Women growing older with grace and gusto

Advanced Style: a review

photo credit: cerro mijares

This month I’m reviewing a blog, not a book. It’s one that many readers have recommended to me, and which I’ve been following for some time.

(Disclaimer: if you have no interest whatsoever in the use of clothing and colour as part of a creative personal style, that’s absolutely fine, don’t bother to read this, go do something else.)

Advanced Style, written by Ari Seth Cohen, is devoted primarily to photographs of older women (plus a few men) who dress stylishly. You’ll also find videos, written interviews and blog posts.

I have mixed feelings about it. But before I write about them, here’s what it’s all about, in Ari’s words:

My name is Ari Seth Cohen, the creator of Advanced Style. I roam the streets of New York looking for the most stylish and creative older folks. Respect your elders and let these ladies and gents teach you a thing or two about living life to the fullest. Advanced Style offers proof from the wise and silver-haired set that personal style advances with age.

Now some of my “mixed feelings” are simply down to personal taste and personal priorities. Some of the women appear to be stuck firmly in 1950s air hostess mode, others try far too hard, while still others tip over the precarious line between eccentricity and idiocy (you’ll have to guess which ones!). And the thought of bothering with nail varnish now, let alone at 90, makes me feel quite weary!


I find it slightly disturbing that Ari frequently refers to the women featured in this blog as “ladies”. For example:

I often get asked how the Advanced Style ladies stay so beautiful and active as they age (my emphasis)

This comes across as anachronistic at best and condescending at worst. It seems to me an unconscious nod to the prevailing mores of days before second-wave feminism, when many of us were growing up. I mean really, outside of ballroom dancing, how often recently have you heard women referred to collectively as “ladies”?

Transform the site design already!

Ari’s site is very successful, he’s about to publish a book on the back of it. He must be making money from it. So why oh why is the design such a disaster visually? It looks like he’s just stuck together the first crappy free Blogspot design he came across with no thought to how it would frame his lovely photos. Ari, I beg you, get the site redesigned. Get a proper domain name. Go to WordPress. Make us love the look of your blog as well as the photos in it.

Beautiful photos

On the plus side, the standard of photography in the blog is fabulous. Just as good as its younger and more famous cousin, The Sartorialist. Given that most of the photos are shot in the street, not in the studio, they really are excellent and full of life.

Such fun!

And the overwhelmingly positive thing about this blog for me is that it’s such enormous fun. The women in it are incredibly positive role-models for anyone interested in clothes and personal style. They all look as if they’re having a whale of a time. Check out this glorious lunacy, for example.

And if you ever needed some encouragement to wear bright colour and put clothes together in new and unexpected ways, this is the place to go. Such joie de vivre.


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29 Responses to Advanced Style: a review

  1. I went to the site ~ What great photographs! A lot of fun looking at them.

    But, yeah, about the site’s design ~ it’s severely lacking. There’s no excuse these days for having a poorly designed blog, even if it is on blogger.

    Thanx for this!
    roxanne recently posted..CataclysmMy Profile

  2. You say in your profile:
    “either we’re expected to look abnormally young forever or we’re expected to conform to what others think is sensible and appropriate for our age, to back down and become invisible.
    Do you want to join me and other women in growing older on our own terms?”

    I think “Ari’s ladies” (and I do prefer the term myself) are confident in their own skin, from the 90 year old lady who LIKES to wear nail varnish instead of HAVING to, to the ladies who wear vibrant colors that wouldn’t be caught dead in pastel QEII dresses….I don’t think calling them ladies makes them feel antiquated or thrown back to “pre-feminist” days…it’s certainly preferable to me then to say girl, woman or “broad” as my grandpa use to say!
    IMHO, I rather like Ari’s blog set up.

    I am interested in your blog and am happy to have found you via Ari’s blog and will enjoy reading your earlier posts 🙂

    • Hello Mim, thanks for your comment and welcome to my site.
      Yes, you pick out exactly what I like myself about Ari’s “ladies”, that they are comfortable in their own skin. In fact it’s directly from the encouragement of this blog that I’ve begun wearing more vibrant colours myself.
      I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree over “ladies” – we probably all have our own preferences.
      Thanks again for your comment.

  3. I have no objection to the term ladies–I think in our desire for equality of genders we can get a bit touchy.

    I like the blog because I like seeing older ladies/women/whatever you call ’em who are real and not airbrushed and photo-shopped into looking like they are mannequins in a wax museum.

    True some are way way way out there. But hey they are who they are and not withering away in mousey housedresses. \O/ for spunk!
    Patricia recently posted..Thursday, how the turkeys do it…My Profile

    • Hello Patricia, welcome to my site.
      Exactly right about seeing older women who are real and not airbrushed etc. That’s what I love about these photos and these women. They’re inspirational.
      Many thanks for your comment

  4. I find it interesting that you wish to reclaim terms such as “hag” and yet you cannot see the appropriate use of the term “ladies” in this day and age? There are positive (and very apropos) reasons to use this term in that particular rhetorical setting.

    As for the design elements of his blog? It seems he my be allowing for the photos to be showcased…

    Finally, as feminists, we should be celebrating women rather than tearing them apart; I think a woman who varnishes her nails at any age should be allowed that right of self expression. The condescension of feminists towards any woman who chooses to deviate from the norm(according to a feminist world view) is venomous and harmful. You are correct in acknowledging the lurking poison/wolf/destroyer within us. We hurt our cause with this attitude.

      • Hello Mary Lee and welcome to my site. I agree, Ari does celebrate women who embody my Manifesto. That’s what I love about his blog.

        On varnishing nails: I wasn’t in any way intending this as a put-down – did it come across like that? I actually quite admire women who can do this. When I try, the stuff flakes off after a day and my nails break. Thus the weariness!

        I like the way you compare the use of “ladies” with reclaiming “hag”. Gives me something to think about.

        Thanks for your comment, much appreciated.

  5. In Cornwall I see – and know – a lot of older funky spunky women and men who are very colourful and eccentric but in a more natural, spontaneous and unself-conscious way than this… I did look at this blog for a while but actually got a bit bored!
    And you know Tess, I am delighted if someone refers to me as a “lady” and frequently greet my friends this way. Some of us Goddess-loving women actually use “THE LADY” as one of Her many Names! I guess, as don Miguel Ruiz says in the Four Agreements, it is all a projection of our own reality…personally I don`t like being referred to as a “girl”! xx

    • Hi Kate, thanks for this. Yes I think the style of “funky eccentricity” is a little different in the UK than in the US. Although I do have one very straight acquaintance who I’m convinced thinks Vivienne Westwood is the antichrist!
      And another great perspective on the use of the word “lady”, thank you!
      I hate “girl” also, except for with two “girlfriends” – and we’re all hovering around 60 – where we use it between ourselves for fun.

  6. Isn’t referring to the women on Ari’s site as “Ladies” respectful? What would you prefer they be called? Respect towards others in our day to day lives is going. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing as you suggest. It has nothing to do with feminism.

    I recently was working in an enviroment where another worker, a young man, would walk in each day and say “good morning bitches”. A woman of my vintage found it very offensive as did the other woman. Does that strike your fancy more?


    • Hello there, thanks for your comment and welcome to my site. I prefer “women” to “ladies” but as the discussion here and on Ari’s site has shown, words are loaded and we all have difference preferences and understanding.
      And no of course your former colleague’s greeting doesn’t strike my fancy more. Did anyone address the issue with this young man?

  7. I like the fact that people aren’t airbrushed, something that makes me nuts.

    I will admit that I don’t generally follow fashion blogs because so many of them lean toward rather conservative dressing. And I mean by that the suits and hats and just generally formal. I’d love a site that took on things like wearing jeans and peasant skirts at a certain age. 😉 I have no desire to dress like I’m 20, but I also don’t tend to dress as though I’ve just been to a formal luncheon. Just not my lifestyle. I’m interested in clothes, I like clothes. But I’m also interested in how to have a reasonable (say 50 items or less, which sounds like a lot until you’re getting rid of clothes). And I’m with you on the nail polish.

    No matter what, it’s always interesting to take a glance at how other people live and age! So thank you!
    Em recently posted..Poem: A Poem of ThanksgivingMy Profile

    • Hi Em, better a typing malfunction than a wardrobe malfunction!
      Yes, restricting items to a reasonable number is a challenge, whether your addiction is clothes or books or something else. I once made a decision to have no more than five of any one type of item (5 jackets, 5 pairs of trousers etc). I made an exception for underwear and jewellery. But then I found myself sub-dividing categories to cheat my own limits which wasn’t really the point!!

  8. I am an arch-feminist, not exactly a balancing act. But I just want to mention a couple of disparaging names that male acquaintances have confided. How about, “Sir,” believe it or not, a young neighbor working his first big job out there, said he hated to be called that, it made him feel “so old.” A former colleague had a terrible fear of becoming a “geezer” (truly his boogeyman) Gabby Hayes style. All this beauty/youth fixation, and accompanying names, is a mirage and a distraction. We are vulnerable in this world for the sake of compassion, to care and to learn.

    • Hi Sarah, this male perspective is certainly interesting. Here, Geezer is kind of old-fashioned East London slang word. And I’ve also heard it used for old people of either gender.

      I love your last sentence. You always put beauty into your comments and I really appreciate it.

  9. Hi,

    I came to this blog from Advanced Style’s blog. I am a 30 year old style blogger who follows Advanced Style because I love the joie de vivre, the colors, the style and the photography. I find it to be an inspiration to me to continue on my own path as I “age”, same as you and your readers have created your own path.

    I will defend the “simplistic” style of his (and my blog) because our blogs feature many different colors and patterns a simple clean background is best to show off the content.

    Finally, the “debate” that got me here in the first place, the use of the term ladies. I use it regularly to describe my 57 year old Mother and her friends, as well as my friends. To me it is more youthful than “women” and insinuates a female who is put together on the inside AND outside. It embodies the joie de vivre that you and I both recognize in the people featured in Advanced Style and that I see in my friends, and my Mother and her friends.

    Best Regards,
    Vivid Voltage

    • Hello there, welcome here and thanks for your comment. Just had a quick peek at your blog and I’m loving that plaid skirt you wore for Thanksgiving!
      I think we’re all going to have to agree to differ over ladies/women etc, but agree wholeheartedly on joie de vivre.
      A quick word on blog design. I like yours very much. Do you see the difference between yours and Advanced Style? It isn’t simplicity I object to, far from it. I think the sort of plain background you have and describe is perfect for style/photographic blogs. (Quite different from mine which is primarily words.) What I’d love to see on Ari’s is better and cleaner typography. His tag line is lost under the big header, the picture of which partially obscures the name of the blog. And the links to different sections underneath (videos, Meows etc) also look cluttered. In fact I would have made exactly the same criticism of Sartorialist before its recent facelift.
      What I particularly like about your blog design is the witticism of the lighting bolt Vs while still maintaining the overall simplicity. (I just subscribed to your posts by the way.)

  10. Thank you for subscribing! I’m new to the blog world and it’s been fun learning from and exploring the blogging network.

    This has been an interesting web debate and fun to keep up with across the different sites, everyone has been very respectful and we can all agree that its the difference in opinion that keeps things interesting in life!

    Best Regards,
    Vivid Voltage

  11. I loved the last website/lifestyle you directed me to — Girl On Fire, I added her to my blogroll — but I won’t be adding Advanced Design. I visited the site and agree with you that the spirits of the women he photographs are full of the fierce vitality that you and I prize so much. But I find the whole approach too materialistic and consumption-oriented — so much stuff! — plus I feel AD feeds this misguided American notion of many many decades that New York City is somehow the center of the universe. (My own blog of course gently helps people understand that Portland Oregon actually is. 🙂 )

  12. The majority of these women look, to me, as if they are trying a bit too hard. I hate to see beautiful faces of older women slathered up in make-up designed to make them look younger than they are. Give me the natural beauty of an older woman. It wins out every time. Additionally, the majority of the outfits they are wearing are unrealisitic for everyday and even special occasions.
    Thanks but no thanks to the web site.

    • Thanks for your comment Linda, I absolutely agree about the natural beauty of older women. Well all women actually. One thing I think is very positive at the moment is the increasing number of women – even high-profile women – who are allowing their hair to go silver.
      I suppose the important thing is being oneself, and if that means theatrical make-up and clothes, that’s absolutely right for the person concerned.

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