Sunday, January 22, 2012

YA MAGAZINE - Don't Cry for Me, Santiago!

We're big in Santiago, Chile! Last month*, we were thrilled to be among four fashion blogs featured in Ya, the magazine published by El Mercurio, a Chilean newspaper. To give you a flavor, we've uploaded all four pages with us and our fellow bloggers. Our headline, appropriately enough, says "Style has No Age!"

As background for the article, we were each asked to respond to a series of 13 questions and submit several photographs. The editors selected a picture of us taken at one of our photo shoots with Ari Seth Cohen of Advanced Style. Since the text is in Spanish, we've included our answers to some of our favorite questions below, which pretty much speak for themselves.

Q: I need to know the story about The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas. How the idea was born?

Jean: Valerie and I would go to so many places: galleries, museums, craft shows, lectures, vintage clothing shows, and run into lots of "women of a certain age" who didn't seem to have a "voice". Apparently, we thought we had enough voice to go around and started the blog to share our opinions, to convince other women that life isn't over at fifty -- or sixty! We really believe that life keeps getting better. We keep encouraging women to get out and enjoy life and fashion and design and find what makes them happy and just do it! I like to think we're the optometrists for our generation -- getting women to see life through a different set of lenses.

Valerie: Jean and I met at a vintage clothing show in 2008. I was about to have an exhibition of antique Japanese babies’ kimonos at a New York art gallery, and was handing out invitations for the opening to people I thought might be interested. I saw Jean and our now mutual friend Judy nearby. Jean was wearing a stunning vintage hat. I thought “THAT’s my audience.” I gave them each an invitation, they came to the opening a few weeks later, and we have been friends ever since.

I soon realized that I never saw Jean dressed casually – but always wonderfully – so each time we met, I wore my favorite clothes. People began to stop us on the street and ask if we were going to an event. They asked if we were artists or fashion designers or stylists. Often they wanted to take our picture. Once we were stopped by Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis. My friend Barbara suggested we should blog about our outings. We resisted for a long time because neither Jean nor I knew how to do that, but Barbara introduced us to Blogspot. We were initially very intimidated, but Blogspot is extremely user-friendly. It turned out to be very easy, and the service was – and is - free. We started the blog in August of 2009 because we had nothing to lose. It was a fun and adventurous way to spend our free time, and it turned out to be a great way to meet interesting people. As a result of our blog, we have appeared on TV, in newspapers and magazines, and online publications. We have been photographed for three fashion books: Vintage Fashion Accessories by Stacy LoAlbo (2009), StyleLikeU by Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum (2011), the forthcoming Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen (2012). And as of September, 2011 we have a book of our own, Life Dressing: The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas, written and illustrated by Joana Avillez.

Q: Which are the topics of The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas?

Jean: My mantra is "we are not dead and we are not invisible!" We are trying to change society's view of older women (along with some women's view of themselves). Grey hair is something to be celebrated, not covered up and hidden. Live large! On another level, we are also just sharing our adventures and opinions with others -- of any age, gender and fashion. After all, true style is ageless. [That's the sentence they took for their title, El Estilo No Tiene Edad.]

Valerie: Our topics are whatever interests us... Clothing issues are important to us because all the magazines focus on younger women. Older women need fashion advice and fashionable clothing too. We talk about the tyranny of fashion, show how to fight it and how to have fun with your wardrobe. We cover art exhibitions that inspire us. We attend craft shows to encourage people to buy handmade goods instead of machine made products. We have touched on the environment, animal rights, politics, charitable organizations, and older women role models.

We occasionally poke fun at the world as we see it. We will probably never talk about baseball. One day we want to blog about how women can take charge of their finances without being taken advantage of. Actually, we will have to have a ghost writer for that. We need to get that advice before we can give it!

Q: Why older people?

Jean: Why not? They're our demographic. Face it, it's where the action is! The baby boomers are booming! Every 8 seconds, someone turns 65 in the U.S.

Valerie: Three reasons. A) We write about older people because not enough people write about older people. B) We write about older people because we ARE older people. We have experience at being older! Our friends are older, too! C) We write about older people because older people continue to have lives that are very interesting, vibrant, accomplished, and inspiring. Older people are still seeking new achievements and ways to contribute. Generally, we just do so more quietly.

Q: There´s a profile for people to appear in your blog?

Jean: No, not really. We've covered beekeepers, jewelers, cancer survivors, fashion designers, illustrators, fellow bloggers -- of all ages, sexes and nationalities.

Q: How do you get inspired?

Jean: Sometimes it is topic-driven, like naming the top 10 women who inspire us, or 10 of our favorite "things". Other times, it is event-driven: we make an annual pilgrimage to the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show; we went to Phillip Johnson's Glass House in Connecticut for Valerie's birthday; we toured the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition after hours at the Metropolitan Museum. We inspire each other, give each other ideas, pick each other's brains. We are both incurable hat addicts, so great looking headwear automatically gets our attention.

Valerie: Anything and everything can be a source of inspiration. We did a blog posting about our fingernails once, and how different they are. When I broke my wrist, I blogged about that. Jean volunteers to do animal rescue, so once when she rescued a group of feral cats, she blogged about that.

Q. Which are your favorite designers?

Jean: Current or vintage anything by: Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, Vivienne Westwood, Donna Karan, Norma Kamali, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, Rick Owens, Rei Kawakubo, Yeohlee Tang, Lillith, and Jean Paul Gaultier puts me over the edge.

Valerie: Different designers design for different body types. For my body type, and for my tastes in style, I love vintage Issey Miyake, Krizia, Norma Kamali, Perry Ellis, Ellen Tracy, Ungaro, Donna Karan and Giorgio Armani. Currently, Kedem Sasson can be very interesting. Jean introduced me to Rick Owens, but I don’t own any of his work, although I really admire his edgy originality. I like to look at Ann Demeulemeester, but she designs for a different body type. I love Gaultier. I’m sure I have left out many others.

Q. Which will be your advice for older people to get dressed?

Jean: My advice for people of any age is figure out what YOU want to look like, and then just find the clothing that sends that message. When we're dressed up and out on the town, you'd be surprised how many people approach us and say something like: "I wish I could dress like you." My response is "You can. It's easy." If you're in a rut, change it. What are you waiting for?

Valerie: Dressing style is like painting style. Da Vinci was a master painter and Picasso was a master painter, but their work has nothing in common. In the ‘60s, every woman wanted a pill box hat because Jackie Kennedy wore one. For most women, that was a mistake because they didn’t have her hair style or her face shape or her body shape or her wardrobe. Each person has to find out what is good for his or her individual characteristics. What looks great on Jean will probably not look as good on me, and vice versa. One day we should do a blog in which we wear each other’s clothes, just to demonstrate that.

Q. How does your blog impact the fashion industry?

Jean: We get a lot of local press and since we were on Bravo's Fashion Hunters, get recognized on the street a lot. Other bloggers seek us out -- just as we check out their postings. We have not yet had THE impact on the fashion industry that we really want: Visibility for "women of a certain age." Joe Zee from Elle Magazine spoke at the Independent Fashion Bloggers conference this fall, and in response to Valerie's question why his magazine ignores older women, he said that Elle covers the runways and the designers are not focusing on older women.We want to change that dynamic. As the U.S. population ages, there are growing numbers of older consumers who are interested in being stylish. Designers are missing the boat and ignoring a huge target audience.

Valerie: So far I don’t think we’ve had an impact. Hopefully, we can change that. We would love to be fashion consultants advocating for older consumers. In particular, we would like to help shoe designers make shoes that are comfortable AND beautiful! Jean and I can’t wear high heels anymore, and we need wide-toed shoes. They CAN be beautiful, but usually they are so ugly! Do shoe designers think I wake up in the morning and say “It’s such a lovely day. I think I’ll wear my ugly shoes.”?

I think we could launch our own line of gorgeous comfortable shoes for older women. There’s such an untapped market out there. With financial backing, we could probably sell out our whole line in one day if we put it on a cable television shopping network.

Right now, our primary impact is on other women. Many - both older and younger - have written in to say that we have given them the courage to dress more creatively, which is very gratifying.

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What we're wearing:

Jean is wearing an Ignatius hat; Prada jacket; Issey Miyake pants; Trippen platform boots; Habla skull clutch; vintage bakelite necklace, bracelets and rings; vintage plastic earrings; and vintage frames with prescription sunglass lenses.

Valerie is wearing a vintage black velvet 'volcano' hat labeled H. Leh & Co. Allentown, Hats by Eddi; earrings from Tokyo; red sunglasses from St. Mark's Place street vendor; multicolored bracelet of woodchips from the flea market, red wooden bracelet from Japan, red plastic ring from El Museo del Barrio; dress by Yoshiki Hishinuma, full length slip by Victoria's Secret, shoes by Nicole.

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W'e're SO amazed that we got the blog completed before midnight. As a reward, we get to watch DOWNTON ABBEY uninterrupted tonight at 9pm local time. We highly recommend this fabulous costume drama. Everyone always looks stunning, although Maggie Smith (that’s DAME Maggie Smith to you) takes some very big cake for her more-sumptuous-than-thou, nature-abhors-a-vacuum-even-in-clothing attitude toward dressing. Oh, and the plot is wonderful too, of course!


  1. Congratulations on being featured in Ya magazine! I've often wondered how you two met and started your blog, so I was glad to see those things covered in the article. You continue to inspire--with your style, your attitude and your humour! Thanks!
    jill in Ontario

  2. Older women especially get very frustrated with fashion. We have so many mixed messages...if one dresses too conservatively, they get called the dreaded "matronly" word. If one dresses too young, they just end up feeling silly. Shoes especially these days are tyrannical with their ridiculous 6 to 7 inch heels. We talk to women almost daily who feel they have no options. They are just looking for a cool, two inch heel that can still be fun and that they can actually walk in!
    Thank-you for your wonderful style and outlook, will pass on and hopefully inspire more women to be creative and fearless.

  3. I had been seeing you lovelies on Ari Cohen's Advanced Style blog and was delighted to finally discover your missing blog on the RSS spot on my email (not even sure what that is). Your writing is as compelling as your costumes. Ditto Anoymous above about your story and the comments about SHOES. Please, yes, launch your line. You'll be buying those Porshes in no time, absolutely guaranteed! May I be a rep?