Advanced Style’s Ari Seth Cohen on Senior Citizen Style and His Upcoming Documentary

ari seth cohen

Photo courtesy of Advanced Style

Ari Seth Cohen with one of his subjects

Not many twentysomethings spend their days chasing down well-dressed senior citizens, but then again, Ari Seth Cohen isn’t your average twentysomething.

As the creator and photographer behind the 60-and-up street-style blog Advanced Style, Cohen is a passionate chronicler of the elderly and their elegant (and at times eccentric) fashion choices.

Rather than flavor-of-the-month trends, Cohen’s silver-haired subjects favor an inspiring mélange of bold accessories, explosions of color, vintage items that they’ve owned for half a lifetime (every garment tells a story), and timeless pieces that reflect a keen understanding about their own personal style. Apparently that "with age comes wisdom" mantra extends to clothes too.

Of course, Advanced Style is now more than just a few photos. What started as a pet project inspired by Cohen’s late grandmother has led to a line of dolls, a recent Nowness featurette, an exhibit at Selfridges in London, and soon, a book and documentary.

FashionEtc spoke to Cohen about the style secrets his inspiring subjects have taught him, why Dorothy was the best-dressed Golden Girl (deal with it, Betty White), and what we can expect from his first book, slated to be published in 2012.

Who are your senior citizen style heroes right now?

Oh, I am always meeting new heroes. Of course there’s Ilona Royce Smithkin, a 91-year-old artist and cabaret singer.

What style tips have you picked up from an older subject?

To be myself and to be original. Also, fashion should be fun. Style really has the power to lift our spirits. As Iris Apfel told me, "I think its fun to dress up. It’s an exercise in creativity and it makes you feel better. Sometimes you are in a funk and you put something on and twirl yourself around and—BINGO!”

ari seth cohen

Photo courtesy of Advanced Style

Portraits by Ari Seth Cohen

Your drawings have inspired a line of dolls. How did that happen?

Debra Rapoport, an artist and someone  I have featured on Advanced Style many times, saw my childhood and more recent drawings of fancy ladies and was inspired to make dolls of them. You can  purchase them by emailing her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . They are one of a kind and made from recycled materials. It’s great to collaborate with the ladies and gentlemen I meet.

What projects are you working on next?

I am working on an Advanced Style book and documentary. I am looking for helpers!

How exciting! Tell us more.

Dita Von Teese just tweeted about the Advanced Style/Nowness video. That is basically a small preview of the documentary Lina Plioplyte and I are working on to be completed by the end of the summer. The book will be out Spring 2012, and is a best of Advanced Style with great new shots, features, and style tips!

What are your thoughts on the “granny chic” trend (calf-length skirts, gray hair, etc.) that seems to be picking up steam lately?

One of the reasons I started Advanced Style was that I saw younger people dressing like the old ladies I admired. We should all be aware of where our references are coming from. I think it’s great fun!

Who was the most stylish of The Golden Girls?

I think they are all great, but I loved Dorothy’s jackets with big shoulders.

Your subjects seem to be especially fixated on accessories. Why do you think they appeal to older women?  

The older ladies I meet use fashion as a way to express themselves. Style is an art and accessories become their paints.

What, in your opinion, is the biggest style mistake young women make?

Relying too much on trends. Go with your gut and instinct. Wear what makes you feel good.

You’ve got a column for AARP magazines Web site. Do you find yourself with a newfound street cred amongst the silver set?

Yes, I have written for AARP online and would love to write for the magazine. I hope I have street cred with the silver set!

What’s the biggest misconception people have about the elderly?

We tend to ignore older people, and they have so much to share and offer. I know 80- and 90-year-old ladies who have more active social lives than me.

What are some of the best style trends for senior citizens?

Leopard print, great oversize sunglasses ... their trend is that there are no trends!

What should we steal from Grandma’s closet?

Anything that she will let go!