In 2006, I was part of a modeling shoot for the now-defunct MORE magazine, the first magazine geared for the over-40 woman. I had done some modeling in the past, and it … Continue reading Modeling After 60 – Is It For You?
When a New York funeral home closed its door a few years ago, it found itself in the midst of a moral dilemma it had never bargained for. There, on … Continue reading What Happens To Cremated Remains Thereafter?
I was honored to be asked to contribute an essay to NFDA’s ‘Director’ magazine in observance of the somber 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. I chose to write about … Continue reading How We Remember
I am one of Iris Apfel’s 1.6 million Instagram followers. In a society that worships youth, and in which fashion models seems to grow younger all the time, 99-year-old Apfel is a breath of fresh air. The unconventional style icon’s fabulousness and ageless spirit is on full display in each and every photo. She is proof positive that one needn’t become less stylish, or invisible, with age. Much like her signature oversized trademark eyeglasses, and vivid red lipstick, Apfel’s approach to fashion is bold, colorful and playful.
Apfel Doesn’t Care About Ageism
Apfel has been the subject of books, documentaries, a Barbie Doll styled in her image, and even a coloring book (whose proceeds go to charity). This year, she will turn 100. To commemorate that momentous occasion, she has partnered with Lowe’s, the home improvement store, also celebrating 100 years, to curate several home interior design collections.
Women like Apfel make older age look good – and, frankly, less scary. They belie the notion that beauty and style have a short shelf life. We need more women like them, I often think. Then I realize there are others, including a few that I know well in my own life.
Emelia, an Older and Fabulous Everyday Woman
At 90, my cousin’s mother-in-law, Emelia Vella, is one of them. On every holiday, Emelia is dressed for the occasion. For Christmas, she is resplendent in a red blazer, seasonal earrings and matching red polish. On Easter, she looks festive in cheerful spring colors, with pastel nail colors to match.
“I try to wear the colors of the holiday,” she says.
Emelia’s makeup is artfully applied, and her hair is always done. She has standing salon appointments for both.
Each time I see Emelia, I see a woman who is comfortable with her age and style; a woman who continues to make an effort to put her best face forward.
When I recently asked where her sense of style comes from, especially her keen eye for accessorizing, she seemed surprised by the question. Emelia doesn’t necessarily see herself as stylish by design.
“It just comes to me,” she said.
Fashion in Her Blood
She told me she has always liked clothes. But junior high school was a turning point. That was when boys first noticed her and commented on how attractive she looked in her sweater and skirt ensembles, so popular at the time.
“They told me they liked the way I dressed,” she remembered with a smile.
Before she was married, Emelia worked at an insurance office building in downtown Manhattan. Nearby her office, the opportunities to indulge her fondness for fashion were close at hand.
“There were a lot of boutiques to shop at,” she recalled.
Later, when she was an insurance agent on Long Island, her style shifted. Pantsuits had come into vogue for working women. Glamour was the order of the day when her late husband was president of the local Sons of Italy chapter. She was the president of the ladies auxiliary.
“There were a lot of dressy affairs to attend.”
Emelia has kept the majority of her outfits. “I didn’t want to get rid of them. They bring back memories.”
Style May Change, but Attitude Doesn’t
The woman who once frequented the malls now shops mostly from catalogs. Her style has changed, too. Her tastes now run to sportier clothes, and she has a penchant for turtlenecks and blazers.
Her interest in looking good, however, continues. “I do it for my own ego. It makes me feel good.”
Doris – Style Never Goes Out of Style
At 96, Doris Shankman is another ever-so-stylish nonagenarian. Like Emelia, Doris seems to come by her style effortlessly.
“I don’t know if I ever thought of myself as having style, to be honest with you.”
“It just seems to come naturally. If I’m wearing something that requires gold earrings, I’ll wear gold… otherwise silver… whatever… I like to put things that look well together, but really don’t fuss too much,” she said.
Perhaps being chic is in her DNA. Doris said that her mother always “looked lovely” and her father worked in fashion.
“My father was a designer. He did the embroidery, stitching and pleating of women’s clothes,” she explained.
“Very often, when I was a young child, he and my mother and I would go and look at the 5th Avenue windows, like Bergdorf Goodman’s and Bonwit Teller’s, to see how they were decorated with beautiful outfits,” remembered Doris. Sometimes it was her father who created some of the embellishments on the clothing.
He would also sometimes add special touches, such as embroidery on a sleeve, to the clothing of his wife and daughter.
“My father had a loft in the garment center,” recalled Doris. From there, he would work with wholesale fashion houses.
On Saturdays, she would often go there to shop.
“I never knew what it was to buy a dress retail,” she said with a chuckle.
The first time I met Doris we were at a mutual friend’s barbecue. I immediately noticed her casual elegance. It was not only reflected in what she was wearing, but also in her poise. She was clearly comfortable in her own skin.
When Doris, who once worked as a teacher and a social worker, stayed at home to raise her two children, she tended toward casual clothing. Still, she enjoyed dressing for the occasion on outings with her late husband, a popular physician.
“When we went to something special like a show or concert, I would be more fussy and wear something a little dressier,” she said.
Style Is a Choice
Although Doris said that, except for the basics, she hasn’t gone shopping in a decade, she continues to take great pains about her appearance.
“Is it vanity? I don’t know. I know I always like to look neat,” she said.
She’s far from alone in her continued interest in looking good and enjoying fashion.
Love of Fashion Never Grows Old
Apfel, a true social media influencer, has played a big part in encouraging other women of a certain age to celebrate their panache. During the height of the pandemic, as Apfel quarantined, she challenged her Instagram followers who were also stuck at home to take everything out of their closets and “put things together in a fun, creative way and then send me some photographs.” More than 3,000 people did just that. The photos are joyful reminders that love of fashion, and feeling attractive, never grows old.
The three women inspire me. I marvel at their vitality, a vitality that makes them seem ageless. They are not chasing youth. On the contrary, they are embracing who they are today. They make me want to step up my game, especially on those days when making myself any more than presentable seems like too much effort.
There’s no doubt that facing the world with confidence in who they are has helped them face hardships and personal losses.
The days of shunting older women off the stage are hopefully coming to an end.
“People are living longer. So maybe that attitude will gradually change,” said Doris, adding, “I hope.”
As Apfel has famously noted, “What’s wrong with being 72 or 82 or 92? If God is good enough to give you these years flaunt them.”
Look around at the mature women in your life, and take the time to see the beauty in their faces, and the distinctiveness in their style. You may even pick up some pointers.
Originally published on June 8, 2021 @https://sixtyandme.com/beautiful-stylish-resilient-90/
Two summers ago, my cousin Elizabeth died. Her death was sudden and occurred less than two weeks after the death of her mother. But unlike her mother, who had a … Continue reading 12+ Things You Should Know About Planning a Memorial Service
Years back, I was a guest on Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee. It was a lot of fun and, a few months later, Regis invited me to be on … Continue reading R.I.P. Regis Philbin
As deaths from the pandemic have, mercifully, subsided, cemeteries have relaxed a number of their restrictions. One that has yet to do so was the cemetery I was at this … Continue reading God Winks
I’ve been mentioned in newspapers, magazines, and even on television (as a Jeopardy question), but it is quite a kick to be mentioned in mystery writer Thomas O’Callaghan‘s new novel NO … Continue reading In a Book
Our girlfriends see us through the best and worst of life. In times of heartbreak, failure, and success, they are there for us. We share each other’s innermost secrets and … Continue reading Can Long-Term Friendships Endure in Later Life?
Attended the funeral service for Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau at Temple Emanu-El today. New York City’s longest serving District Attorney would have turned 100 on July 31st. He is buried … Continue reading RIP Robert Morgenthau
Inside The Reform Temple of Forest Hills, it was SRO as hundreds of people, including elected officials, judges, prosecutors, court staff, and New Yorkers, attended the funeral service for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown. In his lengthy career, the highly respected district attorney successfully prosecuted many cases. The last one was the Karina Vetrano case.
The eulogies, especially those by Brown’s son-in-law, and a lawyer who was a longtime friend and protege of Brown’s, were alternately touching, informative, and humorous. His casket was shouldered out the door of the temple by the NYPD Ceremonial Unit, a helicopter flyover above, to a throng of mourners and dignitaries, including Mayor DeBlasio, Mayor Dinkins, Police Commissioner O’Neill, and acting Queens DA Jack Ryan.
As I always say #funeralsmatter.
The funeral as we know it is becoming a relic –just in time for a death boom blared the Washington Post headline.
Whoever wrote this garbage must have scoured the depths of kook-dom. This article bears no resemblance to what funeral directors do on a daily basis. Perhaps if newspapers interviewed actual, experienced funeral directors instead of those who seem like escapees from an asylum they’d get a true picture of funeral service. Among those quoted here is a woman (said to be unlicensed) who caused a great deal of consternation during her time with SCI. Another is an inexperienced counter-culture type who makes a pest of herself, and because of that has been blocked her from our social media accounts. Still, she finds a way to pester. The nonsense terminology–memorialpalooza, fabulous memorial shindig –and tawdry attempts to turn death into entertainment (“Final Bow Productions” –seriously!?) are affronts to dedicated funeral directors, and every person who has suffered a loss. Granted, death rituals have changed over the years, but not that much. The news, however, with their sketchy and slanted information would have you think otherwise. Reporters sometimes take the terms personalization and memorial services and somehow manage to turn them into something akin to circus antics.
The death of a loved one is life-altering, painful, and so very sad. The often irreverent view of death by today’s Press made me think of Mike McAlary, once a well-known newspaper reporter in New York City. The father of four young children died from cancer on Christmas day in 1998, at the age of 41. I seriously doubt his grieving wife and devastated children would have turned to “Final Bow Productions” to handle his “celebration of life.” Nor were they likely wanting “to put the “fun” in funerals.” In fact, McAlary’s family and friends attended a Catholic Funeral Mass for him on Long Island. Raw with grief, they, and the priest, shared what he had meant to so many. That, and millions of other stories, are the realities of death and funerals.