I admire Iris Apfel – she’s the real American Idol!
Most “it” girls fade into obscurity well before their first wrinkle but Iris found fame in her mid-80’s, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute mounted a show in her honor. The almost 93 year-old (her birthday is in August) who just recently learned how to use the internet, answered a few questions for Allure magazine about retaining style in her tenth decade.
Can you remember your first major purchase?
“I’ll never forget it. It was a brooch I found in a basement shop in Greenwich Village when I was 11. I didn’t have a penny, so I saved and I saved. I would return often to visit it. When I finally had 65 cents, I proudly went over there and haggled over it. I still have it, by the way.”
Do you agree with the adage that before you leave the house, you should look in the mirror and remove one accessory?
“I say put another one on. I like simple, architectural clothes. With accessories, you can make 50 outfits. I learned that from my mother because I was a child of the Depression.”
What’s your everyday makeup look?
I don’t do very much for beauty. I use very simple things on my skin. I haven’t got time. I would always get facials, and then come home laden with product, and pay a lot of money and never use it. Anyway, one day a dermatologist told me to use Cetaphil to clean my face, and as a moisturizer, and that’s what I do. “I only wear Cetaphil moisturizer and lipsick. When I was younger, I did my eyes up like Miss Piggy, with heavy, big lashes, which we got with mustache wax. You put a chunk of it in a spoon and held it over a flame, then you took a brush and you kept building the lashes layer after layer, and beaded the ends. It was great-looking. But as an older woman, too much eye makeup emphasizes wrinkles, and makes your skin look like a turtle.”
What’s the secret to aging gracefully?
“Don’t show your décolleté or wear low backs or heels you can’t balance on. Worrying about getting old is the kiss of death – you have to be busy and engaged. I can feel lousy until someone says: Let’s go to the flea market. Once I’m there, no one can keep up with me. You cannot be interesting if you’re not interested.”
The Huffington Post has this to say: Iris Apfel is one of the most stylish, unique, energetic people you’ll ever meet in your life. While many of us go around in a fog of “What will people think?”-type thoughts regarding everything from clothes to decor choices, Apfel surrounds herself with what makes her happy. That’s it.
Now that’s someone worth admiring.
Born Iris Barrel in Astoria, Queens, New York. Apfel is the only child of Samuel Barrel, whose family owned a glass-and-mirror business, and his Russian-born wife, Sadye, who owned a fashion boutique. Apfel studied art history at New York University and attended art school at the University of Wisconsin.. As a young woman, Apfel worked for Women’s Wear Dailyand for interior designer Elinor Johnson. She also was an assistant to illustrator Robert Goodman.
IRIS Apfel is a New York Society Style Maven and the chicest ninety something we know. Below is a condensed version from her interview with Jennifer Alfano for Bazaar’s
“Fabulous at Any Age” issue. This goes to prove that you can be amazing at any age if you take care of yourself, have a sense of humour and don’t take life too seriously.
What’s wrong with fashion today: Since I became a geriatric starlet, women are always asking me, “What should I wear?” Honestly, women today take dressing way too seriously. Fashion shouldn’t get to a point where it makes you unhappy. Because when you’re unhappy, you look older. I do not intellectualize what I wear. I just put on what I feel like. People see me and say “Ooooh,” but I think it’s a crock.
Looks good no matter what your age: If your hair is properly done and you have on good shoes, you can get away with anything. That and having a good attitude – try to keep yourself on an even keel. All the plastic surgery in the world isn’t going to help if you’re unhappy.
Style is: Knowing who you are. Someone told me a good definition recently. They said, “Real style is having a deep curiosity about yourself.” And attitude, attitude, attitude!
I never leave home without: My eyeglasses, because I would probably fall down the stairs. But eyeglasses have become very high fashion these days. You can really change up your look with them.
My Uniform: For day, I live in jeans. I have so many, from the lowliest to the most fabulous. I think I was one of the first women to wear jeans; I had to fight to buy them once at an army-navy store. Jeans are very basic, so you can be creative with the rest of what you wear. I also have the most spectacular black-tie jeans. I like very simple, dramatic clothes. A little sense of drama is good.
Most proud of: I’m proud that I’ve been able to do so many different careers, and at 91, I’m still doing new things: I have a collection of eyeglasses for Eyebobs and a line of handbags, shoes and jewelry for HSN. I’m always trying to help women be themselves and teach them not to roll up in a little ball when they are a certain age. And this March, my husband and I will have been married for 65 years.
Favorite show: I just became addicted to Downtown Abbey.
Most overrated: Don’t get me started! I think the over stressing of technology is dehumanizing. People are always pressing too many buttons.
Signature dance: I like cheek-to-cheek dancing. My husband and I used to dance the rumba. Sometimes I put on jazz records and dance by myself.
Iris was on the cover of Dazed and Confused Magazine.