Pair of glasses.

What we can learn from 93-year-old style icon Iris Apfel

Sue Baughan, Team Co-ordinator at WRAP, explains why Iris Apfel’s style can inspire all of us, at any age.

The film Iris, about the inspirational New Yorker Iris Apfel, is released today. Iris is a 93-year-old style icon who has run her own interior design business, designed her own accessory range and has her own collection of couture costume jewellery. She became well known when the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art put on an exhibition of her clothes ten years ago.

When I heard Iris interviewed on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, I realised that many of the principles she supports are similar to those we promote at Love Your Clothes.

Iris grew up during the depression when money was scarce and her family had to be careful about what they bought. Her mother always preached to her about having basic, simple, architectural clothing that you could wear from morning until night, and told her to put her money into accessories to change her look: “With one little black dress you could have dozens of different outfits – and this really works.”

These are some of her other style tips (all the quotes are from the Woman’s Hour interview).

Buy accessories second-hand

Iris’s glasses are very important to her look: “Even as a child somehow I thought spectacle frames were a great accessory. I’d buy them and throw them into a box. And as I grew up I would put on the frames because I thought they were so attractive and they completed an outfit. Then when I did need glasses I said I’ve got all my frames – why buy any? – and I took out a huge pair and had the lenses put in.”

Wear age-appropriate attire

“There are certain no-nos when you’re older – you don’t wear a mini skirt, you don’t wear long hair, you don’t go heavy on the make-up – but otherwise you should wear what suits you. Because you are older you don’t have to put on sack cloth and ashes.”

Value your individuality

“The world is getting more and more homogenised. While people give more and more lip service to individuality, as far as fashion goes they are more and more in a uniform. It takes a lot more work to be a bit original (especially now to find things). That’s why it is so good to have accessories because if you have something very simple and you change your accessories you don’t look like everybody else.”

Challenge ageism

“When you are young you should look young, but I think you can look attractive as you age and to try to hide your age is, to me, ridiculous. If God is good enough to give you extra years – why the devil do you not want to enjoy them?”