BEST DRESSED

Iris Apfel Has Been a Style Icon for Decades on Decades

by W Staff
Updated: 
Originally Published: 

Iris Apfel wearing a dramatic yellow look
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For all of the larger-than-life personalities in the fashion industry, perhaps no one has been as consistently zany in their personal style as newly 100-year-old Iris Apfel. Born in Queens in 1921, Apfel has worked in just about every aspect of the industry, including a stint at Women’s Wear Daily and a nine-president long run of heading up design restoration at the White House. And the older she gets, the more the centenarian has proven prolific. Apfel has done so many capsules and collaborations since establishing herself as what she calls a “geriatric starlet” that at this point, she’s been actively giving away her clothes for years. When it comes to Apfel’s wardrobe, storage is key: The icon herself is practically a walking accessories department, ever living up to her motto “more is more and less is a bore.” As for her signature owlish glasses, Apfel recently told W that she’s “just swimming” in them, having started off collecting back in the Great Depression. “Spectacles are a wonderful fashion item,” she said. “It took a few years for people to understand that, but I’ve always been ahead.” Here, a visual appreciation of some of her most delightfully eccentric looks.

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Apfel made her red carpet return in full loofah-like, radiant glory to celebrate her 100th birthday (and announce her upcoming H&M collab).

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Apfel blended in with the décor backstage at a production of My Life on a Diet in September of 2018.

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Don’t let Apfel’s mastery of monochrome distract you from the toucans on her feet.

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Apfel fully looked the part when taking the stage of the 92nd Street Y’s Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis series in March of 2018.

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Apfel and John Waters said fashion icons only when they paired up at the 2017 edition of the Museum of Arts and Design’s annual jewelry showcase in New York City.

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Even Apfel’s disposable Renaissance Hotels shopping bag looked chic at Raf Simons’s Calvin Klein Collection showing in September of 2017.

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More may be hiding under those crushed velvet sleeves, but at least nine statement bangles joined Iris at a dinner previewing her HSN collection in April of 2017.

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In case you couldn’t tell, Apfel was the guest of honor at this Holiday House benefit in November of 2016.

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More tropical bird motifs at the Fashion Group’s International Night of Stars gala in October of 2016.

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Apfel’s bag, featuring a painted giraffe motif, took up nearly as much room as she did in the front row of the Naeem Khan show during New York Fashion Week in September of 2016.

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Spring 2017 was a banner New York Fashion Week season for Apfel, who got her hands on the hottest ticket in town: the first Monse show following Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim’s appointment to the helm of Oscar de la Renta.

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If you thought this look made for a statement at the fall 2013 season of New York Fashion Week, just wait till you see it on Apfel at the bodega.

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The puff ball of a purse Apfel toted at a tea party hosted by Violet Gray in April of 2015 was nearly twice the size of her head.

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March of 2015 saw Apfel wear a (hopefully fake) fur coat perfectly suited for her height.

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Classic Iris for the Iris premiere at New York City’s Paris Theatre in 2015.

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Another outsized accessory designed by Apfel herself, this time fresh off the shelf at Henri Bendel in October of 2012.

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Apfel has proven particularly fond of what could be considered her furry blue friend over the years, here wearing it at a conference in Miami in 2013.

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At Geoffrey Bradfield’s birthday in New York in 2006.

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No one stood out on—and blended in with—the red carpet of the 2016 American Apparel & Footwear Association’s American Image Awards.

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Leave it to Apfel to steal the show from a supermodel when she took her seat next to Karolina Kurkova at a Desigual showing in 2015.

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Cheers to Apfel’s ‘70s homage at the Cartier Mansion in New York City in 2016.

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Apfel met her match in Alber Elbaz at the FIT Couture Council luncheon in 2007, where they both accented simple black ensembles with statement accessories.

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Looking the definition of sophisticated chic at the opening of “Isabel Toledo: Fashion From Inside Out” at the Museum at FIT in 2009.

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Fortunately for Apfel, PETA didn’t get the invite to the 60th annual Parsons benefit and fashion show in 2008.

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Apfel switched up her glasses and returned to jeans for a cocktails hour honoring Ralph Rucci in 2006.

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Looking like she raided the best and quirkiest of the museum gift shop cases when she stepped out in New York City in 2006.

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We’re guessing those who joined Apfel at the Louise T. Blouin MacBain Residence in 2006 haven’t seen anyone wear feathers like that sense.

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The late Carl Apfel, seen here in 2005, never exactly joined his wife in making style statements, though he did go on to wear his own pair of thick-rimmed circular glasses in later years.