Sparkling Spirit

Iris Apfel, the 93-year-old “geri­atric star­let” of her epony­mous documentary, on her in­cred­i­bly fash­ion­able life.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - News -

You have the most amaz­ing wardrobe. What is your favourite piece?

I’m a flea mar­ket freak, and years ago, I was very in­ter­ested in an­tique fab­rics. I went to a place that had some church vest­ments, and this one was a knock­out. It was a tu­nic of the most beau­ti­ful ruby-red Ly­on­naise silk vel­vet. It had a panel in front, a hand­wo­ven broché. I put it on and said to my [late] hus­band, Carl, “Oh, this is won­der­ful. I’ll make a pair of trousers and a pair of shoes, and I’ll have the most splen­did cock­tail out­fit.” He went crazy. “What are you, nuts? Peo­ple will think I can’t af­ford to buy you a proper dress.” The only time in 67 years when we’ve had ma­jor dif­fer­ences in the flea mar­ket. I went about my busi­ness and [fash­ion critic] Eugenia Shep­pard came by. I in­tro­duced my­self and said, “Could you do me the great­est favour?” I showed her the vest­ment, and she gasped and swooned and said, “You’ve got to have it.” She went over to my hus­band, and as soon as he got that stamp of ap­proval, he calmed down. When did you start wear­ing those glasses? I’ve al­ways been at­tracted to un­usual eye­wear. So when it turned out that I re­ally needed glasses, I thought, Well, I might as well wear glasses. Peo­ple would al­ways ask me, “Why are your frames so large?” And I would say, “The big­ger to see you!” And that shut them up. Peo­ple say it’s a trade­mark, but I never started out to have a trade­mark. You al­ways look im­pec­ca­ble. If I met you for cof­fee at three o’clock on a Wed­nes­day, what would you wear? I live in jeans, from the most clas­sic, ba­sic Levi Strauss to the most fab­u­lous haute cou­ture jeans. I have one pair that is re­ally ab­so­lutely ex­tra­or­di­nary. They were done by Roberto Cavalli and are for a man. I col­lect Na­tive Amer­i­can arts and crafts, and these pants are beaded and em­broi­dered with In­dian mo­tifs. They were in­sanely ex­pen­sive when they first came out. I found them at one of the out­let malls, and even there they were so far out, no­body wanted them. I wear them with a beau­ti­ful heavy silk jacket from Ralph Rucci and some in­ter­est­ing jew­ellery.

How do you feel about dress­ing for one’s age?

What do you mean, “one’s age”? I know peo­ple of 30 who act like they’re 97, and I have a few old-bag friends who are very hip. I don’t think it has any­thing to do with num­bers. Just be­cause you’re in your 90s, you don’t have to wear sack­cloth and ashes. You have to ob­serve a few sim­ple rules; it’s just be­ing ap­pro­pri­ate. If you’re 70 and want to wear miniskirts, 70-year-old knees ain’t pretty! If you’re over 60, arms are not pretty – even ear­lier for some women – so I think you should stay cov­ered up. But wear what’s ap­pro­pri­ate for what you’re do­ing, how you live, and what your life­style is.

What is your ul­ti­mate se­cret to longevity, in fash­ion and in life?

When you’re older it’s more dif­fi­cult, be­cause no mat­ter how good it is, you don’t al­ways feel perky and peppy. If I push my­self, I get lost in what I’m do­ing, and I for­get about ev­ery­thing else un­til I stop do­ing it. Then I go home and I hurt again. Ev­ery­thing has a price, my dear. Noth­ing for noth­ing.

“Caviar used to be my drug of choice, but since my hus­band was on a no-salt diet, I’ve given up. I still have dreams of sit­ting down and gorg­ing, though.” – Iris Apfel

Iris Apfel

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