Iris ApfelMaximalism is intimidating.

It’s a rabbit hole that falling into feels like a difficult tightrope between hard-wired fashion rules and individualism.

In short, how do you express yourself without being tacky? 

Personally, I find the balance between minimalism and maximalism the most attractive: a shirt with odd necklines and cutoff sleeves in a simple grey wool, or the most perfect striped button down finished with ornate buttons. 

If you could distill a rhinestone, add a peacock feather, stir in keen wit and a few dashes of glitter, then garnish with an oversized pair of glasses, you would end-up with an Iris Apfel.

Iris is an ex-textile giant turned fashion icon. I mean, she’s the first living woman (that was not a fashion designer) to have a show at the MET dedicated to her.

If clothes are the outermost reflection of who we are, it’s easy to see that Iris Apfel is a vivacious, confident and creative woman. On anyone else, her outfits may seem like a costume—a grab-bag for attention.

On Iris, they are second skin.

“More is more and less is a bore.” - Iris Apfel

A few reasons we love Iris:

She’s fearless
Iris has the unique ability to put it all together. Layering a dress and a skirt underneath pounds of multiple statement necklaces and bracelets is no small feat. Iris not only makes it work, she would look almost naked pared down in a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt.

She’s outspoken
If Iris exudes confidence in her outlandish outfits, the same goes for her cut-and-dry comments. Apfel speaks with a grandmother’s voice, somehow forcing you to believe she’s right. 

Her zest for life
Iris can enjoy each new day, each new fashion piece and a fresh glass of Tito’s and bitters because of her zest for life. As Iris says, “you have to be interested to be interesting.”

“I never expect anything. I just feel things in my gut and do them. If something sounds exciting and interesting, I do it—and then worry about it later. Doing new things takes a lot of energy and strength. Most people would rather just go with the flow; it’s much easier. But it’s not very interesting.”

Things that keep give Iris “an enormous high” and her keep sane:

 Perusing a flea market and a great grilled cheese sandwich
 Freshly-made beds with crisp, clean sheets
 Caviar (her “drug of choice”) and chilled Tito’s with a few drops of Angostura aromatic bitters

How to become an “accidental” icon
The fact that she’s an “accidental” icon is one of my favorite things about Iris Apfel. Maybe it’s because I view life in the same way.

Very rarely do I stress about the future. Yes, I stress about everyday anxieties, but there’s a sense of peace that comes with knowing you are on the path to your destiny.

It allows you to appreciate and embrace the now.

Maybe that’s the secret of how you become an icon.

You never try.

“Life is a celebration! There is definitely no road map. Embrace its glamour. Enjoy its mystery. Be open to the unexpected. Stop asking why. And remember that in wonder it begins and in wonder it ends.”

Iris Apfel tidbits and -isms can be found in her book Accidental Icon: Musings of a Geriatric Starlet (Harper Design).

Hero image: Shutterstock

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