A Reflection on Advanced Style: The Documentary

I have always been in love with style. In love with fashion, clothes, fabrics, patterns and colors. I was the little girl who used to dress herself in tutus and vibrantly colored sun hats. The one who would visit her grandparents and look through her grandmother’s jewelry box for hours on end, trying each piece on, and then carefully placing them back. I would drape her pearl necklace around my wrists, neck, head and fingers, smiling as the pearls coldly pressed against my hot skin.

Style is so simple as a child. There’s no judgement, and most importantly, no fear to look different from everyone else. As you grow up, however, you become more aware of your surroundings. It is no longer your world of fashion, but everyone’s. Through this realization, I can admit that I lost my own, personal, sense of style along the way. I kept fashionable, but felt less comfortable to be me. To express myself through what I was wearing.

Then, I found a gem. A piece of art by a blogger who had recently moved to New York City.

imgres-4Ari Seth Cohen moved to NYC in 2008 so that he could discover creativity. Little did he know that by moving to the Big Apple, he would not only find what he was looking for, but a whole new group of fashionable and glamorous friends who would help him create his documentary: Advanced Style. Not only would he create a documentary featuring the glamour queens of NYC: Lynn Dell Cohen, Ilona Royce Smithkin, Debra Rapoport, Tzporah Salamon, Jacquie Tajah Murdock, Joyce Carpati, and Zelda Kaplan, but also a blog to continue his documentation of Advanced Style.

In both the blog and documentary, Cohen celebrates style as a sixth sense that develops over time. He emphasizes, through the help of his new friends, that style is not something that is universal, but is created by one’s own personal senses of likes, dislikes and personality. And then, most importantly, that it is not something that grows old with age like the person it belongs to, but remains vibrant, young and forever beautiful.

The documentary, itself, follows the lives of seven gloriously stylistic women. It shows their houses, closets, family, and workplaces. All of which attain to each of their own stylistic beliefs. There are lavish parties, singing in night clubs, and most importantly, a reminder to live life to its fullest.

Each individual woman featured in this documentary is special. They are not your average human being and definitely not the stereotypical older woman that American society has carved out over generations of people.

Ilona Royce Smithkin dyes her hair a fiery red and swipes on a vivid emerald green eye shadow. Did I mention she was 90-years-old at the time that the documentary was filmed? She also makes false eyelashes every morning out of her own locks in order to complete her creative and colorful outfit.

Lynn Dell Cohen
Lynn Dell Cohen

The late Lynn Dell Cohen owned a clothing store called Off The Broadway Boutique: a space so decorative and colorful that you want to jump into your computer screen and buy everything.

Joyce Carpati has a collection of beautiful handbags, which she plans to hand down to her granddaughter once she is ready. She was also an opera singer in Europe, and then became the advertising manager of the beauty department of Cosmopolitan at the age of 40. Featured in an article for the Today: Beauty, she is an image of glamour, elegance, and inspiration in the fashion world.

Debra Rapoport enjoys refurbishing recycled materials to add onto her fashionable outfits. During the documentary, she presents the audience with beautifully designed bracelets made from cardboard toilet paper rolls. She also struts around with pink-tip dyed hair. After Advanced Style, Rapoport was also interviewed by another blog named Recycled Fashionin which she gives fashion and style advice.

Tzporah Salamon grew up as the fashionista of Natanya, Israel. According to her website, Salamon’s “struggle is every woman’s struggle – how to navigate life’s currents and arrive safely at one’s own port while looking fabulous and unruffled throughout the journey.”

Ilona Royce Smithkin
Ilona Royce Smithkin

Jacquie Tajah Murdock, 82 at the time of filming, was chosen to be a model for Lanvin Paris in 2012 for her beautiful features and fashion choices. When she was 17, Murdock danced for the Apollo Theater in New York, New York.

The late Zelda Kaplan created her own clothing with a collection of fabrics that she bought when traveling. After taking them to a seamstress, she would strut the streets like a catwalk looking cultured and very much high fashion. Kaplan loved to attend fashion shows and most gracefully exited this world at the time of filming during the 2012 Joanna Mastroianni fashion show.

The documentary, overall, is an inspiration for both young and old as it reminds us what it really means to be stylish. As the younger generation, an inspiration to continue to express yourself through clothing despite rapidly changing fashion trends. To the older, a reminder that just because you are “older,” it does not mean you have to dress that way. Then, most importantly, to express yourself, to be yourself, and to not let anyone get in the way of it.

You can watch the trailer for Advanced Style here.

“People will stare. Make it worth their while.”

– Harry Winston

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