The notoriety of nonagenarian fashion originals like Iris Apfel, as well as some of the women featured in Ari Seth Cohen’s blog Advanced Style, has gotten me thinking about older women who aren’t afraid to stand out in a crowd. They set their own styles regardless of prevailing looks. That can mean piling on jewelry, like Apfel, or finding unusual clothing shapes, like the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas. Sometimes just a small detail makes a look eccentric. The Russian-American fashion designer Valentina was known for her simple, elegant clothes. However, she often threw in a show stopping detail, like a bit of dry ice in a cone shaped hat so that it smoked like a volcano.
What does it take to become a fashion eccentric? I imagine that you need a lot of confidence to be the center of attention. To look like a trendsetter rather than a bag lady, you must have a very clear sense of the message you are trying to convey through your clothes. If you don’t have a lot of money to acquire an extensive wardrobe, then you need time and creativity to put together striking outfits. And for those who fall into the “more is more” school of dressing, you need space to store your treasures.
As you must have guessed, I am not a fashion eccentric. As Linda Grant writes in her wonderful book The Thoughtful Dresser, “To be a glamorous eccentric one requires not just glamour but also eccentricity, which is not a condition of being well-dressed, but rather an essential aspect of one’s identity.” I’m afraid I do not have the eccentricity gene. However, I am interested in eccentricity as a way to express an artistic vision through clothes, both now and in the past. I would love any photos you might like to share of the older eccentrics among your family and friends.