Lyn Slater has nothing to say about aging. That might seem ironic for someone who, through Accidental Icon, the blog that made her famous, has become not only a fashion icon but a symbol of aging not just gracefully but powerfully, but it’s the truth. You can talk about aging. Slater will just show you what it’s like to embrace growing older and let it propel you forward into something far more interesting.
In this as-told-to piece, she talks about how Accidental Icon came to be and how her creative approach to aging has set her free and made her a role model for others.
Accidental Icon was not about age. It was about me deciding that I needed a new way to express myself in the world and to be creative to and to start thinking about how I might share my love of clothes and inspire others. It was an accident — as the name implies — that I have become very much a symbol of a new paradigm of aging. That was not my agenda when I started out.
It’s a nice thing that has happened, but I am not going to talk to you about aging. Look at me. Look at my pictures. That will tell you everything you need to know about how I feel about aging. I am performing aging. I am performing who I am right now. My age is part of that, because age is a part of who I am: I am living in New York City. I am an academic. I am 64 years old. I am a daughter. I am a mother. I am a grandmother. I am a partner. This is who I am in the world.
When I first started to realize that I was getting older, I was not happy about it! I did not like some of the changes that were happening! I went through a process to come to acceptance that these things were inevitable and that despite all the hype and the media and the advertising, there is nothing that is going to interrupt aging or stop aging and that the way to address it is to respond to it as creatively as possible.
For me, aging wasn’t any different from any other challenge. I accepted that I was aging, and I had an impulse to do something new and creative.
When it comes to dealing with any sort of limit or an oppressive space — in my career working in social welfare and social work, I have moved extensively through and around very limiting spaces and institutions — I’ve never been one to just accept a limit. I’ve always asked myself, Where is the power in this situation and how can I use it? My response to any kind of limit in my life has always been to try to find a creative way outside of the box.
Throughout my life, whenever I experience a sense of powerlessness, I allow myself to feel the feelings and then I begin to examine that feeling and search for the little places of power in it. And then I think of a way to put a little crowbar in that place of power and let in a lot of fresh air and sunshine.
I actually felt quite liberated when I turned 50, but in my mid to late 50s, things began to change. I read what other people had to say about aging and I determined that from a physical point of view, it’s inevitable. You can’t stop it. I am a pragmatist. And if I can’t stop something, I have to accept it — and then I have to see what I can make of it.
For me, aging wasn’t any different from any other challenge. I accepted that I was aging, and I had an impulse to do something new and creative. Once I had accepted this inevitability gracefully, I saw it as an opportunity.
From ages 55 to 60, I took different classes all over New York City to explore things I was interested in: jewelry fabrication, sewing, fashion design, social media, opening your own vintage store, a range of things. Of course, I was always the oldest person in the class, but interestingly I was also the most innovative person in the class. I wasn’t copying anyone or anything. A lot of the professors and a lot of the students were like, Wow! You should really do something! You should start a blog! That’s how I first got the idea.
Then my academic researcher hat came on. I wasn’t going to just go start a blog. I literally did research for a year. The manifestation of the end of all that discovery was Accidental Icon. By the time I started the blog, I had a very accepting and very positive feeling about my age and who I was. I think that was what made me attractive to people.
Accidental Icon was not created in opposition to something but instead was a creative response to where I am in my life. Most of my followers are ages 18 to 35, and a lot of what they communicate to me is, You’re making me fearless about getting older. The way that everybody talked about being older before was like it was the worst thing. It was a horror to be avoided! And you’re making it look like it’s fun and it’s cool and it’s a really exciting time of life.
I am not 20. I am not trying to be 20. I really love who I am right now: my wrinkles, my gray hair, whatever it is. This is who I am right now.
My message is that no matter what age you are, no matter who you are, no matter what ethnicity you are, no matter what, be yourself. Be OK about it. Own it.