Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon

What Iris Apfel Can Teach Us

It’s day one of Women’s History Month! There are so many noteworthy women we could mention, but we want to start things off with a true icon of fashion and design, Iris Apfel. It’s probably not news to you that we’re truly obsessed with Iris Apfel. Can you blame us? She’s who I aspire to be–her exuding confidence, brusque charm, unparalleled fashion sense and wisdom are one of a kind. Here’s what Iris Apfel can teach us about embracing maximalism when minimalism is all the rage.

Iris Apfel June Book Club Artwork

Who Is Iris Apfel?

Iris Apfel is one of the most iconic women in the history of fashion. This isn’t the first time we’ve mentioned her! Here’s another post where we share some of our musings about Iris. Self-proclaimed “geriatric starlet,” Iris Apfel started as an interior designer with an innate interest in fashion. She really became known when her noteworthy wardrobe made its way into an exhibition at the Met. From there, her career as a fashion icon blossomed.

She didn’t stop there! At age 98, she signed a modeling contract with IMG, blowing all former female model stereotypes out of the water. She even came out with her own sunglasses line a few days before her 100th birthday! From interior design, to transforming the definition of modeling, to her eclectic and show-stopping style, to simply living a full life, Iris Apfel can teach us so much.

Embracing Maximalism in an Age of Minimalism

We are living in an age of minimalism. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not always against minimalism. When done correctly it can be lovely. The problem is that it’s become an overwhelming default that squashes so many opportunities for creative expression. If you’re interested more of my thoughts on neutrals and default colors, read this post. Anyway, I’m not here today to focus on minimalism. I’m here to talk about Iris Apfel, who is an example of totally owning gorgeous maximalism. Iris Apfel can teach us so. much. Here’s how she can help us embrace maximalism when minimalism is so overwhelmingly present.

What Iris Apfel Can Teach Us

Don’t Fear Patterns and Colors!

I remember buying clothes with my mom as a kid. She’d always offer up the same advice: “pick something that will go with everything!” There’s a myth that’s been circulating for many years that neutral solids match better than colors and patterns. My mom’s not alone. Many people stick almost solely to neutrals, not because they don’t like color or pattern, but because they feel intimidated. Which is totally understandable! Neutrals are, admittedly, easy.

But are they satisfying? Iris Apfel sure shows us that there are many, many examples of bold color and pattern combinations that look exquisite together. They’re less common because it’s intimidating to jump into so much color and pattern, but maybe that’s what makes them so wonderful. So to those wanting to incorporate more patterns and colors into their lives but feeling intimidated, remember that Iris would tell you to go for it! You can do it, just be confident in those bold choices and don’t let others dissuade you. As Iris would say, “When you don’t dress like everyone else then you don’t have to think like everyone else.”

The Bolder the Better

Speaking of bold choices, is anything every really too much for Iris Apfel? Probably not. She teaches us that, rather than airing on the side of caution when it comes to your wardrobe, go big or go home! She would probably put it just that candidly, too.

She’s the perfect example of really diving into colors and patterns and showing us that bolder really is better, in her case. After all, she did say, “color can raise the dead.” When you own bold patterns and colors like Iris Apfel, they are striking, completely show-stopping, and do much more than any combination of neutrals could to. So be all in! The key is to be decisive and intentional. A half-hearted effort just doesn’t produce the Iris Apfel effect.

Mix and Match!

Another one of my mom’s common statements was something along the lines of “don’t wear multiple patterns together, they don’t go.” Well Iris Apfel would most likely say the exact opposite: Why opt for a neutral that goes with everything when you can go for a wild, wacky combo? And who says multiple patterns can’t compliment each other exquisitely?

Rather than always going for black because it will match everything in your wardrobe, try branching out. Unlikely combinations can sometimes be best.

Speaking of unlikely combinations, don’t fear mixing high and low fashions. Iris Apfel was famous for shamelessly mixing designer brands with flea market finds, and patterns, colors and textures of all different eras. The eclectic mix became her signature, and she knowingly broke all rules and conventions. Isn’t the saying something like “learn the rules so you can break them?”

Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize

Don’t let me finish out this list of what Iris Apfel can teach us without including accessories. Iris’s iconic glasses, boas, and bold bangles with forever be remembered. Nothing is too thick, chunky, or big for her. Accessories can do wonders for an outfit that feels like it needs a little something to be complete.

And again, Iris Apfel audaciously merged antiquity with modernity with striking success.

Dress for Yourself, Not to be Stared At

Above all, fashion is and should be very personal. It’s all about you, or it should be. As Iris says, “I don’t dress to be stared at, I dress for myself.” Iris has us convinced that fashion should be fun, and it’s the most fun when it feels true to YOU. Ultimately, “The important thing is to be comfortable so you can get on with your life.”

In the Shop

If you’re looking for something to remind you of Iris Apfel, check out our shop! Nothing helps with inspiration like seeing Iris Apfel’s face every time you open your book and see this bookmark. Or looking up at the wall by your desk and seeing this print! If you’re wanting to prep for the holiday season early this year, we’d recommend this Iris Apfel ornament.

More Inspiration

Loved this post on what Iris Apfel can teach us and want to be inspired by other amazing women? Check out our Becoming series, where we highlight female creatives and how they became who they are! You can also be inspired by these in the mood for posts, where we draw style and design inspiration from artists, creatives, and things we love throughout history.

One last note before you go: Iris Apfel has collaborated with H&M to release a new collection this spring 2022–STAY TUNED! I’m positive we’ll have more to say where that came from.

 

 

 

 

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