Advanced Style, a Movement

By: Heather Thomas

If you haven’t already watched the documentary, “Advanced Style,” you’re missing out. Do yourself a favor, here’s the trailer: “Respect your elders and let these ladies and gents teach you a thing or two about living life to the fullest. Advanced Style offers proof from the wise and silver-haired that personal style advances with age. “


Photo of Ari Seth Cohen and one of his lovely muses from

A few years ago, I parented a column, “Budgeted Trends.” As people found out about my infatuation with fashion, I would often get asked, “Do you know Ms. Dottie?” The first time I was asked, I said “No, who is she?” They responded the general way each person would after asking the question, it went something a little something like this, “Oh my gosh, you have to meet her, you would love her! She is always dressed to the nines; she doesn’t leave home without looking perfect from head to toe!” Here’s the kicker, she was 85 years old. Upon hearing each person talk about the wonder that is Ms. Dottie, I would smile and say, “I should meet her!” Then it hit me, not only should I meet her, I should interview her!

Our culture and the fashion industry are obsessed with youth. I have literally had people tell me that one day I will no longer be young and thus will no longer be beautiful. Just because you are not what society considers to be “young” does not mean that you are not beautiful! My mother is 75 years old and is one of the most beautiful women I know. There is no age limit on beauty. It should be celebrated and appreciated no matter how old we are.

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Photo of Florence Jones, taken by her daughter, and author, Heather Thomas

Dottie Martin is a beautiful woman and a true fashionista. Photographer Mike Leone and I met Dottie at her apartment. It did not take long to realize that I was not the first columnist to interview her. Newspaper clippings with headlines such as, “The Grand Dame of Key West,” proved that Dottie is not just a beautiful woman, not just a fashionista, but is also an extremely talented singer. She began singing harmony at age five; her singing career had lasted over 60 years, taking her to places like: New York, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, Atlanta, Albany, Key West, Palm Beach and many more. Reminiscing over past performances, Dottie recalled coming down with something and debated whether or not she could go on. She was firmly told, “Dottie, if you whispered, they’d listen.” She has sung in Broadway shows, at the Cafe Society in New York City, and her favorite song to sing is “Don’t take your love from me.”


Photo of Dottie Martin from original publication:

Eventually she took up residence in Key West, Florida, where she remained for 34 years, until four consecutive hurricanes brought her to Winter Haven, Florida.

Dottie is recognized for her expressive and unique style, which is simply an outward expression of her personality, and isn’t that what fashion should be? Her passion for fashion and individuality is certainly inspiring. She knows that fashion is cyclic and has certainly mastered the latest trends, keeping up with them by watching QVC. She loves palazzo pants, frills, pastels, and draped, flowing, feminine silhouettes. She is also no stranger to thrifting; believe me, we bonded over that!

We gabbed about our fabulous finds, the excitement and the pitches of our voices rose, both wishing we could drop everything and go shopping.  Instead of shopping, we took a tour of her closets, which was a ton of fun. With a collection of over 40 hats, amazing jewelry, a wide variety of shoes, and clothes as unique as their owner, each piece she pulled out shone brightly with sequins, beads, and glamour galore. I was impressed to find out that her outfits were neatly organized, hung together, complete with jewelry. An incredible stylist, she really knew how to put things together. One of the first things I noticed about the ensemble she was wearing was its strategic matchy-ness, which I loved, and that she had a scarf tied around her neck in a bow.

I exclaimed, “I wear my scarves like that too!” I’m sure there are other people in existence who tie their scarves around their neck into a neat bow, but as far as I was concerned, Dottie and I were the only ones, two peas in a pod, two shoes in the box, I was happy to meet her.

Kate Spade once said, “Playing dress-up begins at age 5 and never truly ends.” I’m happy that as I look at these older women, I see my future, a future where aging is okay, it’s fun, it’s being happy being yourself.


Lanvin Campaign, Jacquie Tajah Murdock, 82 years old

What Ari Seth Cohen created with “Advanced Style” was not simply a blog, or a book, or a documentary, it was a movement. He moved people, and fashion, and a way of thinking. Some of the largest fashion houses in the world took notice. These women were placed in major fashion campaigns which was unheard of.

The advent of “Advanced Style,” is a great step forward for these women, for our grandmothers, for our mothers and for our future selves. People are beautiful and valuable no matter what age, no matter how we’re packaged; it’s the soul within that breeds beauty.