“Age is a cruel joke, but what am I going to do? Become invisible and hide in the shadows?” says 55-year-old TikTok star Carla Rockmore. “Anyway, I wouldn’t trade my insights and my experience for my 20-year-old posterior.”
There is a reason this purveyor of colourful fashion advice has more than a million followers on TikTok, the most Gen Z of social media platforms (she’s also on YouTube and Instagram). A straight-talk cheerleader for all of us wrestling our insecurities in the closet every morning, Rockmore pitches at the 50+ crowd but manages to capture fans of every age. “My largest demo is 24 to 45,” she says, adding excitedly, “I’m a family share.” That means she hears from mothers and daughters that they both relate to her point of view. “I get these 25-year-olds saying, ‘Thank you for showing me there is life after 25.’”
Rockmore hails from Montreal but lives in the suburbs outside Dallas where, she says, she is the ultimate fish out of water. “I’m a North-East garmento!” she says. Still, the perks of her Texas lifestyle include a two-storey walk-in closet with a spiral staircase, from which she films her videos showcasing her outfits and fashion inspirations, mixing and matching high-low treasures from her vast collection.
She’s now a full-time content creator and occasional designer. Her fine jewelry collection is coming soon, as well as a costume jewelry collection; and she designed an elegant capsule collection for Amazon in early May that sold out in a flash.
Rockmore studied fashion design Ryerson (now Toronto Metropolitan University) in the late ’80s before taking off for Europe—“I fell in love with a Dutch boy,” she says — and finding a job at Holland’s top couture boutique. When she returned, she worked as a designer in the Montreal garment district Chabanel. “I did wedding dresses, I did jeans, I did licensed children’s sleepwear,” she says. She eventually moved to Toronto to work in fashion, married a co-worker, had two babies. She parlayed her expertise into jewelry design in her late 30s. Then her husband got the call to move to Texas for work, so they relocated with their sons.
Cut to Jaipur in the spring of 2020, where Rockmore was developing her fine jewelry collection as the world was shutting down. She got home in the nick of time, and her Toronto girlfriends got her onto making her first YouTube videos, which took off suddenly. “I’m very lucky that this happened to me at the age of 55 and not 25,” she says of her social media surge, when she bared her closet for all to see. “I consider my stuff my paintbrush. I always have. For me, dressing is a form of self-expression without words.”
Vogue has compared Rockmore to a modern-day Carrie Bradshaw, citing her eclectic and exuberant fashion sense. (“I also get Mrs. Frizzle,” she says, from ‘Magic School Bus.’ “And Frankie from ‘Grace and Frankie.’”) But Rockmore says she doesn’t follow any style doctrine. “There is no ‘I am a maximalist’ or ‘I am a minimalist.’” This allows for individualism, which is what she thinks appeals to her 20-something fans who are afraid of making mistakes. “I push them to experiment with their own style and realize that nobody is dying from this,” she says.
To her, getting dressed means playing, until you figure out the proportion and the colour and the mood. That mood can shift from day to day. “Take a chunky pearl choker. There is so much history in that gumball-sized-pearl choker that has nothing to do with you. It evokes Audrey Hepburn, Coco Chanel. Am I a traditionalist, so I’m going to wear it with a beautiful midi skirt with my waist showing and a little T-shirt and a ballet slipper and do an Audrey Hepburn feel? Or am I going to do drop-crotch denim, a pair of army boots and a leather jacket? I’ve worn both, and I have no problem defining myself as Audrey one day, Vivienne Westwood the next. It’s not that deep.”
Jewelry is a cornerstone of Rockmore’s wardrobe. “I’m a believer that these are tiny little sculptures, and extensions of your personality, and they don’t wear or stain for the most part. That is a reason to spend on them a little bit more. And they change up an outfit in three seconds flat.”
Getting dressed with such exuberance takes confidence, which Rockmore believes is something you can cultivate. “You’ve got to make mistakes to become confident in what you do,” she says. “Follow your gut and choose pieces that speak to you, and you will find your personal style.” She makes that seem within reach. Because the real secret to Rockmore’s success is that you feel she could be your friend, there with you when you are rooting around your closet in a panic, reassuring you that if you just try on one more necklace, the whole outfit might start to sing.
Rockmore’s advice for getting dressed
Buy what you love: For Rockmore, that’s jewelry. “With new jewelry, you can take a plain black dress and have a completely different look four days in a row.” And: “I never met an army pant I didn’t like,” she says.
Get rid of what doesn’t fit: “Alter it, or get rid of it,” she advises. Her tailor is her best friend. And you didn’t hear it here, but sometimes she has big ticket designer items she loves copied in different colours.
Embrace colour: Rockmore revels in colour and pattern, and encourages artful, deliberate clashing. She says wearing bright hues perks up the skin; bright lipstick is her trademark. As for black, “It is sensational for part of your life. Then it absorbs [light]. Navy is the new black after 45.”
Balance your silhouette: Balance and proportion are the key to a great Rockmore outfit. So does working out the amount of skin to show: “I pick my battles. If I’m showing off my décolleté and shoulder, I will pair it with a palazzo pant.”
Forget styles you don’t feel good in: Even though Rockmore likes her legs, she won’t wear a mini skirt. It’s not an age thing, it’s because “my legs are blue like glow sticks on the beach, and I don’t have patience for tanning stuff. Plus, every time I wear a mini skirt I feel bad. So I don’t.”
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