This is the first in our series of Fashionista Profiles: interviews with fabulously dressed older women who bring some light and color into our world with their wardrobe choices! Do you know a fabulous fashionista, or want to be profiled? Drop us a line!
Aoife Kenny, 64, lives in the Los Angeles area. Her wardrobe is packed with 1950s-style clothing and accessories. Her vivacious spirit and glorious smile is infectious! Aoife loves to take her wardrobe out to vintage themed events and activities, and finds ways to incorporate her vintage aesthetic into every outfit. We sat down with Aoife to dish on her philosophy about clothes, friends, and aging.
Aoife Kenny: It took my whole life to come to this place, to the person that I am today. I am not a teenager. And I am kind of passing out of middle age, what used to be middle aged anyway. I am fun. I love colors. I love to look sexy. So somehow I mix all of that up and out comes me. I should say that I am primarily a vintage loving, vintage wearing person. Vintage is my starting point, but I am not a slave to old clothes or old looks. I am only a slave to being me.
OLS: A slave to being ME. That is brilliant, and something we should all aspire to! A lot of us struggle with finding our individual style, but maybe that should be our mantra instead of subscribing to what someone else says you should wear.
Aoife: Oh yeah. There are lots of things that we have to do in life. And even for those of us with a working life, we often must dress in a certain prescribed way. But on our own time, it should be wear what makes you feel good. This may be a slight exaggeration, but I never feel better than when I am wearing an outfit that makes me feel good and look good. Actually that is a big exaggeration. But let me use yesterday as an example. I went to a beer tasting put on as a benefit for a museum. I chose some modern reproduction separates to wear. Somewhere between five and ten women came up to me and told me how great I looked and that they liked my style.
OLS: Confidence is an underrated accessory!
Aoife: Oh my! You are so right! When you are confident, it shows. And it makes everything better. Maybe that brings up a topic I should mention. Although I don’t wear a lot of reproduction clothing these days, I still wear it if it fits how I feeling.
OLS: I think a lot of women who wear vintage get to a stage where they refuse reproduction. I kind of feel sorry for them. I think you can dress yourself into a corner, so to speak.
Aoife: Hey, they are just clothes. I seriously love fashion. But I am not serious about it.
OLS: Taking oneself too seriously can lead to a lot of missed fun 😉
Aoife: I have so much fun! I have always had fun and enjoy living life. But presenting my style to the world make the fun quotient increase exponentially.
OLS: Do you dress in your style every day, or do you work in a setting where you have to edit yourself and your style?
Aoife: I work at a government job, in mental health actually. So I dress in a professional manner but with little touches that show I am me.
OLS: That’s great! I think a lot of people assume that because there’s a “dress code” at work they can’t express themselves at all. It is totally possible to bring out your personality and still play by the rules.
Aoife: Well said. But if one were to ask all the people that I come into contact with at work about my style. They would say I am professional-looking but always colorful.
OLS: Have you always been into fashion?
Aoife: I came late to being interested in fashion. I did, and still do, have a great collection of vintage bowling shirts which I started buying in the late 70s, early 80s. And I have loved ethnic clothing from all over the world for all my adult life. But my interest in seriously caring about fashion only started about ten years or so ago. As I got older I kind of found myself turning into my mother. She was amazing. She started belly dancing when she was about 40 years old! I am not a belly dancer. But I find I have lots of the same interests and sometimes I find the resemblance uncanny. Although she never had platinum blonde hair.
OLS: Did your developing interest in fashion coincide with your love of vintage? Or did that come later?
Aoife: Well, I was born in the “midcentury”. But my interest in that was only kindled later. What really brings me into most things is music. Right now I have got some Renaissance horn music playing on the stereo. And up next may be some Balkan brass band music. But back to your question, those female torch singers from the Fifties really inspire me. But I do remember an important moment in my life. I was wearing a vintage dress that I bought at a thrift store. I wore it to a nightclub, a transgender nightclub as a matter of fact. One of the other club goers told me that I looked like one of those actresses from the Fifties. I don’t think there was a specific name. But it was like having a light bulb go on above my head. I realized that I was meant to look like a 1950s-styled woman with a 2010 modern outlook.
OLS: Amazing! It’s almost as if someone gave you a magnifying glass: for yourself. Isn’t it great when everything becomes clear?
Aoife: Yes. I don’t have many moments like that. Things usually just evolve. I was kind of heading that way, but I did not fully understand it. But it was like a snowball that kept growing in size as it rolled down the mountainside.
OLS: I don’t think a lot of us get moments like that. But if you’re open minded, it’s a huge gift. We have to be open to receiving and thinking about signals like that!
Aoife: Very true. Some of the best things that happened to me in life occurred because I was open to an opportunity. Of course lots of things happen because you work toward something, like an advanced degree or being married.
OLS: Definitely. I believe opening your life to change invites wonderful things. How do you react when you get compliments or attention?
Aoife: I LOVE IT. Heck, I am 64 years old. When someone compliments my look, my clothes, my beauty…it just makes me feel so good. I would dress this way regardless. But when outsiders give compliments, it is so wonderful. And given the world we live in, compliments are not given too freely these days.
OLS: Oh, you are so right. I love giving out compliments. I try really hard to give them freely, but honestly. I know when I get one, it makes my day, and I like to pay it forward!
Aoife: Indeed. And it takes work to look good. I exercise everyday. I visit my skin care professional every 6 weeks. I am primarily a vegetarian. And I try to drink in moderation!
OLS: Everything…in moderation is a pretty good policy to live by!
Aoife: Except looking beautiful. Then go to excess!
OLS: Amen to that! I’m sure there are lots of women in our audience who are afraid to step out of their comfort zone. Can you share some advice on building confidence with an unusual wardrobe?
Aoife: As in most areas of life, it is suggested to take small steps. It was not intentional on my part. And my steps were indeed very small. But nowadays I walk tall, literally tall. I love wearing heels and standing above the crowd. You know, it also helped that all of this happened after I was a fully formed, mature adult. I have always been proud of the person that I am. Love yourself. Yep, that is most important.
OLS: Absolutely. We are ALL works in progress, and there’s no reason to stop!
Aoife: I can’t figure out why so many people give up as they age. Our bodies may not be young anymore, but we have the wisdom to make ourselves into the people we want to be. And like other boomers, I have more disposable income now than when I was younger. I can buy the clothes that I want…well, with discretion.
OLS: I think the sad truth of that is that lots of us listen to media. And we obey the rules that as a mature woman you are just supposed to fade nicely into the background. And we even welcome the opportunity to not have to TRY to impress anyone anymore. But we forget ourSELVES. Impressing yourSELF is very important and one should never forget that. Along with age comes wisdom: and one of those pieces is that pleasing yourself is probably the most important fashion rule of all. Even life rule.
Aoife: Amen to that, sister!
OLS: Tell us about some of your favorite accessories. How do you decide which accessories to add? It’s like icing on the cake!
Aoife: Good question. And I am not sure how to answer that. Over the last couple of years I have bought myself some bakelite and bakelite-like pieces. In some respects I am pretty traditional with lots of accessories. I love a set of pearls, real or faux. And with some complementary pearl earrings. But I have some weird pieces from craftspeople. Last year I bought a necklace in New Orleans partially made from an old 78 RPM record. And I have a bunch of African tribal pieces I have bought at antique fairs in London. Oh, and I love vintage handbags. I have been on a run of getting unique lucite ones over the past couple of years. But wait… I LOVE HATS. My hat collection has overwhelmed me. I love vintage hats. Since I have a rather large head, I tend to go with lots of platter style hats which sit atop the head.
OLS: That’s an interesting point. Sometimes we may love something but find it doesn’t suit us. Finding clothes and accessories that we feel comfortable and beautiful in is the key!
Aoife: I definitely buy accessories just using a vibe. I know some people are list obsessed. I don’t work that way. I just go with feeling when I buy things.
OLS: That’s just it. I think the way we dress should be like art: if you like it, buy it. Who cares if someone says “this is what you should like/wear”?
Aoife: Once again, I totally agree.
OLS: What are some of your favorite leisure activities?
Aoife: Music is numero uno. My tastes are VERY broad. I love going to hear live music. But one concession to age I make is not going to too many clubs to hear music. Too late! I have been beer-obsessed for a long time, I was into craft beers before they were called that. But I equally love cocktails. Travel is very important. I have gone to Britain so many times I have lost count. But I have been to bizarre folk festivals in Bulgaria, France, the UK and in various places in the US. I love to cook. But I guess dancing is my most favorite participant event, all kinds of dance.
OLS: You have a very active social life and spend time with lots of friends. Can you give some advice to our readers on how to build a group of friends?
Aoife: It is easy enough to meet people. It is more difficult to gain friends. My advice is go to activities that occur regularly. Take a swing dance class on a weekly basis. You will meet people. I have been involved in various dance groups for decades. Many of my best friends I met years ago at dance events. I have gone to a bunch of activities of the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles. I am not totally a deco gal. But I have met lots of people there that share similar interests. And I should add that I have made a lot of actual friends by buying vintage online. The groups I usually mention are the Ooh La La groups on Facebook. The people who buy and sell in those groups are serious about vintage. And if one buys vintage, one has to have a place to wear it. I will wear it anywhere. But to be among a group of peers all wearing vintage is indeed magical.
OLS: That is definitely a good thing; finding your “tribe”, so to speak.
Aoife: It is good to be unique. But it is good to have some friends along for the ride.
OLS: What is your attitude toward growing older?
Aoife: Shit happens! But seriously, I look at pictures of my grandparents when my parents got married. They looked ancient. I am at least 15 years older than they were then; I don’t look like I am old. But I know I am definitely aging. There are lots of signs. But I’ve got lots of living to do!
OLS: It really has so much to do with attitude! If you THINK you’re old, then you’re old. We’re in a really good time to be older, compared to our predecessors.
Aoife: Medical advances have helped. And despite the state of our country right now, money makes things easier.
OLS: Ugh. Sad. but true. How does your approach to fashion figure in to aging? Do you feel like anything is off-limits to you?
Aoife: I usually won’t wear miniskirts. I just think that I look ridiculous in them. But I have worn them. And, not to boast, I do have great legs.
OLS: That goes right back to wearing what you’re comfortable in and wearing what boosts your confidence!
OLS: How do you feel about the name of our jam, Old Ladies Society? Do you see the term “Old Lady” as a positive or negative thing?
Aoife: I like it. It is like retaking a negative stereotype.
OLS: Excellent! That’s exactly why we took it on. We want to show that there’s nothing “wrong” with being “old.” We ARE old, and we can define it in our own way! Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
Aoife: That I am somewhere on the transgender/gender-fluid spectrum. That is the least important thing about me.
Presenting my style to the world makes the fun quotient increase exponentially.