Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Aging ‘Grace’fully

"The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be"; "Long in the tooth"….If I appear to have horses on my mind, you’re right (and if you read my upcoming Member’s Report, you’ll learn why). As for the age issue…it’s on everyone’s mind these days and that includes Vogue Magazine, who has traditionally turned their August issue into an ‘age issue’. Sandwiched in between the thin July book, and right before their giant September blockbuster, Anna (nearing 60 herself) has apparently decided that there is no better time to focus on the subject of age while hawking new fall clothes and accessories.

Undoubtedly, dressing ‘age appropriate’ (whatever that means), and choosing clothes that flatter and look stylish, if you are over a certain age, is a challenge for many (though I for one, don’t think it’s as challenging as finding amazing items at affordable prices). Aha… Vogue wanted to tackle that too, judging by their cover lines which read, "The age(less) issue..Vogue’s guide to looking amazing at every decade, on any budget, through every season". Tall order.
But I will say that I found the issue to be well done, and one portfolio was particularly inspired. After the fall collections were over, Anna Wintour asked five Vogue fashion editors, each with her own look and style, and each representing a different decade (Grace Coddington, 60’s; Tonne Goodman 50’s; Elissa Santisi, 40’s; Marie Amelie Sauve, 30’s; Tabitha Simmons, 20’s) what they will wear this fall, how they’ll wear it, and why. They were then asked to style models in their own image.

Hands down the best spread was Grace Coddington, "Graceful Elegance’ (photographed by Steven Meisel). With the help of a glorious wild mane of red hair, her zany cats (Coddington’s admitted favorite accessories), and an almost all black ‘fuss free’ wardrobe which included a chic Balenciaga cocoon coat, a Marni embroidered dress, a Junya Watanabe Comme des Garcons long gown, and a Proenza Schouler gray coat, model Karen Elson was transformed into an almost spitting image of the celebrated editor (maybe a bit younger but very believable nonetheless and I have to admit that I initially thought it was Grace herself, courtesy amazing makeup).
The second ‘runner up’ was Tonne Goodman, (‘Clean Conscience’ also photographed by Meisel), who selected model Tanya Dziahileva to portray her in the signature minimalistic yet luxurious basics that remain very true to Goodman’s aesthetic.

There are many ways to tackle the problem of dressing for one’s age, and no wrongs or rights, (this is not an exact science and in the end, one has to follow one’s own instincts and stay true to oneself). Having said that, you could do a lot worse than to take some helpful hints and pointers from pros who admittedly spend their professional lives looking at clothes. For example: Grace Coddington says she "doesn’t feel obliged to buy a lot of new things" but always gets "a coat" each season; Elissa Santisi strives for "the perfect balance between youthful attitude and grown up glamour"; Marie Amelie Sauve claims she will "never wear anything that’s overtly sexy" and prefers "sexy in a conceptual way" (hence, she will pair a sexy dress, like the fetching Martin Margiela which is shown on the Vogue pages) with flats; Tabitha Simmons admits the "only rule in your 20’s is that there are no rules" (ah…to be 20 again!); and Tonne Goodman believes in buying clothes that "will last an eternity" and observes, "there is an intelligence to classic, enduring design. It is never superficial". But perhaps her best remark was, "once you are comfortable in your own skin, which ideally you are by the time you are a little older, and you have gone through being fashion-conscious, you can freely decide exactly what you want to wear whenever you want to wear it."

I think it’s safe to say many women out there would be interested to know what fashion editors select for themselves, and personalizing the pages- which included illustrations, photographs, quotes, etc. - was compelling. What was missing was Anna Wintour herself. Though I don’t think she would have agreed to take part in a portfolio where she dressed a model in her own image (LOL), I think her readers would have liked to know what her fall choices might be.

Another standout portfolio was ‘The Firecraker’ photographed by Jonathan Becker, featuring the fabulous looking Roberta McCain, the rule breaking inspirational 96 year old mother of John McCain. It is really hard to believe she is nearing 100 and quite frankly, she looks more youthful than Gwyneth Paltrow, who appears in a double page spread, for a Tod’s advertisement. I had to look twice to make sure it was indeed the actress.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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