Posts Tagged ‘Advanced Style’

Tamara de Lempicka, circa 1980. Image from Passion By Design: The Are and Times of Tamara de Lempicka (Abbeville Press Publishers)

But I don’t like people to flatter my clothes. Why? I tell you. When I was very young, people would say, ‘Tamara, you are gorgeous, what beautiful eyes you have, what beautiful hair – oh, you are beautiful.’ Now they say, ‘What a beautiful hat, what a beautiful dress, what a beautiful ring,’ but they never say, ‘How beautiful you are.’ The world changes. First they notice you, then they notice your things. So you had better have beautiful things when you grow old.

Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980), Polish artist.

I found this quote in the book, Passion By Design: The Art and Times of Tamara de Lempicka, by Kizette de Lempicka (Abbeville Press Publishers).

Tamara de Lampicka, Studio Joffe, circa 1938.

Ms. Lempicka is known for her distinct painting style, which she perfected in 1920s Paris. She painted many a portrait of wealthy aristocrats in the Art Deco era. Her works today are collected by celebrities such as Madonna and sell for millions.

This comment reminds me of the Advance Style ladies – women mostly in NYC of a certain age who dress either very well or quirky and have been photographed by Ari Seth Cohen for his blog called Advanced Style. The blog led to two books and a documentary film and it’s become quite the thing.

I often think about the Advanced Style phenomenon and it seems to me that these lovely ladies have overcome the loss of attention, usually experienced by older women, by being noticeable in a way other than “beauty.” Using color and pattern in their clothing, adding vintage pieces and lots of accessories, with a dash of attitude they create their own style, which encourages plenty of attention.

I suspect that despite what she said, Ms. Lempicka would have preferred whatever attention she got for her clothing, than no attention at all.

Come back tomorrow for a Q&A with Julie Rubio, producer of the new documentary, Tamara.

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When I was a kid growing up in San Francisco on the occasional Sunday afternoon my father and I would drive to Chinatown, park (because you still could), and walk around looking in all the shops. The stuff in the stores was fun to peruse but I was more captivated by the older Chinese people I saw strolling along Grant Street and the unique way they dressed. Their style was was bold and bright – mixing patterns with checks, layering unexpected color combinations such as red with yellow, and sporting something like my Mary Janes but made from black fabric (they looked so cute and comfortable).

Fast-forward quite a few years and not only is Chinatown style still thriving (with a new generation of older people), but we have a recently published book on the subject by photographer Andria Lo and journalist Valerie Luu, Chinatown Pretty: Chinatown’s Most Stylish Seniors (Chronicle Books, 2020).

As second generation Asian Americans, Lo and Luu have a shared fascination with the clothing of poh pohs (grandmas) and gung gungs (grandfathers) in San Francisco Chinatown. Curious about the people behind the clothes, they began to approach individuals on the street and ask how they put their outfits together. “The Chinatown seniors’ dress and demeanor,” the authors explain, “also reminded us of our own grandparents – their permed hair, their sock-and-sandal combinations, and the way their expressions could switch between extremely tough (and intimidating) and overwhelmingly affectionate.”

Their interest turned into a book, which covers six city Chinatowns – SF, Oakland, LA, Chicago, Manhattan, Vancouver, BC. – and dozens of stylin’ seniors. The people are as varied as the clothing with ages ranging from 60 to one woman over 100. Most immigrated decades ago from China or Vietnam, and they have worked as seamstresses, gardeners, store clerks, vendors, accounts, and social workers. Each person featured shares a lot or very little of their story and the authors say that 90 percent of the people they approached declined to be photographed or interviewed.

A theme among those featured was that their style is unintentional. They just wear what they have, some of it vintage, some hand-me-downs or purchased on sale. “At my age we don’t care about fashion,” says Show Chun Change from Vancouver Chinatown. “We just wear what’s comfortable.” How it’s all put together is more of a practical consideration, such as layering to keep out the cold. One gentleman had hand stitched several hats together for warmth and another used safety pins to close a buttonless vest, which made for a very cool look. I love that their style came from their ingenuity. (See slideshow.)

Several among the group do dress with intention. Anna Lee is in her 90s and immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada in 1989. She worked as an accountant and a social worker and although now retired she still enjoys dressing well in her custom-made dresses, high-waisted pants, and silk blouses, all accessorized with beaded necklaces she makes herself. (See first picture in slideshow.)

Another woman’s more artistic flair reminded me of the Advanced Style set, a group of older women in NYC who have become style superstars thanks to photographer Ari Seth Cohen. Dorothy G.C. Quock (called Polka Dot), 75, was born and still lives in SF Chinatown and works as a tour guide there. (See picture nine in the slideshow.) Growing up, Polka Dot spent a lot of time where her mother worked as a seamstress at the sweatshop that manufactured Levi’s:

As a preschooler, she got her first experience trimming thread ends. In second grade, she learned how to use an embosser to stamp the Levi’s logo onto the leather tag. At age ten, she mastered the buttonhole, which appeared on Levi’s before zippers became the norm.

I enjoyed the glimpses into these people’s lives and I also appreciated that the authors included a brief history of each of the six Chinatowns.

Chinatown Pretty is a fun read, a visual treat, and important documentation of an overlooked segment of fashion history.

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I spotted these unique women on a recent breezy Sunday afternoon, strolling down Sutter Street in downtown San Francisco.

What stands out most about these creative outfits is who is wearing them. Women of a certain age and I suspect, women who have been dressing this way since the 1980s.



All white on a bright spring day is perfection. I like that there’s subtle interest in the billowy shirt, with extra long sleeves and cuffs. The black work boots add an edge and remind me of the pseudo-punk look of the 80s.

And then we have black on the right. A high-low skirt in lace is flirty and fun but kept ladylike with a knee length black skirt underneath. The platform sneakers are in patent leather and embellished with baubles on the toe – girly meets edgy! Our street style maven is sporting very long dangle earrings and she’s added a pop of color with a pink tote, not to mention her classic bob in a sort of plum color. What I’m not crazy about is the pedestrian blazer. It just does not go with the rest of the ensemble and it’s throwing off the proportions. She needs something shorter with a tighter fit. A motorcycle jacket comes to mind to lean into the edge and away from the girly she’s got going. If leather is too much, she could get a similar vibe with a short black hoodie.

Oh what a treat to find anything stylish on the streets of San Francisco.

Thanks, ladies. I hope you enjoyed your day out.

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10413420_785675868162678_3574336313385235352_nHooray! The Bay Area screenings of Advanced Style start on October 10th, 2014 in Berkeley at the Rialto Elmwood on College Avenue and in San Francisco at the Presidio on Chestnut Street.

Haven’t heard about Advanced Style? Well, the oh-so-popular Advanced Style was first a street style blog by photographer Ari Cohen featuring chic ladies of NYC who also happen to be mature (60s to 90s). Then it was a book and now it’s a documentary.

The Advanced Style women are creative individuals who are less about current fashions and more about their own signature looks. They use color with abandon and don lots of chunky jewelry. They’re not afraid of hats, they adore scarves, and appreciate a good vintage find. To them, dressing every day is an art form.

Working with filmmaker Lina Plioplyte, Mr. Cohen interviews seven of his cadre of fashionables about who they are and what they do, how they put themselves together and what inspires them. One lady weaves men’s blazers into her ensembles always sporting a lovely vintage brooch on the lapels. Another takes years to assemble a complete outfit head to toe often incorporating ethnic pieces, such as a Japanese kimono. Yet another designs her own clothing using unique and colorful fabric she buys in Africa.

Ms. Plioplyte says of the experience, “I love the inspiration and fearlessness that these women exude – just hanging out with them has changed my personal perception on aging.”

Advanced Style won Best Documentary at the Miami Film Festival and has premiered in London and New York City. Now it’s our turn starting on October 10th, Rialto Elmwood in Berkeley and Presidio in San Francisco. Check the theaters’ website for times.

There’s much to be learned from these fabulous women, not just about fashion but about aging and spirit and … life.

This just in: The filmmakers will appear for a Q&A with the audience at the Rialto in Berkeley after the October 11th 3:30 showing. Don’t miss out.

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Tziporah Salamon

Tziporah Salamon

On a recent Sunday afternoon, 11 fashionable ladies gathered in San Francisco to hear Tziporah Salamon talk about her style and how she puts herself together. An artist of fine dressing, Ms. Salamon has created a presentation, part lecture/part show-and-tell, to teach women how to dress appropriately and with flair.

She was born in Israel to a tailor father and a seamstress mother from Hungary. (Her father’s tailoring skills saved his life at the young age of 13 in the WW II concentration camps, where he was charged with making the Nazi uniforms.) Between the two parents Ms. Salamon and her sister never went without quality clothing.  “From day one I would be sleeping, they would be sewing,” she said in her introduction.

The family immigrated to New York when Ms. Salamon was nine years old and she still lives there today. As a former teacher and with years of experience in the fashion industry, Ms. Salamon has a new mission – she wants to redirect women toward a better way of dressing. “It’s so needed right now,” she explained. “Girls and women dress inappropriately.”

To that end she is now splitting her time between New York and Los Angeles with the occasional visit to San Francisco. She feels that the current trend for sloppy and inappropriate attire is rooted in Hollywood and celebrity culture, so it is her intention to infiltrate that culture.  By setting an example, giving her presentation and eventually working as a stylist Ms. Salamon hopes to inspire women to dump their track suits and flip-flops for more elegant and interesting choices.

Photo by Ari Seth Cohen.

Photo by Ari Seth Cohen.

Ms. Salamon’s two-hour presentation is comprised of her dressing in several outfits as she explains where she found the individual pieces and why they work together. When creating an ensemble, she starts with one inspiring item and builds from there using layers of textures and coordinating colors. Sometimes it can take years to complete one outfit. She favors vintage clothing because of the rarity and high quality. She stresses the importance of accessories. “Invest in good quality basics and accessorize,” she said.  Jewelry, sunglasses (vintage), scarves and especially hats are important.  “The hat is the exclamation point.”

Ms. Salamon says there are big benefits to putting some effort into your style. “People talk to you when you’re dressed well and you’re better treated.”

Click here to view more of Ms. Salamon’s sartorial creations.

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Tziporah Salamon. Photo: Ike' Ude.

Tziporah Salamon. Photo: Ike’ Ude.

A couple of weeks ago I was in downtown San Francisco fabric shopping at Britex and meeting a few fashion students for an interview. As I dashed past the St. Frances Hotel, a smart-looking woman popped out of the crowds wearing lots of color and a tall hat. I knew instantly that she was not from around here and more than that, if she wasn’t one of the Advanced Style ladies from NYC, I’d eat my hat.

Fast forward more than a week – reading the San Francisco Chronicle I noticed the same woman featured in the Style Section Buzz column. Well, it turns out my mystery lady is Tziporah Salamon and indeed she is from NYC and part of the Advance Style set (so my hat is safe).

Ms. Salamon was in town as guest of honor for Jennifer Evans’ launch of a new line of evening gowns by The Factory. I was over-the-moon to read Ms. Salamon is returning on Sunday, June 30th to give her lecture Art of Dressing, where she shares tips on how to dress creatively and exhibits pieces from her extensive collection of vintage and antique clothing.

I can’t wait! You too? Contact Ms. Salamon for ticket information: tziporahsalamon@gmail.com.

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Left to right: Valerie, Helen, me, Jean. Photo: Richard Aiello.

One thing often leads to another as was the case with the Night & Day hat exhibit I attended in March. At the exhibit opening I was introduced to Jean and Valerie, two ladies from Advanced Style.

Advance Style is a blog by photographer Ari Seth Cohen featuring chic NYC women of a certain age. The blog turned into a book and now a documentary is in the editing process. Cohen’s ladies have become celebrities of a sort and some are even getting modeling gigs.

I have great admiration for these women. Each has created for herself a unique look combining vintage with ethnic with what ever strikes her fancy. They’ve embraced age and are fearless when it comes to color, pattern, statement jewelry and outlandish hats. What makes it work is they do it all with good taste and flair.

So, I was thrilled to meet Jean and Valerie and their friend, Helen, who owns her own costume shop (watch for a post on that later). The trio couldn’t have been nicer as they posed for photos and took the time to speak with me. Turns out that Jean and Valerie have their own blog, indiosyncraticfashionistas and are the subject of a recent book by cartoonist Joana Avillez.

Hats of course were the accessory of the evening and Jean sported one of her animal ear hats. She has a fondness for the silhouette and owns many a chapeau highlighting two propped points.

Valerie sported a fabulous vintage red feathered number. She’s a hat gal from way back starting as a child wearing hats for warmth against East Coast winters. As she got bored with one style she’d adopt another. The years passed and … Valerie is now a collector.

Thank you, ladies for being so gracious. I look forward to seeing you again in the documentary.

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Two stylish ladies from Advanced Style. Image courtesy of Ari Cohen.

My favorite street style blog is Ari Cohen’s Advanced Style. On his popular blog Mr. Cohen chronicles the most stylish ladies of NYC who also happen to be mature.

The women featured on Advanced Style are creative individuals who are less about current fashions and more about their own signature looks. They use color with abandon and don lots of chunky jewelry. They’re not afraid of hats, they adore scarves, and appreciate a good vintage find. To them, dressing every day is an art form.

For the past three years Mr. Cohen and his business partner, filmmaker Lina Plioplyte, have been interviewing these stylish older women for a documentary called Advanced Style: The Documentary. To finish up the project they are asking for a little financial support. For a mere $5 or more if you like, you can be a part of something truly remarkable.

Here’s what Mr. Cohen has to say:

This film is important because it will allow us all to look at aging in a new light. So much of what is in the media either ignore older people, or casts getting older in a negative light. The women featured in the Advanced Style film are between 65 and 100 and they live active and joyful lives. Their experiences will give us hope for the future.

I have seen the trailers many times and just like a piece of lovely dark chocolate, I savor each taste. I look forward to adding Advanced Style: The Documentary to my collection so I can watch it again and again.

Check out the trailer: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/292182391/advanced-style-film

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Lynn Dell looking stylish in faux fur. Photo by Seth Cohen.

Fashion says me too and style says only me.

Lynn Dell

This is right on. Lynn Dell is known as The Countess of Glamour and she is often featured in Ari Seth Cohen’s blog Advanced Style. The owner of Off Broadway Boutique in NYC, Lynn is also part of the upcoming documentary film about stylish older women.

Oh, and by the way, Ari has a book based on his blog coming out in May. It’s called Advanced Style (powerHouse Books) and it is currently available to pre-order on Amazon. (Or support your local independently owned bookstore and ask them to order it for you.)

Congratulations Ari … I cannot wait to read it!

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