Life during the Coronavirus quarantine can be lonely and monotonous for women who normally use their local senior center as a hub for socializing.
But Sharon Abell, a regular at the Fox Valley Community Services Senior Center in Sandwich, Illinois, is doing her best to relieve some of that loneliness and boredom by modeling fashions every day on social media.
The initiative was the brainchild of the center’s activities director, Becky Lueken, who is determined to maintain some level of programming during this unusual time.
For example, the center’s parking lot served as an Easter Driving Parade, and the seniors regularly sit in their cars and play bingo as Lueken calls out lucky numbers.
Sharon Abell is among the first to jump into participating, so when Lueken asked her whether she’d be interested in posting a daily “quarantine fashion show,” Sharon responded enthusiastically.
“I’m kind of known as the center’s fashionista,” says Sharon, who has five bursting clothes closets and some experience modeling for a nearby women’s boutique. Add her great attitude, and Sharon felt ready for the challenge.
She was able to start immediately with photos that were already on her phone. She’d been keeping a visual record of how she would style an outfit with jewelry, shoes, and other accessories in case she ever wanted to repeat it exactly – even though she tends to mix it up each time.
Sharon’s husband, Leonard, has been her reliable photographer, and when her backlog of photos ran out she asked for his help with a few new photo sessions.
In each session, she changes into enough outfits to cover another week. Although at home she’s been going light on makeup during the quarantine, for her fashion shoots she does her hair and makeup to the fullest.
Sharon started with Facebook, accompanying each fashion image with a brief description of the outfit and, often, some background about where she purchased it or why it holds a place in her heart.
Many of the outfits bring back memories of travel, since shopping at boutiques and vintage shops is one of Sharon’s favorite vacation activities.
More recently, she created an Instagram account to expand her online presence. Soon people were sharing her posts, and her circle of admirers grew. That’s how I became aware of this endeavor and wanted to let the Sixty and Me community know about it.
I called Sharon and asked her to describe her fashion taste, which I found particularly inspiring because of the youthful flair. At 77, Sharon wears even off-the-shoulder tops confidently.
She told me that her inner fashionista came out only later in life, but once it did, she let it flourish. Not a big fan of her own ankles, Sharon sticks mostly to leggings, pantsuits, and maxi dresses. Then she always adds her own touch to an outfit.
“If a top is meant to be loose, I’ll probably belt it,” Sharon explains. She can match at least one jacket or kimono duster to every outfit, which not only adds panache but also adapts the outfit for different weather conditions and levels of formality.
She adds, “I’m almost always in a pair of heels – just a chunky heel or wedge – even with jeans. That dresses up an outfit. And I have a lot of jewelry! I used to wear only gold or silver, but lately I’ve been liking some color in my jewelry.”
Color also plays a major role in her clothing selection. She wears harvest hues in fall and pastels in spring. “At Christmastime, I have ivory pants and boots that I wear with an ivory and gold sweater,” she says. “I like that monochromatic look, because it’s dramatic. If I’m very dressed up, I’m probably in all black.”
The plan was to run the virtual fashion show throughout the month of April, but Sharon’s “fans” convinced her to extend it into May. Sharon has been having a ball doing it, and the continuing comments on social media show that people appreciate her effort.
“That one deserves a WOW,” a friend commented about an outfit. “Fun to see how you can change an outfit to look totally different,” wrote another. One friend summed it up: “Your fashion puts a smile on my face, so keep it going, Sharon!”
Helping her senior center friends feel connected and inspired makes the isolation a little easier for Sharon, too, who never expected to receive such attention at this stage of her life.
Do you follow a fashionista at this time of Coronavirus isolation? Whom do you follow and why? How do they inspire you? Please share with our community!