"Excuse me, ma'am," photographer Ari Seth Cohen says as he attempts to stop a fashionable stranger for a photograph. "You look so gorgeous and elegant —"
"That's funny, I think just the opposite," she interjects, unaware of her stylish presence. The woman is at least 70 years old. And the photographer is the man at the helm of Advanced Style, a street style blog that narrows its lens on New York's "most creative and stylish older folks."
This exchange is one of the opening scenes from the film of the same name, which chronicles the lives of Cohen's most creative and stylish subjects. They include the theatrical 79-year-old Lynn Dell Cohen, who runs a vintage boutique on the Upper West Side, and Ilona Royce Smithkin, who at 93 years old still finds new ways to use her style as an agent of self-expression and self-discovery.
Contrary to what the runways tell us, fashion is not just a vehicle for the young. Indeed, people who have been perfecting their fashion and look for decades have a lot of lessons to impart. The film teaches us that personal style is ever-changing. Because each of the women in Advanced Style proves that it's never too late to step up your game, here are the most inspiring lessons on personal style we can all take away from these women, regardless of age.
1. Ilona Royce Smithkin, 93
"Speaking of fashion, now anything goes. When I grew up, we had certain styles and certain things were elegant and certain things were tacky. However, now I look around, I sometimes stand on a street, and I see people pass by with the most incongruous things — things which I wouldn't dream to put together. But at this stage, I feel if they have fun and they think it's gorgeous, it's their joy! It's their own thing."
2. Lynn Dell Cohen, 79
"Money has nothing to do with style."
3. Debra Rapoport, 67
"My whole philosophy: It's not about fashion, it's the attitude that style is healing. [It's] about personal creativity."
4. Tiporah Salamon, 62
"Sometimes I build an outfit for years — like seven years, one outfit took. Because until I found the perfect earrings for that outfit, I didn't wear the outfit. If the painting is not finished, I don't take it out into the world."
5. Joyce Carpati, 80
"I never wanted to look young, I wanted to look great."
6. Zelda Kaplan, 95
"When one becomes older, one learns to accept oneself."
Advanced Style is available for streaming.