The Rage of the Age: Enduring Style

To paraphrase Vanessa Friedman, in her Open Thread newsletter, “Let’s Talk About Age,” May 19th. Yes, let’s! Vanessa observed that Ruth La Ferla’s interview with Martha Stewart, was one of The New York Times most-read articles of the week, illustrating as she put it, “an ongoing fascination with women’s age and “ye olde how to look great at whatever number question.”

Marilyn Kirschner wearing L’Agence jacket, Zara pants, Diana Broussard earrings, vintage accessories Photo by Ben Rosser for BFA

I think about age a lot! More so lately because in a few weeks, I turn 74. I’ve never lied about my age. Why hide it? All stages of life are exceptional and should be celebrated. Coincidentally, this is the message behind the current exhibition at the NYBG …things come to thrive…in the shedding…in the molting… by award-winning contemporary visual artist Ebony G. Patterson.

In this exhibition, Patterson challenges existing notions of what is traditionally beautiful while inviting us to see the beauty in molting, shedding, and decay. For me, this is a perfect metaphor for the aging process.

Norma Kamali wears a graphic menswear patterned sleeping bag coat and matching leggings of her own design Photo by Laurel Marcus

Fortunately, aesthetics have markedly expanded and become more inclusive. Although this is the “Summer of Barbie,” the traditional beauty pageant contestant look is now interchanged with something more unique, individual, and exciting, proliferating with age.

“Maybe the [Catholic school] uniform that I complained about was a good idea because it showed that wearing the same thing is not awful. And I often think when I see somebody who’s not well dressed but has tons of clothes. If she had just restricted her shopping a bit …”

Deeda Blair

Deeda Blair at home in the East River House wearing her own Ralph Rucci navy dress – Photo by Julia Hetta

There is no pathway to looking great at “a certain age,”; but I have strong ideas about what works and what doesn’t. The women whose style I admire, aged 60’s through the 90’s, own their looks and have a definite point of view. They support my contention that adhering to a uniform demonstrates that with age comes the knowledge of what best suits us.

Betty Catroux in a Saint Laurent tuxedo – Photograph by Steven Meisel

Who is more sartorially consistent than nonagenarian philanthropist and socialite Deeda Blair in her adoration of luxurious monotone minimalism and designer Ralph Rucci, or Betty Catroux, the former muse to Yves Saint Laurent who still only wears Saint Laurent?

Amy Fine Collins wears Thom Browne at Paris Fashion Week for spring/summer 2023 – Photo by @guillaume_bsre

Thom Browne muse Amy Fine Collins will sometimes wear vintage Geoffrey Beene, but generally, it’s Thom Browne all the way. Designer Norma Kamali is perhaps her own best model, and you never see painter and artist Rory Gevis, who dresses primarily in Zara, without one of her 40+ pairs of tinted oversized square eyeglasses. Priced between $11.99- $24.99, they are available on Amazon.

Linda Fargo wearing Junya Watanabe patchwork jacket and trousers, and Francesco Russo leopard boots. – Photo Instagram

Of course, when you’re Linda Fargo and Bergdorf Goodman is your “closet,” it’s hard to stick with just one thing. To her credit, Linda’s wise choices reflect her personality and style.

Fashion has become more important to me as I get older. That might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s not. Fashion is far better than plastic surgery, which can have disastrous results. One can only do so much to stave off the progression of aging. Used the right way, fashion is a superb tool. Your clothing speaks volumes about your self-respect and the respect you show to others.

Rory Gevis wearing Zara’s faux leather suit and flats, a faux ostrich jacket purchased on eBay, and her signature oversized glasses from Amazon – Photographed by Joshua Jordan Studio

Clothing is ideal camouflage, enabling us to hide flaws and accentuate the positive. Fashion allows us to continually re-invent and rediscover ourselves. There’s no question that we have to make some adjustments through the years. What worked at one stage might not work at another stage. Or, perhaps it does? There are no hard and fast rules.

“Don’t do it! Just because you’re a senior citizen doesn’t mean you have to look or act like one! I still like to dress fabulously and sometimes a bit sexy. Why not? I don’t really care what people think or say. It’s my life.”

Lauren Ezersky

Lauren Ezersky wearing Schiaparelli ready-to-wear and accessories

Anyway, rules are meant to be broken. Who says you can’t wear braids or pigtails after a certain age? Not Lauren Ezersky or Linda Rodin, who don’t care to look like anyone else or meet societal expectations of what a woman of their age should look like.

Regardless, it’s not about striving to look inappropriately “young” but exuding a timeless, youthful, energetic verve. Keeping it easy, sporty, and looking comfortable, rather than tortured and contrived, is elemental, especially as we age. Nothing is worse than seeing an older woman hobbling in shoes she cannot walk in.

Ines de la Fressange personifies, and wrote the book on Parisian Chic – Photo Instagram

Taking the fuss out of fashion is eternally chic. A certain “je ne sais pas quois” exists in how Parisian women, like Ines de la Fressange, add panache to the most classic looks. Ultimately, having great style is as simple as owning an uncanny ability to intuitively know how to tie a scarf or roll up the sleeves of a button shirt.

Linda Rodin is wearing a Sergeant Pepper Coat and Silver Cuff Jeans from her Linda Hopp Denim Collection, Prada kitten heels, – Photo by @jeffreywmiller

It’s hard not to look hip and cool wearing denim. The sturdy, humble fabric works year-round for all ages, from day to evening. There are many options in wash, style, and fit. If you have the body to wear skinny jeans that suit you, great! FYI, the Canadian Tuxedo has never looked better or seemed more appropriate. It’s all about attitude.

We all are inundated with so many images these days. I reject most of what I see. If I buy something, it’s because it’s well-designed and serves a purpose. Or, it is flat-out fabulous and makes my heart sing. Labels have nothing to do with it. At this point, I’ve pretty much seen it all. Certain things cannot be improved upon.

The older I get, the more I appreciate my marvelous collection of clothing and accessories painstakingly culled through the years, many of which are iconic, like my Courreges coats and jackets.

Tailoring is the cornerstone of my look, and I like to personalize and add an element of surprise. It’s all about the mix: summer and winter, day and night, black and white, high and low, boy and girl. I am a little bit tomboyish, which works for my narrow frame.

Miss Billie at 89, wearing her own Navajo and Zuni jewelry from Roma Arellano – Photo by Instagram

There’s no question that great shoes and accessories can transform a look. I love everything about this photo of Miss Billie at 89: the ease of the gray sweatshirt and how the turquoise brings out the blue in her eyes. Miss Billie’s natural beauty shines through, wrinkles and all! It speaks volumes!

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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