Growing Old, Not Up

Story by Estelle Avbuere
Photos by Mia Navarro
She wears what she loves and she loves what she wears, without a care in the world.

Iris Apfel,“the rare bird of fashion”  is a style icon, who, at age 96, is recognized by the fashion world as a creator of taste with intellect and spunk that inspires women of all ages. After graduating from art school and engaging in various artistic jobs, she and her late husband started their own business, a textile firm called Old World Weavers, which enabled Mrs. Apfel to work as an interior designer, finding and sourcing rare, vintage items.

Throughout her life, she did several design projects, such as being interior design consultant for nine different presidents! The fashion world began to notice her in 2005, a decade after she had already retired, when she graciously allowed the Metropolitan Museum of Art to present her rare costume jewelry and vintage collection in the exhibition, Rara Avis: Selections from the Iris Apfel Collection , which led to a documentary about her life, and books written by and about her.
Apfel refers to herself as “the world’s oldest living teenager”  and a “geriatric starlet”; indeed, she has challenged the fashion world to think twice, or three times, or 96 times, about its ageist tendencies. At what seems like the end of her life, she proves she is more alive than ever, travelling for interviews and fashion shows and wearing whatever she wants, however she wants.

She finds such ageism to be silly, and addresses it in an interview with The Guardian: “all these dresses for thousands of dollars, and the kids that age can’t even afford them. In America it has been proven that the bulk of spending money is in the hands of women between 60 and 80…” This is a woman who is prepared to break even more barriers than she already has in her long life, and she especially does so through fashion. Couple her vivacious personality with her elaborate style that includes oversized, round glasses, bright colors and prints, and layers of unique jewelry, and one can see why she is so adored!

Tips for channeling Iris Apfel:


Big glasses…again! – This is a recurring theme throughout these HerStory features! Iris most famously wears large, round black glasses. But, as seen on our model here, any color will do.


Pattern and color play – Love a blouse and a jacket that have different prints, but share one color? Why not wear them both? Mrs. Apfel would. Also, look for bold colors, like this bright yellow trench coat, paired with cute prints, like this navy polkadot dress.


Accessories galore – Go ALL OUT. No amount of bracelet-stacking and necklace- layering is too great when channelling Iris Apfel. Seek out statement pieces like these platform shoes and this chunky silver necklace that our model is styled in. And look out for pieces that are so interesting, you may raise some brows and turn heads – those are the fun ones.


Vintage and rare pieces – Apfel isn’t wearing just any typical piece that you see in a store or magazine, rather, she wears multiple pieces that she finds in antique stores and in her travels to various countries. And, as she shows in the previously mentioned documentary, she is not afraid to bargain for a good price. Look for good-quality, unique pieces at reasonable prices. The thrift and vintage stores await!
The last, and most important tip we have for channeling Mrs. Apfel is to forget the rules, maybe even these. To truly be inspired by Iris, you have to see style the way she does: personal and fun and unencumbered by rules.

In a Times Magazine interview, she expressed this idea: “I dress the way I please and I do what I please and I do everything for my good. I don’t intellectualize it or make up rules and regulations.”
Mrs. Apfel reminds us with each of her stunning outfits that fashion ought to be expressive and bold. She also reminds us that true style is not limited by age, rather it is for every kind of individual.

It’s official, we want to be like Iris Apfel when we grow up.
Model Luz Aguba 
Stylist Bria Wilbon

Did you like this? Share it: