Mar 11 2012

Advanced Style -

Renate Mohr (who contributed “Levity in the Face of Gravity” to the book, and is a regular source of levity and style advice in my life) sent me a film trailer on International Women’s Day.

Watching it made me smile.

It reaffirmed my appreciation of cut and colour.

It reminded me of what pleasure can be had from fashion — the kind that one chooses because it’s personally appealing, vs the kind that’s imposed by some external taste arbiter of the day.

And it drove home one of the truly great benefits of aging:
Becoming increasingly oneself and embracing what you like with little regard for how such self-expression may cause others to perceive you.

Bien dans sa peau, comme on dit en francais…

Here’s the link to a four-minute teaser for Advanced Style, a not-yet-released documentary about stylish New York women “between 50 and death”.

Aug 31 2011

Not your typical retirement role model

I have seen my future – and if I’m lucky, it may look a bit like Editta Sherman’s present. The prospect fills me with an astonishing sense of satisfaction.

Ever since my teenage years, I’ve entertained the fantasy that one day I would grow up to live in a large unstructured old style converted warehouse loft apartment. The floors would be hardwood and hard worn. Natural light would flood in from a bank of leaded – and no doubt drafty windows – along one wall, the furniture would be minimal but comfy, and I would have lots of room to dance and make interesting and beautiful things with my hands.

In my youth, I imagined I would realize this ambition sooner rather than later. I saw it as a natural accompaniment to the work I believed I was intended to do in visual art. And even though I didn’t identify as a feminist until a decade after I came of age, there was no man in my picture. (Which is odd, now that I think about it, because I’ve always been pretty attached to having romance in my life. But I envisioned creativity not kids as my destiny and so perhaps the loft took the place in my imagination that was left vacant by the fantasies others had of white picket fences and children.)

And although I’ve spent much of the past two years thinking, writing and speaking about aging, until now, it’s been very difficult for me to conjure up a picture of what I want my own advancing years to look like. (Maybe this is classic denial, and holds for everyone?)

But it’s been years since I had a secure job from which I might yearn to retire (and, correspondingly, a pension that might support me in doing so!) I have no children of my own, and no immediate prospect of even step-grandchildren, either…  No interest in playing golf or cribbage, in moving to a warmer climate… And no inclination to take up bridge or travel a lot more than I already do.

Yet I’ve never thought it likely that I would just keep on keeping on… I have imagined that eventually things would shift into what Jane Fonda refers in her new book, Prime Time, as a “third phase” where things would be different somehow, if not appropriately described as “retirement”. And now, courtesy of Eddita Sherman, I have a picture of a potential final act that’s enormously appealing.

A New York City portrait photographer in her late 90s, Sherman makes a guest appearance in the recent documentary film about iconic New York Times fashion columnist/photographer, Bill Cunningham.  Like Mr. Cunningham, Ms. Sherman lived for half a century in an artist’s studio at Carnegie Hall, only losing her battle to remain there last year. Does she still take photographs? It’s not clear in the film, but her identity as an artist is undeniable. Watching the footage of her inhabiting her studio, I felt a strong emotional tug, and could suddenly envision myself aging in a place where most of the space was given over to a creative laboratory. (Fortunately for me, the love of my life is open to this vision. And in the unfortunate event that he should predecease me, I now have an alternative that holds some allure.)