Carmen Dell’Orefice Tells Us About Personal Style & Her Favorite Modeling Job

“I’m 80, and I’m sick of it.”

These are the first words uttered to us by none other than Carmen Dell’Orefice. We had come face-to-face with the world’s oldest working model at Harper’s Bazaar’s “Fabulous at Every Age” event. And oh, what a face it is. The octogenarian is as striking in person as she is in photographs, with her sculpted cheekbones and piercing blue eyes. Naturally, we had some questions to ask.

You’re a fashion icon to so many. Who do you admire?

I’m the least fashionista person in the world. I’m part of this business because I enter a room like a silent actress, and listen to the photographer, the art director, the client. If I’m lucky enough I’ll have a stylist like the old days, like Baron de Gunzburg or Scully Montgomery or the people who had developed taste. Today is picture by committee. I think it has been watered down, the individuality. It’s hard for these young girls to develop a real sense of self because the world conspires against the individual.

How would you define your individual style?

Kind of a nothing casual. Comfort first, affordability second, event third. I have a collection of things that I’ve liked since 1945 that fit any occasion. Occasions, they’re always different. Trying to find out where am I going, what are they doing, what do I want to be part of? Not to offend, of course. And not to stand out in a bad way, but not to be a wallflower. To keep a balance, and to not make a fool of myself at 80.

What pieces do you bring back?

Not designer clothes, just things that fit.

What has been your favorite modeling job so far?

Last week, the last one I had.

As in your last one ever?

No! I have a job next week, but I haven’t done it yet, so I can’t call it my favorite, can I?

I guess not! What did you do last week?

I was in Buenos Aires for a company called Rouge — a makeup campaign.

Buenos Aires is lovely!

Where are you from?

St. Louis.

St. Louis! What brought you to the big city? Stardust in your eyes?

Something like that.

I’m going to leave this place now.

And with that, Carmen started to say her goodbyes, pausing to give us one bit of advice: “The whole world can be wrong, and you can be right. That’s a hard lesson to learn.” She grinned. “That’ll teach you to stop someone to talk.”


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