50+ style: The eccentric, the elegant and the space in between

Nancy Friedman, the branding consultant who writes the sharp blog fritinancy, sent me a video made by Ari Cohen, writer of the blog Advanced Style. Watch it (running time: 2:33), see what you think.

These women dress in clothes I would consciously avoid, though I loved the leopard frames. That doesn't make them "wrong" or badly-dressed; they intend a different mode of expression.

I'm tolerant but not admiring; I understand the joy of unfettered expression.

The women in the video don't acknowledge their wish to draw the eye, but, having known a few Eccentrics, I've observed it's there. Eccentricity is not solely about self-expression, it's about attention, too.

My son's young art-school copine can pull Eccentric off. It's as if she's saying, in her striped laddered tights under four skirts and a ferret on her shoulder, "You are going to look at me, for if I'm not Somebody yet, I am Someone today."

When I see a grown woman in silkscreened Marilyn Monroe wristwarmers, I'm not as admiring. More often than the subjects might wish, there's a whiff of desperation when mature women affect carefully-curated unconventionality.

Am I advocating dull conformity? No; there's ample room between "dressing like a dreary old lady" and uh, expressive outfits. Regard Brown's founder Joan Burstein, aka "Mrs. B", age somewhere in her seventies, substance and style shining forth. (Photo by Scott Schuman, The Sartorialist.)

Mrs. B., muse
Or this anonymous Milanesa, also shot by Schuman, singular, even humble, but oh, the furl of her seashell-hued chiffon. She has drawn me to return the way a pair of pie-plate glasses never will.

Walking on Piazza Oberdan, Milan

How do you like Eccentric? Do you wear it?


coffeeaddict said…
At my age (turning 30 this year) I can't yet label my style as eccentric. Definitely nonconformist. In a sea of leggings, jeggings and other ings paired with Uggs I stand out like a sore thumb in my over the knee/tea length skirts paired with funky brooches or fascinators or even satin opera gloves.
Duchesse said…
coffeeaddict: This blog is written by -and for- women over 50, though anyone is welcome. Your comment is naturally that of a woman your age, and one's choices might be made differently twenty or more years later.
Susan B said…
I have to admit, I really enjoyed that film. Yes, dressing that outlandishly is attention seeking, but there's also an unbridled joy to it. That said, you probably won't see me going in that direction, as subtlety is more my thing. But I am finding that I need a bit of irreverence and whimsy in the mix too; can't do Serious™ head-to-toe.
NancyDaQ said…
Those ladies are working a certain look that I often see in Bill Cunningham's photos as well. It's every bit as much as a NYC uniform as all black. I prefer it to bland, although I agree that the Monroe/Warhol wristlets are trying too hard.
Duchesse said…
Deja Pseu: Irreverence or whimsy is often the intention, yet so not easy to achieve. If I try, I end up feeling overdressed and fake. Find more joy in serene, perhaps what you would term "serious"? A hot pink pocket square peeking from a navy jacket is about my limit.
Lark said…
Another somewhat younger reader, here--although I enjoy your blog very much indeed.

I get the sense that as women age (something that's definitely begun for me, though I'm not yet fifty) there are fewer and fewer ways to stake out social space and claim social power. The socially expected position is to accept invisibility, attend to the social and emotional needs of men and children, and not make a fuss--dress "appropriately", never sexily (because older women are socially defined as sexually unattractive); dress in feminine yet not sexual clothes; always watch out for appearing trendy (trends are for the young!).

In this context, I appreciate eccentricity. It's of course not the only way to claim social space, but since I absolutely believe that women over about 35 should not efface themselves, I'm glad to see women dressing with verve.

Of course, I think it's a class statement too--many of the women in Advanced Style are obviously very wealthy, either by inheritance or by achievement or by a bit of both. If you're a secretary hoping desperately not to be laid off at the age of 60, self expression is much trickier. Although again (as someone in a secretarial-to-administrative career track) I do see older women in secretarial jobs who claim space and exert power through non-conformist dressing -- along the lines of "I am so good at my job that I earn the right to dress as I please".

It's not a style that appeals to me for myself, but I have a great deal of experience with a different form of sartorial eccentricity--as a butch queer woman, I am always aware that my clothes look a bit eccentric and attention-getting, even when they are nothing more than a button-down and a pair of dress pants. You can put me in a ruffly dress, and I still, in other words, look like a butch in a ruffly dress. My body language and facial expression (and the fact that I have wide shoulders and no hips!)mark me out as a different kind of eccentric.

(In fact, one reason that I enjoy your blog--and those on your blog roll--is your preference for simpler, more understated shapes, high quality material and thoughtful use of color. All my clothes are simple and understated by default, because they're from the more mannish end of women's clothes--so material, color and shape are what I work with rather than details, patterns or applied ornament.)
Anonymous said…
Lark said...it very well. I live in a mature area with a lot of older women. It is expected that if you are like coffeeaddict and have cultivated a unique style that now you must give it all up and blend in with the pavement.

No wonder young women are absolutely terrified of aging and who can blame them when not only do you lose your "looks" and your sexuality but also any sense of unique style or identity is verboten.

My neighbours are a sea of "brothers", by that I mean from the back you can't even tell who is who, all replaced by a uniform of black stretch pants and shapeless shirts in colours you haven't worn since you were a toddler. Give me this NYC eccentricity any day, it is better than what most women morph into.
My comment was just eaten up by bogger...

suffice to say, these women are having fun, they are creative and reinventing themselves....I say bravo for them.

I will not be quite as decked out in bakelite...and will be surprised if I ever found myself maxed out with adornments as these rather fearless women illustrate...my upbringing did have a profound effect on my lack of embellishments and that niggling guideline that one does not go out to seek attention...blend darling blend!
Susan said…
A friend sent me this short film over the weekend. I have to admit that I loved it and thought the women were so much fun. Aside from the long fake red eyelashes, I didn't think any of the clothing was all that eccentric. I especially liked the woman's choices who likes menswear, even though I tend to choose styles that are the opposite of menswear.

The main thing I gleaned from the film was a sense of fun. An older woman with a sense of fun is a very fine thing to behold.

I'm quite a conservative dresser myself, but can appreciate those who are different from me.
La Loca said…
I don't do eccentric anymore--although I did throughout highschool and college. I still find myself drawn to certain components of my former style (bakelite is a particular weakness) but I integrate them on a much smaller scale (e.g., one cuff instead of a stack up to the elbow).
Fritinancy said…
Thanks so much for the mention of my blog, Duchesse, and hello to all of you who've linked over for a visit. (I write about fashion brands and names every so often--I'm especially interested in shoes and shoe names--so I hope you'll find a pleasing overlap.)

I admit I loved the film, and I admire women (and men) who can carry off a strongly original style. My own style, however, tends to be much more subdued. For one thing, dressing "up" is a lot of work ... and I can't sustain that much effort on a regular basis. But wearing an unusual accessory (shoes!) does give me a lot of pleasure, and I hope it pleases onlookers, too.
Duchesse, I agree with you... and I also think that Lark should tell us where her blog is!
Duchesse said…
Nancy: Yes, Bill photographs eccentric, wacky and individual style.

Lark: Would you consider Mrs. B. as a person who "dresses invisibly"? There is a vast territory between "dressing invisibly" and the kind of clothes I usually show and gravitate toward. And invisibility depends on the herd you're among.

Anonymous: Who says "you must now give it all up and blend in" to you? And what is your reply? Mine would be, "Go microwave your hat." There are infinitely more choices than black stretch pants (though I wear them a lot, too) and shapeless shirts.

Do you think Mrs B. and the Milanesa have morphed into the invisible?

hostess: I have fun with clothes but would not enjoy wearing theirs. Possibly the menswear- but with my height and short hair, very close to drag.

Jane: It reads quite differently in high school than at 50s+. I still love Bakelite too.
Duchesse said…
Fritinancy: So glad people hopped over! I find too often their clothes wear them, and also applaud their confidence.

Oneweirdworld: If Lark is willing, I would like that too.
Belle de Ville said…
I think that Mrs. B. is stunning. I love the bold jewelry of course, but I also love the fact that she hasn't had her face done and wears her age elegantly.
LPC said…
Um. No. :).I've never really appreciated the Advanced Style mode as much as many seem to. At least not for myself. But I don't mind it on others.
Anonymous said…
I, too, have not admired the advanced style mode. I agree with Duchesse that the women I know who dress this way are seeking attention. They don't want to grow invisible.
Demi-pointe said…
The women in the film and throughout the website have full wardrobes and full homes in an "it's all good" vein. So. Many. Things. Piled up and on. It keeps my eye moving and then tires it out.
Yet, the boring button downs or wannabe hip Vince/Eileen Fisher, etc. black clad 50s, 60s and 70s put me to sleep.

Mrs. B looks great. Even without the ring and the earrings. Her smile, the length and softness of her hair, the height of her collar - all say a natural. And a woman confident in her skill. She seems to avoid the theatricality but keeps the drama (and thereby the interest).
Anonymous said…
This little film has provoked some interesting comments. I agree with Nancy that the women shown are part of a certain NY scene. I must admit that I can enjoy some of their bravura, costume-as-art-installation dressing, partly because I've never worn anything like it; I am glad there are bright-plumaged extroverts and eccentrics among us. I understood from a very young age that my own beauty was easily overwhelmed by bright colors, jewelry and busy patterns, that I required an understated frame, though often of a whimsical (antique or unusual) sort. Lately I've been avoiding even those little flourishes, feeling instinctively that I can no longer pull them off. Diana Vreeland said that "Elegance is refusal." I hope that I'm becoming more elegant, and not simply more afraid.

As for the Milanesa, yes, I stared at her picture for a long time. Something so compelling about that absolutely naked face in the pale twist of chiffon, revealing a woman who keeps her inner life inside.

Suburbohemian said…
Love the film, the blog and the women. They're writing their own rules and dressing for themselves, even as this expression commands the attention of others. And why not? Why should they not seek attention in their joyous, witty, wearable art? Each seems to have enough personality, confidence and self knowledge to carry this off. And of course they work hard at it! We invest time and energy in the things we love. Bless them.
Toby Wollin said…
So, Joan Burstein in her amazing jewelry is so different? You think she is not seeking attention with the way she is dressing, lavender lipstick and all? I think the message for all them is "I won't become invisible - I will use whatever attention-getting tools at my disposal." Some of these ladies are more theatrical than others are but the message is still the same. And bless us all. The world is filled with messages that tell us that once women are over 40, we're supposed to dress in black from head to foot, go behind closed doors and die quietly, if you please. Not ready.
Unknown said…
Hi I am a great fan of Ari's blog I think he is a talented photographer and seems to have a wonderful way of bringing out the best in his subjects. However too eccentric is not really my style, and never has been at any age, a touch of the quirky maybe as you want to be individual and not lapse into the boring. I am of the Mrs B school which is not surprising as I worked for her when I was in my 20s. She is one of the most elegant ladies I have ever known and I learnt so much from her.
I was invited to a 60th birthday party a few years ago in France and the 2 different camps were in evidence, the eccentric English and the very elegant soigne french women of a certain age. I know which look I favoured.
Duchesse said…
Belle: You have many pieces on Beldora for Wanna (Mrs) B.s.

Could not resist a pun.

LPC: Occasionally he posts a shot of someone quite restrained, but generally it's a lot of this, and not all high end.

demi-pointe: You have articulated what I sensed, the piled-on muchness of it. "Wannabe hip", sigh. Here I sit in black suede pants and aubergine cashmere v-neck, feeling vaguely hip but of course...not.

C.: Happy to be reminded of Vreeland's quote. And refusal, so prized by her, is answered by "Give me that, I'll add it to my outfit" for the more exuberant dressers.

Suburbohemian: Much as I applaud joy and wit, most of these women look too get-up-y for me to offer my compliments, unneeded as they would be. Any clothing called "wearable art" sets off huge alarm bells for me.

Toby: I would not want to derive attention only from people saying, "Did you •see• what that woman was wearing?" Some criticized Mrs. B's lilac lipcolour on The Sartorialist.

There is, as I keep saying,a large, diverse space in between the poles of "definitively eccentric" and boring.
Suburbohemian said…
It is worth noting that Vreeland chose to present herself w/ a whitened skin tone, highly rouged cheeks and jet black hair, not unlike a kabuki actor.
Duchesse said…
Suburbohemian: Yes, and she also went though a long phase where she wore little else other than black cashmere separates. One of a kind.
Duchesse said…
Chicatanyage: Fascinating to hear your anecdote, and it sounds as if mrs. B. influenced your taste. I find it jarring when a bunch of women in the Eccentric look gather. Suddenly no one looks 'original', just weird.
Jitterbugs said…
I love the women in Ari's blog. Most, if not all, are involved in artistic endeavors. To have their expression be in how they put their clothes together is but one thread in the textile of humanity. I like the white threads, the beige, and the black, but I also like to see red, yellow, and blue. How interesting, Duchesse, that you judge these women as "desperate" and "attention seekers," afraid to go silently into old age. No one is making you look at them, not even they. I guess I wonder why you care so much? Is it because Ari finds them stylish and does not find minimalist dressers as stylish. That's his opinion, and while I happen to share it, neither opinion is going to prison. We are lucky to live in a society that has room for and celebrates all women. We could be forced to wear a burqa.
Duchesse said…
Jitterbugs: I in fact do not read that blog. And I do not judge the video's participants personally; note that I said "having known a few Eccentrics". I do however assess their wardrobes, isn't that why the video was made?

And the Eccentrics I have known were either terrified of aging (by their own admission) or truly in love with colour and pattern, and wished to cover every inch of themselves in it. Or both.

Being (or calling yourself) an artist does not necessarily transfer into dressing in a way that flatters you. I've seen plenty of that, too.
rb said…
huh.. I saw their eccentricities as much about really loving clothing as it was about showing off themselves. I mean, the long orange false lashes, OK, that was just some weirdness. But I loved some of the pieces the two women at the table, primarily dressed in black, were wearing. I would love to have the panache to pull that off. Their items seemed to mostly be unique and expensive and well-made.
Duchesse said…
rb: Yes,expensive and well-made.
So many points of view. I love Ari's blog and I admire the women (and men) he photographs. Don't forget that those women aren't just over 50 - most of them are over 70 or 80. And, just as the point of view of someone at 30 is necessarily different than someone at 50, so is that of someone at 50 from someone who is 80. And most of the women he photographs have artistic/theatric backgrounds. Not too many ex-nurses (such as myself) in the bunch. I wish I could dress like them, but I'm afraid that I would come across as clownish in this Vancouver suburb. I also don't have the eye for that kind of flair, and I admire/envy them for that as well. ...sigh...
...and who else do you know who makes her own false eyelashes with her own hair?
Susan B said…
What an interesting discussion this is!

Duchesse, I have another Diana Vreeland quote in my blog's sidebar: "A little bad taste is like a splash of paprika.We all need a splash of bad taste. It's hearty, it's healthy, it's physical."

I think the operative words here are "a little." When I said I liked to have some whimsical elements in my own outfits, I wasn't thinking head to toe. Something like my orange Fluevogs, or a clever brooch, or a mixing high and low end items. it's a sly wink rather than a loud guffaw.

I may post some follow-up thoughts next week, lots to digest here!
Rubiatonta said…
I like a dash of fun in my dress -- but I'm not a full-on eccentric. Even in my salad days, the bits and bobs I pulled from second-hand stores tended to be elegant or whimsical (and I love that combo -- like the well-cut sharkskin jacket and New Jersey state map souvenir scarf I used to wear together with jeans).

Another reason I think I'd shy away from eccentric is my body shape -- notice that those women in the film are all slim. For me, as a curvy person, I'd much prefer to not risk negative attention. My splashes are all accessories -- and I'm learning not to be afraid to pile them on!
Duchesse said…
Carol: I am closer to 70 than 50, so have no qualms stating that this aesthetic will be nowhere near my body seven years from now. The woman might be a wonderful person, but "makes her own eyelashes" would not be a factor in my admiration of her.

Pseu: Unfortunately, I see more mature women (in my city) who aim for "whimsical" and "a touch of fun" actually achieve a getupy look.

I also find many of the hairstyles too short, tough and sensually deficient. (I *really* don't like this look, in case you can't tell.)

I am not advocating staid, serious attire either, but I think many of the elders dressing "creatively" have mortgaged their dignity.
lagatta said…
Well, I'm a real boho in that I work precariously in creative fields, live in a housing co-op, ride my old Raleigh bicycle most of the year. And there are many women of my boomerish generation here in Montréal who certainly dress in a boho style, but it isn't as gaudy or glaring as what these NYC women have chosen. Not only because we have less money, also a different aesthetic, not quite NYC, not quite Paris either.

I like to pare things down, but certainly don't wear "madame" clothes either.

A confession Duchesse, I have an aunt who does dress a bit like these NYC ladies. Haven't seen her in several years; wonder if she still does. She'd be well into her eighties now.

Loved the bicycle, by the way, but I still prefer my Japanese survivor cyclist lady (circa St. Pat's day post).
Duchesse said…
lagatta: "Boho" never crossed my mind when I saw the hat with little protruding fingers or the MM armwarmers- or any of it. They have chosen the biggest boldest strokes of what I'd call eccentric, or perhaps arty. Boho suggests to me more ethnic fabrics and different jewelry but maybe that's b/c I wear it sometimes :)

Also, see most of the hair. Boho women tend to have more of it.
Unknown said…
I love it that these women have the courage to express themselves visually!They are definite, discriminating, elegant and there are lots of things I don't prefer in their outfits such as harsh lipsticks. Nonetheless they are a feast for the eyes and viewing them is like going to an art gallery or watching performance art. The voices, however, not so much.
this is such an intresting conversation!
Duchesse said…
Sheena: I would not call these women elegant by a long shot. Elegance implies grace, restraint and refinement. As you point out, harsh lipstick and harsher voices do not create an elegant image.

They are, however, expressing themselves as individuals. "Performance art" is a useful way to think of their self-presentation, thanks!

Who Moved My Birkin: Yes, and I have very much appreciated everyone's impressions.
Susan Tiner said…
I'm late to the game figuring all of this out, but find the discussion intriguing. In my own little quest, I'm trying to add the "paprika" Pseu mentioned in the form of jewel-tone tops with something extra, like brilliance of tone or texture. With this in mind I sewed a ruby red top -- an inexpensive knit with sparkles. The fabric looked fun, to my eye. So I wore it to a party last weekend and someone said, you look like a Christmas tree!

Oh well.
Duchesse said…
Susan Tiner: You describe perfectly the thin line between whimsy (or "paprika") and being read-at least by some- as "Christmas tree". The coloured sparkly top might look best at holiday time; a neutral sparkle (not only black but bronze, cream or grey) can work across the seasons. The "witty dresser" mode is so fraught for me that the most I'll venture is a scarf printed with, for example, Parisien café habituées, including the café dog.
Susan Tiner said…
The café dog! Bien sur.

It's funny, it did occur to me that the top might work better at Christmas time. I still think it's fun. If I can find some time to post this weekend I'll include a photo of it on the dress form.

One other thought. Perhaps if the fabric were of higher quality I could get away with red sparkles off season?

I'm just getting back into sewing so I didn't want to splurge on expensive fabric for the first few pieces.
Duchesse said…
Susan Tiner: There are women who could wear that any time, and one I can think of is Liza Minelli. Congratulation on getting back into sewing!
HB said…
Wonderful conversation, thank you.

Attention-seeking, yes. Also there is a dash of irreverence born with the accomplishment of getting older, I think. It does fascinate me that there is a recognizable 'type' adhering to artsy outfits and a certain approach to hair and makeup. That said, it can be done well by some - in those cases it seems that there are some underlying nods to classic rules of good dressing and presentation. IMO, of course.

I definitely tend toward eccentric but work to temper it with a few criteria. I am also in a particular phase of body change/skin change that makes me particularly self-conscious, so these are all on my mind of late: 1) From my grandma and mom - remove one accessory or item of jewelry before leaving the house. 2) also from those wonderful women - good shoes! Not necessarily shoes that conform, either. I love wearing the all-black professional 'uniform' with a stunning pair of shoes, often in a color. 3) flattering shapes above all else - regardless of whimsy, artsy, or maybe the temporally-limited quality of a piece 4) quality materials. 5) be comfortable in your own own skin and outfit. On this point I think of a couple 'grande dames' of eccentricity like Zandra Rhodes or Vivienne Westwood. Neither of whom should be copied, simply admired for their own adherence to personal style that's appropriate for their lifestyles and professions. Looking at Bill Cunningham's photos is inspirational on this front.

And 6) groom well. I wear my hair long because it's deliberately less harsh and trendy - often pulling it back simply in a braid or loose chignon. I far prefer it to a scalp-revealing spiky short 'do because it's more flattering to me. Hard-learned, by the way. Tastefully applied makeup and a good skin regimen beneath go a long way to setting off any look IMO. Sometimes I believe the overly piled *outfit* is an attempt at capturing and expressing vitality; good self-care is the path I am working at in order to accomplish that for myself. It's very conscious because I have worked in design and costuming and can easily slip into wearing something "interesting" that doesn't do me any favors quite quickly.
Duchesse said…
HB: Thank you for your summary of how to temper eccentric! I can relate to all your criteria and smile at the thought of you in conservative attire, then... the shoes! Re the hair, notice how many of the women in the video had short (cut up above the ear, especially) hair, which is so different with eccentric garments than a softer style.

I revere a dash of irreverence. At the same time the earrings that look like bull's eyes do not look very good to me. Vivienne Westwood! She designs some very precise, almost austere clothes even though she often dresses as full-out eccentric. And her signature earrings are among my favourites.
HB said…
Thank you. I'm big on playing with elements of camp and humor while being able to move about in the business world a bit too. There's nothing more satisfying than pulling that off.

The hair in the video is the first thing that jumped out at me! I have tested many a hairstyle and color and arrived at keeping it long and occasionally playing with color as a good medium between what would be too conservative to suit and what would be unflattering or limiting. Also, I think it's pertinent to note that more extreme style statements are different than when I was, say, 25 and could wear 1/2" long hair with a Liberty Tana lawn dress. For us ladies moving through the next phases of life, short hair in particular is hard to do well, especially when you start to add other 'edgy' style elements.

And on "wearable art" (rings an alarm for me too) I think it cheats the art to distract from it too much. I don't know about you but if I invest in a custom piece of jewelry, a great piece of vintage, or a particularly fine jacket I do not want to wear anything else to steal attention from it.
Duchesse said…
HB: I've seen some very flattering short cuts; my friend who wears a version very well says the key is, "if short over the ears there must be length to the bangs and definitely visible hair behind the ear".

I wore a half-inch pixie for about a decade but one day saw a photo, decided it was past its best-by date.
Mardel said…
There is really nothing that inspires me about these women and this is sad because I do admire Iris Apfel for being true to her own vision. But as she gets older she seems to be becoming more and more extreme. Perhaps this is something these women have in common, this need for attention and this revolt against becoming invisible.

I have friends who can pull off this kind of look, but not me. I would feel like a clown.

It seems very New York, or at least very metropolitan, assuming there are other cities where you could pull this off. I do consider that it might be a nobler cause than giving in to the invisible look that too many settle in to.

Mrs. B. is wonderful and i want to be her. I think the lilac lipstick is not flattering as photographed but it might be nicer IRL. My perception may be off, but I think it is becoming more problematic to carry off that grande-dame simplicity of black clothing and stunning jewelry in the modern world. Perhaps I just live in the wrong place.
Anonymous said…
Just found your blog through Deja Pseu and watched the film. Thank you for posting it. I find these women and their personal styles absolutely delightful. I feel totally inspired when I see someone on the street who can express themselves so eloquently through their style choices. Bravissima ! Life is too short to live it playing by someone else's rules.
Anonymous said…
Well, I did almost buy a massive wooden bead mala (MASSIVE) based on an Iris Apfel NYT photo, but since I'm too chicken to wear color to work perhaps I should start not by emulating these ladies, but introducing a single non black/grey color....

Love the leopard frames, though. And I strangely want that hat with fingers though perhaps more for playing with a litter of kittens (all at once).
Duchesse said…
Anonymous @5:04: A lot of people like that film... but I like it as a caution.

Anonymous @5:33: Unless you have Mrs Apfel's means, perhaps you can find something bold at a consignment or thrift so it is not a costly mistake.
Marieanne said…
"It seems very New York"

This, exactly. An ethnic New York aesthetic, specifically.

I think these women are utterly fabulous. Quite clearly they are not going for the restrained elegance of Mrs. B or the Milanese - both of whom are also utterly, quietly fabulous - and so what?

These ladies know who they are, they like who they are, they are unafraid of expressing who they are. It's a rare and beautiful thing, especially in women our age and beyond. God love 'em, they're filled with life.

But desperate? Not seeing it. At all.
Duchesse said…
Marianne: Some of the most creative, nonconformist women I've known (and some are "ethnic New Yorkers") dress very quietly.

The women in the video have chosen a mode of dress they like, and I am guessing they know it gets looks- as one of them says "If you don't like it, I don't give a shit." So I infer that the woman who says that intends to attract attention.
Marieanne said…
An extra 'e' if you please, dear Duchesse. :)

To be clear, in my estimation eccentric dress no more equals artistic - and only artistic - than simple dress equals drab - and only drab.

My sainted mother, a working artist, former model (and ethnic New Yorker!), has a classic, quiet, elegant style which would doubtless be more consistent with that which you admire.

Those ladies are undoubtedly pleased when they look in the mirror. How many women - at any age - can honestly say that? I think it speaks to a certain confidence which is admirable.

Would I wear orange dinnerplate glasses? Probably not. But I applaud a woman with the courage and panache to wear them.

This is a fascinating conversation. I have also enjoyed reading LPC's work concerning this topic - dress as an expression of socio-demographic status.

Consider the African-American community. The idea of a woman hanging up her allure, her femininity, etc. when she reaches a certain age simply does not exist, IME. Dressing well, say, for church is a given. If you were my guest at service on any Sunday morning, you would see many of the ladies wearing gloves, and fantastic, fanciful hats coordinated with their brightly-colored suits. This is an UMC congregation and the clothing is well-tailored and luxurious.

In fact, I remember thinking just this weekend as I saw Miss Bernice - age 85 - in her winter white wool pantsuit, gloves, and matching snap-brim fedora, that she'd not be out of place on the Advanced Style blog. She was looking pretty sharp!

In my view, pride in one's appearance - whether you choose to express it the way my sainted mother and the Duchesse do, with elegant, simple, understated clothing; or the way the Advanced Style ladies do, with bold strokes that say 'HERE I AM WORLD' - indicates enjoyment of life. And that's a precious thing.
Susan Tiner said…
I did get a post up with a photo of that red sparkly top and would love to know if you agree with Pseu that it's very festive, meaning probably too festive.
Duchesse said…
Susan Tiner: It may be my monitor, but that's an aggressive red, and I'm not sure it is the best for your lovely mid-blonde hair and creamy complexion. With sparkles, it's bright! It looks like very good fabric. Sometimes wearing an assertive red with grey (not black) gentles it down a bit.

Marieanne: When you say "ethnic", regarding the women in the video, to which ethnicity are you referring?

I love to see people dress for any worship service, and feel uncomfortable being in a service where some congregants look like they have come directly from the beach.
Susan Tiner said…
The beach! I know what you mean. Our church is a bit tony -- most people dress up but some take casual to the extreme. I do believe that dressing up can signal exclusivity. One yelp reviewer mentioned visiting in dockers and a Hawaiian shirt and feeling like "a glazed donut in a box of scones." He never came back and that's a shame because the dressed up people are very friendly.

Thanks for checking out the top. I like the idea of pairing assertive red with grey. The whole point was that jewel tones seem to work well near my face and solids are slimming so I was looking for additional ways to add interest to solid jewel tones. It's complicated!
Lizzie said…
Fascinating film; great discussion! An African American attorney, 56 years old, size 16W, I find myself interested in expressing myself through fashion--but not to the extent of these NYC mavens. Because of my job, I have to meet my client's expectations (they want their attorney to inspire confidence and to exude competence), but I manage to do it MY WAY. Rather than wear eccentric accessories head to toe, I discretely hide silver ornaments in my shoulder-length dreadlocks; I have 2 extra piercings in one ear, in which I might wear interesting hoops or small dangles. I always wear at least 6 or 7 silver bangles on one wrist. And my eyewear is always a little quirky (right now I'm sporting tortise cat eye glasses!). I may never be as eccentric as the ladies in the film, but at my age, I feel I am making my own personal statement of style, and have not surrendered my sense of humor or fun. Not yet, anyway!
Duchesse said…
Lizzie: You sound like a woman I would smile at with complete appreciation and delight if I saw you, crossing the street.

There is a point where "creative self-expression" becomes so blatant that it works against a woman; her attire is seen, not her. That is the level I see in some of the women in the video, but clearly other commenters think it's not over the top.
Anonymous said…
Long-time lurker, de-lurking for the second time today.

First, I need to say how much I admire your blog. It's probably my favorite place on the internet right now. Although I sometimes disagree with your opinions, you are consistently entertaining and even thought-provoking. This blog goes way beyond what clothes we wear.

Regarding the women in the film, I think you are right to say "they intend a different mode of expression." I don't see a problem with their desire that attention to be paid to their creations. Your blog is your creation. Surely you aren't just writing this for self-expression--you're writing to be read by others. You want attention to be paid to your work. That's perfectly natural.

I also think for you to say in effect that only the young can pull off Eccentric is a bit ageist. So it's okay for a young woman to demand to be looked at but for a older woman it seems desperate? That's over-simplified and over-generalized. Watching the film, I simply didn't see desperation on anyone's face. On the contrary, those women all looked like they were having fun with fashion. They looked like they were still enjoying life. The two women whose dress you approved of did not.

I wish you would have taken what those glorious women said about their mode of dress at face value, judged their clothes as you saw fit, and left the psychology out of it.
Duchesse said…
wendeleh1: I would you say you, in your comment"psychologize" as much as I may.

You say that I am writing "to be read by others" and that "I want attention to be paid" to my work"? In fact, this perception is quite inaccurate. I would write if no one read this.

I stand by my assertion that elder women in eccentric dress convey a desperate desire to be looked at,to not be invisible- whether they intend that or not.

Most elder women no longer choose to dress the way they did when they were younger, whether that was arty-eccentric or babelicious (or other genres). You might call that ageist, I'd say a woman is wise to realize there's a time for certain effects and a time when they no longer serve her well.

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