ON SUNDAY, August 29, 2021, Iris Apfel turned 100. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, just picture an older (truly older) woman with short, sometimes spiky white hair, red lips and enormous eyeglasses playing to the cameras that have been trained on her for the past 15 or 20 years.
Apfel clearly disagrees with Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s style edict. To her, less isn’t more. No, no, more is more. More loops of chunky necklaces, more bangles marching up her arm, more toys in her apartment. And more commercial endeavors that have kept her in Bakelite beads since she and her late husband, Carl, sold their esteemed fabric house, Old World Weavers. (Apfel is behind a “Zentennial” collection of eyeglass frames as bold as her own for Zenni Optical. There is an Iris Apfel Barbie doll. She recently put together four collections of home goods for Lowe’s, including “Palm Beach in Your Backyard” and “Modern Maximalism.”) And there’s a makeup mini collection (lipstick, plus pearl-trimmed pots of eyeshadow and rouge in a little red keepsake case) in collaboration with Edward Bess.
Despite the #IrisYourCloset hashtag, Apfel doesn’t wish to visit her style on anyone. In interviews over and over she has told women young and old that she does what she feels is right for her; we have to do what we feel is right for us.
And we’re doing just that! Just look at “Billie” (below left), the 93-year-old shopper my friend Jane met while wandering the cosmetics aisle of a southern Maryland Walmart (Jane was wandering, Billie clearly knew what she was there for). And the exuberantly dressed woman (below right) I encountered while she and her gentleman friend wandered the Upper East Side in search of “a cocktail lounge” (he said he’d settle for a bar).
Ari Seth Cohen has made something of a cottage industry out of recognizing and promoting stylish older women, to wit his Advanced Style blog and Instagram account plus a 2014 documentary (available in Amazon Prime Video) and two books, Advanced Style and Advanced Style: Older & Wiser.
But Cohen’s not alone any more than Apfel is. Check out Judith Boyd’s Instagram account StyleCrone (“Aging with hats, style, and the mysteries of yoga”). Also blogger (and “positivity model”) Cathi Rae, Karena at Style Begins at Sixty (a more casual approach to dressing), and of course Kim France’s Girls of a Certain Age site.
A new friend recently expressed surprise that MyLittleBird seemed to be so focused on what “beautiful people” are thinking about.
Well, yes, we are focused on beautiful people: you.
Meanwhile, happy birthday, Iris!
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