Film Review: ‘Advanced Style’

A champion of the elegant and elderly, New Yorker Ari Seth Cohen first started his fashion blog, Advanced Style, as a way of documenting his grandmother’s remarkable dress sense. Cohen’s site quickly gained in popularity, with users across the world logging on for confirmation – or reassurance – that one can grow old glamorously. Adopting the blog’s title, director Lina Plioplyte’s buoyant but brief documentary delves into the lives of Cohen’s best-loved subjects, who range in age from early-sixties to mid-nineties. It’s certainly manna from heaven for any devotees of the New York fashion scene, and doc fans will also find much to admire, though there’s not a great deal beyond the dazzling glitz and gaud.

Participants in Plioplyte’s uplifting and oft-humorous film include Jackie Murdock, an 81-year-old dancer from the renowned Apollo theatre, who fondly remembers the venue’s long and prestigious history. Then there’s 80-year-old Lynn Dell Cohen, the self-proclaimed ‘Countess of Glamour’ and proud owner of a high fashion boutique on New York’s Upper West Side. Arguably the star of the show, however, is Ilona Royce Smithkin (pictured), a 93-year-old fashionista and stage performer known for her trademark red eyelashes, who also over the years managed to maintain a successful early career as an artist. Oldest – and wisest – of all is celebrated 95-year-old fashion icon Zelda Kaplan, who continues to live the high life despite increased memory loss and a sense that the end may well be near.

Each of the women featured prove inspirational in their own way, be it through their rejection of ageist stereotyping, their seemingly limitless vitality or simply their vibrant individual personalities. More time could perhaps have been afforded to unearthing gems from their rich lives, but Plioplyte deserves credit for following her subjects into their natural habitat – the bustling New York streets – rather than sitting them down for a series of conventional talking head interviews. As one of the women explains, New York is a city best enjoyed on foot, which perhaps explains how these pioneering pensioners have managed to prolong the glory years well into their sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth decades. Throughout, Cohen remains firmly in the background, allowing his muses the spotlight they crave. Short but sweet, Advanced Style goes some way towards reclaiming high fashion for all ages and backgrounds – not just the young, privileged and white.

For more info about Lina Plioplyte’s Advanced Style, visit

Daniel Green