My Style Icon — Iris Apfel, A Fabulous and Rare Bird

Recently I read two articles about The Death of Colorblocking (dun dun dunnnnn). The first was a blog post asking the question, Is Anyone Sick of Colour Blocking Yet? (conclusion, not just yet). The second was a Wall Street Journal article titled Just One Color, which pretty much declares the color blocking trend to be over as stylists create more monochromatic clothing collections.

“…This idea is not part of the “take my picture” school of dressing that’s popular now, documented by an ever-growing swarm of “street style” photographers and their blogs. Nor is it necessarily for their subjects, celebrated for wearing fruity fascinators, Darth Vader-esque helmets and other traffic-stopping paraphernalia to fashion shows. It seems many designers are feeling that the world of fashion has become more about making an attention-getting statement than a good one. Perhaps, they’re saying, it’s time to let personal style be a bit more personal.” — WSJ.

I read this article with great interest, because crazy print mixing and colorblocking isn’t always for me and sometimes when I make a specific effort at it I feel like I look costumey, gimmicky and over the top. HOWEVER, when my color blocking is executed naturally, I feel extra confident. I totally disagree with the idea that color blocking is about an inauthentic “take my picture” school of dressing, because for many being bold and bright and offering contrasting colors in a sea of black and gray is very much a personal style statement. See for evidence, Kathryn Finney. Or June Ambrose. Or Solange Knowles. Or Folake Huntoon, of Style Pantry. Or, one of my major style icons — Iris Apfel, a woman who would give no hoots about what any newspaper has to say about her traffic-stopping style.

When you think Iris Apfel, you think bold. Bright. Vibrant. Color contrasting, highly accessorized looks that make a statement so big and audacious, the world can’t deny her. The New York Times describes Iris Apfel’s style as “ornate bohemianism.” She owns it and has inspired countless others with her dedicated eclecticism. Including myself. Iris Apfel inspires me tremendously. Let me tell you five reasons why.

1 – She’s inspired me to step up my accessory game to the next level. Long before anyone dreamed up a name for an armful of bracelets, Iris Apfel was hosting global festivals on her forearms – trends be damned. She’s never seen without being thoroughly festooned with adornments. It’s a look I can get behind.

.2 — Iris Apfel has inspired me to step out in faith and follow my dreams, no matter how impossible or distant they may seem. In her eighties she’s more famous than ever before. And now, she’s in complete control of the projects she undertakes. She’s got a jewelry line with HSN. She had a MAC cosmetics collection at the beginning of 2012. In what would normally be the winter of someone’s creative life, she continues to create and find fresh new unexpected success.

3 — Iris Apfel reminds me that fashion is about self expression and FUN. So often in the past, I’ve relegated myself to darker, “figure flattering” colors. I still love myself in black but I’ve pushed myself to also embrace color, contrast, and confidence. Even to the upcoming BET Awards, I found myself drawn to the safety of black. But I’m being encouraged to rock color, and I’m gonna try to tap into that inner Iris Apfel for inspiration and courage!

4 — Iris Apfel refers to herself as a “geriatric starlet”. “The world’s oldest teenager”. It’s not arrested development, she has lived a full and lush life. The lesson I get here is, you’re only as old as you feel. If you decide you’re over the hill, that’s what you’ll be. If you remain determined to cherish your youthful joie de vivre and curiosity about life, then you’ve found an eternal, internal fountain of youth.

5 — She’s a woman who speaks her mind and wears what she wants. At events where every other woman’s rocking an LBD or a dramatic dress, Iris Apfel’s gonna wear what SHE wants to wear. This is a woman far more likely to don an exquisite pantsuit rather than whatever’s expected of her. Case in point, at the CFDA.

Now that my mama bella is maturing beautifully, she’s prone to say things like “honey, I’m ***insert her age here***” to dismiss or end a conversation. I love that and I get it. I bet Iris is similar. When you’ve lived a life that’s full, you’ve earned the right. Sometimes you might say outrageous, objectionable things, but it is what it is. Your opinions are based on your experiences. Iris Apfel has been dressing this way for years but now she has reached an audience and maybe this is all what it was meant to lead up to. I’m grateful for women like her, who live life on their own terms and show the rest of us how it could (and should) be done.


For MORE on the amazing Iris Apfel, check out these great links I discovered in the course of my research.

The NY Times feature, of course

Angel on Fire who also LOVES Iris and is inspired by her.

Iris Apfel inspires HighStreetBlog

Iris Apfel in the Guardian

Tavi Gevinson and Iris Apfel talk fashion and ageism

@StyleIt’s Sarah Conley recently met Iris Apfel and shared her wisdom here.

Iris Apfel on one of my favorite blogs, Advanced Style.

So yeah. Color blocking is over when you decide it’s over. When it comes to figuring out fashion, it’s all about YOUR voice, your look, your self expression.

Who’s your style icon, bellas? Share with me!

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Comments

  1. Wow, she is dope! I want her as my auntie!

  2. Christine says:

    Love her! Love Advanced Style. In fact, if you haven’t watched the trailer, you should! It totally brightens my mood without fail every time.

  3. My style icon is Diahann Carroll. She always held her own on Dynasty.
    She is always so regal. I have never seen her not look flawless (can’t say the same for icons today).

  4. I absolutely love Iris! She’s so fearless. Her design sense is just as quirky. Architectural Digest featured her apartment some time ago and it is just as over the top.~> http://ow.ly/bQma6
    Great post!

  5. Wow!wow! She’s old but she’s still have the guts in fashion.. I like her!

  6. Wow, I think I found a new fashion hero in my life—Iris Apfel. I love that she is comfortable in her skin and did the work to study herself, her beliefs and who she is authentically. This work helped her shine her beautiful glow in the fashion scene and bring vibrant colors and accessories to the forefront. She is truly a blessing to us all and we need to pay attention to what she says because she has many gems to share with us.

  7. I remember reading about her many years ago. I admire her sense of boldness and playfulness. But I never got a sense she was trying to be young. She is my fashion heroine

  8. Thanks for posting about Mrs. Apfel. I had never heard of her before your post (gasp!) but fell in love with her style and sensibility once reading your post and watching the videos! We can all take a lesson from her take on living our lives to the fullest and pushing the envelope, not only in regards to fashion but life in general.

    Again, thanks!
    Ciao!

  9. She was a hoot! She stayed fabulous up until the very end.

  10. well 2 b sincere if she ws 2 b in africa precisely nigeria wer i cme 4rm,she’l b looked @ as sm1 who is tryin 2 hard 2 b beautiful @ her old age. I ve neva hrd of her b4 bt i luv her boldness letin us knw dat age shld neva define us.

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