What if you spent every day looking for One Beautiful Thing?

The Many Loves of Iris Apfel


iris 2There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a fabulous, ballsy old lady.

Iris Apfel, self-styled geriatric starlet, is a 93-year old collector of fashion and designer of eyeglassesjewelry, cosmetics, interior design fabrics, and of residences, including the Truman, Kennedy, and Clinton White Houses.

Let me talk about the White House for a moment. You see how she styles herself. Her style is obviously fearless and eclectic. Yet her work for in the White House was remarkably devoid of her signature. It was a restoration rather than a redesign. It shows real respect for the history of the place, and a staggering design range. The woman is a true genius.

I was fortunate enough to see the show featuring some of her legendary clothing collection at the Met’s Costume Institute with my mother in 2005, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

Harold Koda, the curator of the Costume Institute at the Met, was quoted by the NY Times as saying, “To dress this way, there has to be an educated visual sense. I keep thinking, ‘Don’t try this at home.’ ”

Image from Mac Cosmetics

She does this thing where she appears to load up her slight frame with pounds and pounds of accessories, but on her it works. When I try even a modest version of such things, I look like a little girl playing dress up.

“Apfel once met a collector in the Midwest who has 15,000 pieces in her couture collection. When she showed Apfel her “divine Geoffrey Beene dress,” Apfel said, “Oh my God, you must have had so much fun wearing it!” The woman replied, “Wear it!? This is part of my collection. You don’t wear your collection!” To which Apfel responded, “In that case I don’t have a collection.” –Ironing Board Collective

Four months ago, she decided to clear out her warehouse and sell on nearly all the antiques she and her husband had collected during their decades together.

PERSONAL NOTE: If my dutiful wife’s eyes haven’t glazed over (she’s wonderful and very supportive of me, but fashion and design fill her with ennui), she’s getting excited in the hopes that I’m working up to selling all our stuff. Sorry, love. False alarm. Let’s revisit when I’m 93.

Happily, before the purge, she let The Huffington Post in for one last gawk. And if that’s not enough for you (it wasn’t enough for me), Architectural Digest did a similar piece about her Manhattan residence in 2011.

“Design is never done.” Iris Apfel

If you enjoy Iris, you might want to check out my May post called “Never, Ever Act Your Age Part II.”

Author: Donna from MyOBT

I have committed to spending part of every day looking for at least one beautiful thing, and sharing what I find with you lovelies!

13 thoughts on “The Many Loves of Iris Apfel

  1. Love this post. Thanks! And my condolences to your wife. 😉


  2. We share a passion for Iris Apfel. I love her larger than life attitude (attitude attitude), her down to earth opinions and advise. She buys and collects to use and although I regrettably do not have her budget, anything I buy, I use because I love it.
    I am sure you have habits too that will counterbalance the feeling of ennui for your wife;o) And do not give up, maybe one day she will see the joy of fashion and design!


  3. I want to be like this when I grow old:D


  4. I love that quote, “don’t try this at home.” I’m very slowly adding more bling and color. Maybe I’ll get there in a couple of more decades.


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