is advanced style advanced?

 Kathleen Ryan

is advanced style advanced
kathleen ryan
esquivel, american made shoes


Is the style known as Advanced Style, the term coined by Ari Seth Cohen, advanced? Is it “over the top,” as some have always believed? Perhaps Advanced Style is simply what it’s always been, a cohort of like-minded women, and men, who like to dress what might be called, “extravagantly?”

Is Advanced Style advanced?

This is what I’ve been thinking about ever since I had a very interesting talk, with a young man, in a coffee shop. He complimented my style, and then we proceeded to talk about what we both “did;” he worked in an art gallery, me, I’m a blogger.

Then we got around to the women of New York and the women of Advanced Style, a perfectly logical transition for this sophisticated town, and besides, we both know some “AS” proponents.

And then this stylish, young man told me he thought the whole Advanced Style thing was kind of “sad.” And I have to admit, I was more than a bit taken aback.

The Advanced Style is not monolithic,

but it does seem to hold to some, main themes: color, exuberance, abundance, an inclination towards the “ethnic”, and yes, extravagance comes to mind.

“Sad,” just isn’t a term most people would ever think of looking at Ari Cohen’s blog, or any of his many Advanced Style books.

Yet my ears pricked up when my coffee companion said sad, and I realized that I had abandoned faithfully following the AS phenomenon long ago. It occurred to me that it was because, at some point, what I was looking at seemed to me to be kind of sad primarily because it had not changed. No evolution.

The same big dresses, the same bright colors, the stacks of bangles, hats, and the “red lip.” But isn’t that just “fashion?” There are different style “factions,” that take pleasure in cultivating, elevating, and perfecting their look? And that’s what the AS women have done and done well.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with that, but it does eventually become a “thing,” and “things” scare me. 

Even though it’s hard, let me try to put my objection into words, by focusing on one word: extravagance. While extravagance has its place, is its place in the daily diet? I’m not asking because I think older people shouldn’t “stand out,” but because I’m questioning what one is trying to say by standing out.  

To dress extravagantly, is to say “look at me,” and it begs the question, why

Julia Twigg in her book, Fashion and Age: Dress, the Body and Later Life, talks with women’s magazine editors who acknowledge…

“they recognize that fashion has a role to play in counteracting cultural exclusion. To this degree it is a form of resistance. Engagement with dress is presented positively in the magazine as a means of counteracting cultural invisibility.”

Certainly that is exactly what the AS proponents are doing. In other words, “it’s the invisibility stupid!” 

 But by dressing to be seen, aren’t we just admitting to, advertising even, the invisibility we are attempting to counter? 

In the interest of doing our own thing, have we formed another tribe, whose dictates we need to adhere to, if we want to belong? If we want to belong to the “vibrant,” “creative,” and “invisibility be damned” group. But is this advanced, is this an advanced attitude towards style, creativity, fashion, and the current zeitgeist? I’m thinking maybe not. 

I don’t know, is Iris Apfel sad? Is Linda Rodin sad? What about Tziporah Salamon?  In the past, I’ve written quite a lot about these women, mostly positive. I’ve met quite a few of them, and no, I did not find them sad. It’s just that I’m seeing things in a different light these days. Maybe at this time abundance and extravagance is just not my thing?

I’m not asking what’s appropriate for any one woman’s age, I’m asking what’s appropriate for the age we live in.

I went to the new, Nordstrom NYC flagship “megastore,” in Midtown last week, just a couple of days after it opened. And while I was absolutely blown away by its size, beauty, innovation, and offerings, there was something truly sad about the excess.  It was bustling with beautiful people and dazzling with beautiful things, but there was also a kind of desperation. Amidst all of the people and beautiful things, there was a kind of emptiness.

“bad fruit”

Have you ever left a lemon out on the counter, to rot? I have, recently, and that’s why I fell especially in love with these lemons by artist, Kathleen Ryan. They look just like that lemon, only beautiful.

However, I have to question, the simple, two-word title of these gemstone sculptures.  

I’ve seen this before, quite a long time ago, in a post on the Manrepeller blog. That title read “Strange Fruit.” Big problem. But while that title was clearly inappropriate in its lack of historical and cultural literacy, “Bad Fruit,” is not so clear-cut.

It’s clearly spot on for what Ryan does: she brilliantly makes, rotted looking (bad), fruit. How can we fault her for simply stating that? And yet, the title is just too close to the word “strange.”

The words “strange” and “bad,” seem too closely related here to feel neutral, or right.

What do you think?

*The post on Manrepeller was taken down after a few short hours. I, and many other readers, brought up the inappropriate nature of the title (used to illustrate the use of fruit prints that season). The author later apologized profusely and stated that she did not know the song “Strange Fruit,” and that she would not have used it had she been familiar with it. The post was taken down.


I bet you didn’t know you needed a “tattooed” shoe, but that’s what I found for you. I know, given my last post, why should you listen to me about shoes? You needn’t, still, check out these American Made shoes. 



“I have already lost touch with a couple of  people I used to be.”

—Joan Didion




  • Leslie says:

    That Joan Didion quote is right on, imho. It describes where I am at these days. I am someone now I barely recognize and never thought I would be. So much striving in my past! striving! Do I need to stick out anymore, in my dress or in my self? I feel that when things are rough I need to lay low, get to work, cook good food, rest.

    Things in our world are rough.

    The Venetian high water is a sign that the beauty of our world can be obliterated. What is real, old or truthful disappears. We need to garner our strength and live inside ourselves — not necessarily outside ourselves.
    Here is where you repost that wonderful piece from almost three years ago about ‘dressing for the resistance’.

    Sure — I will be in grey and black and (blessed!) brown — but soft wool socks. And combat boots? Yeah.

    Oh yeah.

    • Anita Irlen says:


      I too feel the need to lay low these days. But some times I feel like I’m preparing for something catastrophic when I’m doing that, and maybe I am, maybe we are. Going inside is indeed powerful! Ah yes, dressing for the resistance, I think Joan Didion might understand that. Margaret Atwood would. A.

  • Melanie says:

    I get what you’re saying here. I love colour, exuberance in my style, not always, but often, and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by excess in all things. I’d like to be seen now as much for my actions as for what I wear. Great post to ponder. Love that lemon!!

  • Leslie says:

    The lemon is an anti-luxury judgement as well? “Bad Lemon” because it is jeweled?

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