Iris says ‘have fun when you dress!’

Life is grey and dull. You may as well have fun when you dress – Iris Apfel

Back in May, I wrote about age being no barrier to style. I can think of no better example of this than fabulous nonagenarian style icon Iris Apfel.

Iris will turn 94 on the 29th of August. From the beginning, Iris was a trailblazer. She chose a career over children, for example, and that career has been long and varied, encompassing fashion, design and the arts. She worked at Women’s Wear Daily before becoming an interior designer (clients included the White House) and running textile company Old World Weavers with her beloved husband Carl. She now consults and lectures about style and fashion.

She is also the subject of a documentary by filmmaker Albert Maysles. The film gives us a fascinating insight into Iris’ world – her 66 year marriage to Carl, the inspiration for her distinctive style and her thoughts on the fashion industry today.

Iris has become something of a ‘geriatric starlet’ (her words) due to her distinctive style and irrepressible energy. Iris has one of the best collections of couture costume jewellery in the world, along with an extensive wardrobe – several rooms in her Park Avenue and Palm Beach apartments are devoted to her clothes. Her look is immediately recognisable: cropped white hair, huge round Cutler and Gross glasses and layers of bangles, bracelets and necklaces, all in vivid colours but somehow creating a startling and coherent ‘look’. Her extensive collection of accessories was brought to the MoMA’s attention and they devoted a show to her, which led to further exhibitions in Florida and Massachusetts.

Along with being incredibly stylish, Iris is also wise and witty. Here are a few of my favourite Iris-isms:

  • On her mother’s influence: ‘my mother worshipped at the altar of the accessory’
  • On building her accessories collection: ‘it’s hard work to collect – it takes effort – everything I have I go out and find’
  • On getting dressed: ‘it has to feel right…I mix and match and do it differently each time. I don’t have rules as I would break them…I love the process’
  • On designers today: ‘they don’t sew, don’t drape – they’re media freaks, with no sense of history’
  • On herself: ‘I have two great gifts: curiosity and a sense of humour’
  • On today’s fashion: ‘individuality is lost these days – everything is homogenised’
  • On continuing to work: ‘I like being in the world and of the world’




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