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Advanced Style – Film Review

November 20, 2015

The Advanced Style film is a documentary about several stylish ladies of New York, all aged over 60. It came from Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style blog, which progressed into a coffee table book, and now the documentary which shows a little of the lives behind the lively images.


Ari Seth Cohen originally began to snap older ladies in the street, he explains, as a homage to his grandmothers whom he greatly admired and both of whom had immense style of their own. The gorgeous, flattering photos – Ari is a good photographer – were soon a hit on his blog and he says that the popularity of the entire Advanced Style series in all its formats has encouraged fashion designers and retailers to look at women past a certain age in a new light, using them as models and embracing them as a demographic.


Indeed, towards the end of the film we see his particular proteges being shot for a Lanvin campaign and sitting front row in a big name fashion show, as well as excitedly being interviewed by celebrity fashion bloggers.

Seven women of Advanced Style

The film focuses on seven women, all wildly different in terms of their – well, everything. The only thing they have in common is that they are “senior” – and there is quite a big difference there too, with an age range of 62 – 95.


Ari Seth Cohen brings them all together and seems in the Advanced style film to act as a kind of manager or agent, looking over proposals for film roles and TV appearances, and sitting in boardrooms protectively with them.


The women in Advanced style muse to camera, not only on fashion, but on family, career and health. There are some stiff sequences when some of these disparate personalities, clearly not already friends, meet at each other’s homes for awkward chats about their lives.

Very Differing Style

In Advanced style we meet cheerful, bubbly Ilona Royce Smithkin, an artist. Her drawings are, somehow unexpectedly, utterly lovely and she created the famous portrait of the author Ayn Rand which is still used on the back of her books. She now teaches art and performs in a nightclub. Style wise, her most arresting feature is her ever present bright orange false eyelashes, which match her bright orange hair.


Then there is the very beautiful, aristocratic seeming Joyce Carpati, who used to work on top Conde Nast fashion magazines. Her style is timeless and elegant, with signature plaits wound around her head. We see her coaching her teen granddaughter on style. “I really like colour” the granddaughter, dressed in ice-cream coloured t shirts and trainers says. Joyce offers her a sophisticated kelly green Chanel crocodile skin handbag, with matching gloves. “It’s like, real crocodile?” says the poor girl, recoiling.

Vintage Advanced Style

In Advanced style we also meet the loud Lynn Dell Cohen, who runs a vintage store and will tell its customers exactly what she thinks of their bodies and sense of style.


Another starring player in Advanced style who runs a vintage store too is the wonderfully chic Tziporah Salamon. She reflects that she would have liked children, still would, but in a way, her clothes are her babies, they take up so much time. So perhaps if she had children, she would not have time to be so stylish?


Then in Advanced style there is the very young seeming Debra Rapoport, who, very sadly to my eyes, went on a date with a man she fancied only to not hear from him again. “I thought she looked like a clown” he says. She toned down her look, sought him out again, and now he is her husband.

And Jacquie “Tajah” Murdoch, who was a dancer in Harlem when young and still has an amazing figure.


And finally in Advanced style, we also meet Zelda Caplan, who has travelled to Africa many times and likes to wear African fabrics including an imposing hand woven toque. It turns out to be final for her too, as she dies of a heart attack in the front row of a fashion show. “What a way to go!”, as the other ladies excitedly agree.