel, you are fashionable. Now what is commendable is that you can associate fashion with a 90-something-year-old woman, who had to be wheeled onto stage just to speak on the subject. But what hit home for me was one line that Apfel said, that we live in a youth-centric society. How terrible a thing it is to imagine that you become irrelevant past a certain age.

Thankfully Ari Seth Cohen’s blog, ‘Advanced Style’ is going about proving that wrong. Fascinated with the aging model since he was a young photographer, Cohen now goes around New York photographing what he calls ‘advanced style’. The blog is full of fascinatingly senior women in exaggerated outfits, and poses to match. It’s as if the women are daring the realms of our expectations. As for Cohen, you might see this as a means to differentiate himself in an increasingly crowded blog space, or even as somewhat of a fetish. It might be both, or none. But what he does for sure is make us aware of a moment of relevance that we might have breezed over in the cliché rush to get somewhere.

Admittedly, the first time you encounter this blog you might be amused. It’s like the other end of the spectrum of a five-year-old putting on her mother’s wardrobe. At this moment in my life, I cannot fathom that age, or their thoughts or purposes. But perhaps we’re not so far away from each other, fashionably speaking. My grandmother’s clip-on earrings, now a wardrobe staple for me, are testimony to that. Can I imagine her wearing a ludicrous hat? Unfortunately I only knew her till an age when all I expected of her was molded jello. But now, at this age, I’d like to think she had the same audacity as these women, to put one on. And frankly, I hope I do too.