Iris Apfel, style icon at 92, proves that age is just a number. As stylish as ever, she was recently a cover girl for Dazed and Confused magazine and honored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in an exhibition called Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel.
Living Life Her Way
In 1948, she married Carl Apfel, and they are still married. Together, they launched the textile firm Old World Weavers, where she designed textiles. Today, she’s still creating her own looks and breaking stereotypes about age, youth, and beauty.
Famous for her huge owlish glasses, she seems to have them in every color. She recently launched a handbag line and MAC commemorated her unusual fashion sense with brilliant make up colors named for her, like Pink Pigeon and Scarlet Ibis, in reference to the name of the Met exhibit (Rare Bird).
Apfel did design work at the White House for nine presidents, including Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton. Jimmy Choo even named some amazing shoes after her. She’s a muse to Ralph Lauren. What more could a girl want?
Some Apfel quotes on life, ageing, and style:
“Aging gracefully is about no heavy makeup, and not too much powder because it gets into the wrinkles, and you know, to not get turtle eyelids, and to not try to look young. You don’t have to look like an old fuddy-duddy, but I believe it was Chanel who said, ‘Nothing makes a woman look so old as trying desperately hard to look young’.
“If you can’t be pretty, you have to learn to make yourself attractive. I found that all the pretty girls I went to high school with came to middle age as frumps, because they just got by with their pretty faces, so they never developed anything. They never learned how to be interesting. But if you are bereft of certain things, you have to make up for them in certain ways. Don’t you think?”
“Getting older ain’t for sissies, I’ll tell you. It’s very funny. I have a dear friend whose mother’s gone, but she was very funny. When I’d say ‘Yuda, how do you feel?’ she’d say, ‘Oh—when I get up in the morning, everything I have two of, one hurts”.
“I’m a hopeless romantic. I buy things because I fall in love with them. My husband used to say I look at a piece of fabric and listen to the threads. It tells me a story. It sings me a song. I have to get a physical reaction when I buy something. A coup de foudre – a bolt of lightning. It’s fun to get knocked out that way!”
“People say: ‘You have inspired me, you’ve given me courage…’ They’ve gone so far as to say you’ve changed my life! And I would come back and say to my husband: ‘I can’t understand it – what kind of poor little life did she have if I had to come and change it?’” Her husband said she should ask. And sure enough, the next time someone said she’d changed her life, the fan was a 70-year-old lady in Florida. Apfel thanked her, then took her aside and said: “Would you mind very much explaining that to me?” So the woman did. She said that she’d never wanted to look just like everybody else, but she wasn’t sure how to do that without looking silly. Once she saw Apfel’s show, she knew, and what’s more, she said, “now that I’ve learned I don’t have to look like everybody else, I don’t have to think like everybody else”.
This inspiring woman shows us how much fun it can be to be ourselves at any age.