“I Don’t Dress to be Visible,” Artist, Debra Rapoport, Responds to Negative Comments on Facebook

The other day I posted the picture above of artist, milliner, reflexologist, and community chef Debra Rapoport on Facebook to mixed reviews. Most people commented on how they were constantly inspired by Debra’s creative expression and bold and artistic approach to adorning herself, while others left comments calling her a “freak show”, while describing her look as ridiculous and stupid. 
My whole project is about creating a dialogue about aging, personal expression and vitality and I always encourage people to share their opinions, comment and become part of the conversation. I’ll never understand why some people are moved to leave such nasty comments with such little regard or awareness to the fact that the subject’s of the photos may be seeing these remarks. Does it come out of fear, self consciousness, wanting to teach someone a lesson, or rather a passionate display of what they are feeling in the moment? Each person will definitely not relate to or understand every outfit or person that I post, but I believe that there is a kind and constructive way to share our opinions. After the the negative comments were shared, people rallied in defense of Debra and advocated for a more positive manner of sharing critical feedback. Now it’s Debra’s turn to respond:

I dress for myself as a meditation first and then a creative statement. I can’t say it is fashion or trendy but that is not what I am about. I have always been an artist/sculptor and my body is part of the form.  Growing up I was never told don’t do this, don’t wear that, put on a navy blue suit to be accepted and normal.  I couldn’t do it. I felt abnormal and uncomfortable.

I don’t dress to turn heads or get attention. I do want to make a statement about the body and clothing. It is one of my means of expression. It is from an inner source even though it is an outer expression. It is my CREATIVITY.  I do get looked at, sometimes stared at. 
People often have a smile on their faces and wish to start a conversation. As Ari says the “3C’s” Creativity/Communication/Community…that is what will keep us vital and human. So people look up from their IPhones and actually make eye contact and we have an exchange. COMMUNICATION… we exchange cards and stay “friends”, COMMUNITY. So what could be better.

I don’t dress to be visible but if I get noticed it is a positive experience. Some people want to blend in and not be noticed. It might make them feel vulnerable to dress creatively. It is very personal. Some people think it is purposeless; it is showing off and egotistical. Many people would rather be anonymous for whatever reason – insecurity, shyness, not wanting to call attention to themselves. Some people are threatened feeling “why do we need to showoff”.  I am not bothered by these thoughts or comments. I realize that some people are more reserved, conservative and stuck in an old paradigm of what “OLD” should look like. I have always lived in NYC, been an artist and been free in my thinking so this is who I am. I live at a time where one can self-express.

I don’t mind if I get laughed at.   I don’t mind if I get ridiculed.  If someone responds to me negatively or positively, I still feel empowered and complete.  There are no rules to creativity. 

Dressing “normally” doesn’t feel comfortable to me. I feel like I am inhibiting my creativity; stifling my energy.
I can dress simpler but not in jeans, T-shirt and hoody!! I need color, texture and layers. Maybe it is just habit since I have been doing it so long!

I have used recycled/re purposed materials since the 60’s.  I believe there is so much “stuff” in our immediate environment that we can appropriate and use once we begin to look and see. It is for the fun, enjoyment and protection of the planet.  This also keeps me stimulated, creative and joy filled.
Where there is creativity there are no rules. Where there are no rules there is no fear!                            -Debra Rapoport

  • Well said! I am too boring and lack the artistic eye to dress like her, though I'd love to.
    It takes all kinds to make a world, including the grinches who complained. Happily fashion police exist only online, not IRL.

  • I think that possibly the worst thing to come from the internet is the proliferation of "trolls." Why people think they have a license to say whatever cruel thing comes to mind is beyond me!

    Good for her that her response was so classy!

  • I adore how she dresses!!! She is an inspiration!

  • LoVe!!

  • Yay! For the adventureness Debra! Americans do not value or appreciate Art or Education so given that caveat people comment out of ignorance. What is lovely is that an older woman can pull this off. We can now care more for our inner lives vs the younger who are still playing at the game of impressing the neighbors.

  • Anonymous

    At least she has a mind of her own! She isn't a boring, dull person. No I wouldn't dress as she does but I would love to have her as a friend! I can't relate to people with no imagination!

  • Most of us wait for "advanced age" to do whatever the h___ we like. Good for her for having the confidence to have been doing it all along!

  • Gorgeous woman!

  • Amen! Thank you for making the world more colourful & interesting in a positive way.

  • It makes me sad how some people won't hesitate to write something hurtful when common courtesy would prevent them from saying the same thing in real life. I am absolutely WITH Debra in her response. A comment directed at me recently asked why I don't dress with more self respect (?!), and it is EXACTLY self respect that makes me dress the way I do.

    So Debra, you are the BEST!!!! Absolutely the Best!! I admire you and your creativity and your joy beyond words. Thank for these empowering words.

  • Bravo Debra! You have been an inspiration to me since I first saw your photo on this blog. Throughout history people have reacted negatively to things they don't understand. I have always loved how you dress because it is such a glorious expression of your creative spirit. I don't understand what moves someone to post a negative comment about the way they dress in a public forum. To me, that says that their lives are very small if they feel they need to belittle others that way.

  • I admire Debra for her courage. I, too, think many women feel provoked by the way she dresses because of how they were brought up by their mothers and because of what society thinks older women should look like. In some country people don't like eccentricity – especially so e.g. in Germany where I live. VERY boring, I can tell you …

  • suz

    I love how she dresses. It's not my style, but it is wonderful on her because she owns it. If I saw her on the street, I would definitely want to talk with her. It's so sad that there are small-minded people out there who don't understand and feel it necessary to be negative and mean.

  • Well said Debra! You are an inspiration! An expression of love and art embodied.
    Love from England

  • Debra has always been an inspiration to me – though my style is quite different from hers – because she isn't constrained by the conventional perception of “how you're supposed to act/dress when you get old”. I recall that even in my forties my mother saying to me “you're getting older now, Rylin – you need to start dressing in a more mature way now – don't you think so? “ I said “um, no, I don't know think so at all!”. (To her credit, she grew out of that to a great extent – though not very adventurous herself, she gets immense enjoyment out of my self-expression!) However, I wasn't really seeing examples (at that time) of women dressing to express who they are in their attire. There were a couple of creative women in the retired apartment building where I live, but no one like Debra. 6 or 7 years ago I discovered Advanced Style, and Debra and Ziporah were the first of the Advanced Style, ladies I saw – I was just bowled over!

    I have been an upcycler for most of my life – I really did start when I was a child! (A second hand 60s oxblood lace cocktail dress became an ancient Roman maiden’s gown, worn with a skirt for a cape, but this became everyday street wear for me, as did many other unusual finds, like a shimmery green twirler’s unitard with white fringe across the bust and around the hips. My mother made me go to school, church, family gatherings etc dressed conventionally, but otherwise I could dress as I pleased!) She taught me to sew, first by hand when I was 6, then with a machine starting when I was 9 or 10. Once I could sew, my imagination was the only limit to my style. My teen years saw an explosion of sartorial creativity for me.

    I was retired on disability when I was 50, due to multiple sclerosis, but I decided I would take that as an opportunity to explore in even greater depth both my inward and outward creative self. Now at 60 I'm officially an Advanced Style lady (not just an Advanced Style lady in training), and glad to be among the most creative women I know (I'm told), in that age group.

    The kind of social constraint we can be subjected to is not exclusive to old age – it's, something we're subjected to beginning when our mothers say “no, you can't wear that to school/church/the restaurant/aunt Betty’s house” etc, etc. It's not a thing that's exclusive to age and gender – it's something imbedded in our culture. It's a relentless attempt to suppress our individuality and to make us try to fit into one kind of mold. The implicit message is that we must conform to this narrow definition, or suffer ostracisim as a consequence if we don't. No matter what your age, though, you have a right to say “No” to that stifling,constriction! Be exactly who you are, and be proud of it! Viva la difference!

  • I wouldn't dress as Ms Rapoport does, but it's completely her choice to wear what she wants and I fully support both her and her choice.

    However, saying that, she has put herself out there on social media, with the help of this blog, and she has to know that she will suffer from some arrow hits. Some people aren't kind, but if you can't take the heat, stay away from the fire!

    I'm sure she's a big girl and knows this.

  • I thick she is wonderful! People forget or were never taught, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." Some people can be so cruel! I love this blog! I'm turning 63 and retiring In May. I've been feeling so old. Since subscribing, I'm inspired! Thank you!

  • Well said. Well written. I cannot explain the trolls and trash talkers out there.

  • I thick she is wonderful! People forget or were never taught, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." Some people can be so cruel! I love this blog! I'm turning 63 and retiring In May. I've been feeling so old. Since subscribing, I'm inspired! Thank you!

  • Rock on, Debra! Power to the women strong enough to disregard the small minded ones in this world.

  • Anonymous

    Love her artistic ability. She is an inspiration to those of us who lack her creativity. Maybe the trolls online are just jealous of her ability to create and wear her art.

  • I applaud Ms. Rapoport for her energy, drive, and her desire to dress so lively. I could not be so bold to dress in her creative color, texture and layers, but draw inspiration from what she wears and self expression. I have enjoyed Mr. Cohen’s models and the way in which they express themselves *THROUGH* their clothes. I find it an interesting medium and always enjoy looking at the next lady or gentleman. Our older generation is largely ignored for one reason or another yet we can continue to learn from them. My first pen pal I had in my teens was in her 60’s! One person wrote an article about older people and the fact we should maintain eye contact and smile at them. I eagerly commented, “ When I get that age I will smile at someone that is older than me!” :o)

    Thank you Mr. Cohen for your dedication and allow us the privilege of knowing these ladies and gentlemen.

  • Olé Debra. I love to see people expressing themselves through their clothing. Your expression is one of the most creative and original I have ever seen. Unique to you and wonderful to behold. :))

  • Inspired and inspirational, both the clothing and her response to the haters on facebk; Taste of France said it best: "happily fashion police exist only on line, not in real life."

  • Brava, Debra!

  • she's marvelous. i've been pursuing her kind of self-confidence all my life. how lucky we are to have heroes like her anchor in the naysayers' tide.

  • Regarding the negative comments…..
    I am a psychologist and we'd say 'projection' of themselves! I am also an artist and my creative time every day is dressing. I say "if you have to get dressed why not wear something wonderfully creative to express how I feel that day".
    I feel sad when I see people settle on active wear, jeans with hoodies and the inevitable running shoes when they go out. Is this an expression of themselves?
    I love how Debra expesses herself. It sends a message to me that she is creative, happy,adventurous and is actually NOT worried about what others think. True confidence. K

  • Re those who criticize:
    I am a psychologist and we woukd say 'projection' of themselves. There is some deep judgement within that they place on others.
    I am an artist too, and getting dressed in the morning is my creative time to express how I feel that day. Yes it can happen in real every day life.
    I say "if you have to get dressed, why not be fabulously creative"?
    I feel sad when I see women in active wear or jeans and hoodies with the inevitable runners….is that how they feel inside?
    Debra portrays to me a creative, happy, fun loving person who actually doesn't care what people think or say. True confidence. Thank you for brightening our lives.

  • I couldn't agree more, Debra. And I love who you are, how you dress and your creativity! You rock!

  • Anonymous

    Well said… stupid trolls. I hate that if one is different from the herd, "it's a problem.." If dressing different as everyone else is a problem… BE THAT PROBLEM!. She is not hurting anyone, she makes herself happy. I wish a lot more people had the "courage" to be themselves. What happened to individuality? I think it has got lost among the crap…

    Ari, my great man-
    Keep up the awesome work!
    Lindsey via Vegas

  • such an interesting discussion generated from this woman's outfit, and more importantly her strong sense of self belief and confidence. Astounding how it irritates and makes others feel comfortable (read: uneasy)

  • I am so glad Debra spoke up about her perception of using her body as part of her creativity, I have long admired her and love her outfits, my style is different but I can totally appreciate and enjoy seeing other peoples take on dressing and style. I also love to wear colour, as an artist I find it gives me a joyful uplift for my day to choose my mood colour for the day.
    I have enjoyed so much inspiration and pleasure over the years from Ari and all the wonderful ladies he photographs. Thank you Debra for sharing your thoughts with us.

  • Anonymous

    This statement is for me one of the most important: "It might make them feel vulnerable to dress creatively. It is very personal."

    I come to Advanced Style to be encouraged to be courageous, especially at a time in my life when I am struggling to deal with many physical changes due to illness. This is the only blog I follow. I am not a consumer of social media, or cultural media. The ideas and lives presented/represented here are the ones that matter to me.

  • Debra and the other lovely ladies feathered on Advanced Style inspire me, not so much in fashion (I wear mostly black) but they inspire me to be bolder and more creative every day in other ways that are important to me—writing and painting. I love the carefree attitude of not letting the rest of the world influence how Debra feel about her fashion statements. I see it as an art form, a hobby and more power to Debra for inspiring others who understand that.

  • I've always looked at Debra as a walking canvas, an extension of her art. I think it is wonderful that there are such unique colourful people in the world.

    I truly enjoyed Debra's response.


  • Now that I'm in my 60's I don't know what I would do without Ari and all the beautiful women (and men) he champions, including Debra (who I adore). Life would be very gray indeed! Personally I harbor a secret desire to be this fabulous and have Ari discover me one day. Bottom line, artists are always misunderstood in their own time. The name says it all- Advanced Style, and no one's waiting for the trolls to catch up.

  • I love what you say Ari. I have loved your blog for a long time and I regularly get reminded why – that it is not just about clothes but about a generosity of spirit, and you got it in spades

  • Anonymous

    I love Debra, and love to check in to see her latest assemblage. I'm sure she's too smart and too self-confident to let a few naysayers undermine her. Last night, coincidentally, I watched a short video online about female sports reporters and the online abuse they have to put up with. As a kind of social experiment, various men (not the trolls!) sat with them and read aloud the vicious comments directed at these women; and some of the guys couldn't bear to read the coarse profanity aloud–some even got tearful. A person who can't think of anything better to put out into the world than gratuitous cruelty and/or obscenity…well, I actually feel sorry for them.

    Thanks to Ari, Debra, and all the Advanced Stylers for bringing color and zest into the world! And what the heck are those red things–eyeglass cases??

  • I love your site Ari, and I really enjoy the creativity of Debra and many others, as well as the chicness of Linda Rodin. I didn't see the Facebook post, and I don't condone the insensitive remarks, but you asked why some people feel the need to state the negative opinions. May I attempt to offer my analyzation?

    I follow many beauty Youtubers, and I especially like the older ladies that I can hopefully garner some knowledge from. I don't need advice from a beautiful 23 year old….how hard is it to be beautiful at that age? It's genetic! Well, since most people are very nice with their comments, the "guru" usually only gets comments about how beautiful and young she looks, even if she's 65 and looks every day of it. Maybe some people figure if you're putting yourself out there, you should be ready for many different types of opinions. Debra said herself that she doesn't care if she's laughed at or made fun of. Good for her!! She is obviously a very creative lady that should keep on doing what she's doing! I have a friend, however, that dresses a certain way. She is pretty and has a great figure, even in a bikini, at age 54. She would also feel very uncomfortable wearing anything plain or simple. However, she feels the need to wear push-up bras while out for a walk, wear black yoga pants with ANGEL up the leg when she's getting groceries, and 4 inch heels at all time. That's just her….but I hear from many people that think she looks desperate and very ridiculous. No one would ever tell her to her face. People feel the need to comment on her outrageous outfits though (many include fur, even in warm weather), so they say "I like your bag, shoes, pants, etc….." and I feel invisible when I'm with her, but it's kind of like hanging out with a clown. She, unlike Debra, DOES care what people think and she's thinks she looks great and young and 35 years old, max. I've tried very carefully suggesting maybe she could wear some cute flats or not always wear a push-up and VS PINK yoga pants, and she got tears in her eyes and got very angry with me. So I let it go, knowing that people are laughing at her. So…..my point is that maybe behind the shield of the internet, some people want to voice that not everyone finds the looks attractive, tasteful, flattering, etc. With that being said, I also want to point out that Debra is a beautiful lady with a great figure and I say keep doing what you do!!

  • Eqautorial Eclectic

    It is amazing that unimaginative pathetic slobs would dare to malign her stlye!

  • Anonymous

    You know, you can dress carefully, "tastefully", conservatively – and STILL be ridiculed for your appearance. This is true whether you're 17 or 70, and whether your Hollywood stylist buys you an entire designer outfit from Net-A-Porter or whether you put together an outfit from the thrift store.

    Even if everyone tells you you look fabulous now, your kids are probably going to laugh their heads off years later!

    These ladies know all this, which is why they dress for simple reasons – to please/inspire/amuse themselves. We are lucky to be their audience!

    -Izzy N.

  • Classy skirt dear!

  • Erica H.

    Perfect response! There is always going to be someone who has something negative to say, good for you for not buying into the BS. I am inspired by these women daily.

  • Anonymous

    I stand and applaud you. Encore!

  • Debra's style and creativity brings me joy and hope.
    Getting older doesn't have to be stifling and unfulfilling and Debra's delightful outlook on life is proof.

    Unfortunately for every positive thought or action, there can be a negative counterpart and the internet has given all the malcontents a way to voice their unhappiness.

    Thank you Ari, Debra, and all the other lovely people who are part of Advanced Style.

  • Case in point! Well done, well done and bravo!!

    "This above all: to thine own self be true,
    And it must follow, as the night the day,
    Thou canst not then be false to any man."
    ~ Hamlet

  • What a wonderful text! Such an inspiring woman and artist she is! We should all look up to her. We should all find ways to express our creativity and not allow anyone tell us what we should do or how we should dress.

  • Rocket J. Squirrel

    I guess there will always be people who don’t understand that the right to express an opinion, is not a license to say things in a tactless, boorish or hurtful manner.

  • Beth Horikawa

    YOU GO,GIRL! I totally dig what you are doing and saying!

  • Tara Ackerman

    omg I love this woman! have been watching all your you tube videos and following on instagram this is where I get my confidence and inspiration , because these women are definitely role models to me! sending love all the way from cape town – south africa

    • ari

      Awwwww thanks so much!