Iris Apfel on Not Dressing Like Everybody Else

At 94, Iris Apfel from Astoria, Queens doesn’t dress like everybody else.

To start, her black rimmed glasses are the size of English muffins. “Standard equipment,” she says of them. So, too, appear to be the dictionary-thick bangles that slide up and down her forearms.

And then there is the color. Almost always and almost everywhere. In the green pants or hot pepper red lipstick or orange costume jewelry. According to Ms. Apfel, who is an interior designer by training, color can raise the dead.

Her inspiration’s nothing exotic. “It’s not like I stand out on the moors or any of that romantic crap,” she told writer Jessica Hundley. “I’m just inspired by being alive and breathing and meeting people and talking to people and doing things and absorbing what’s happening.”

What about fashion mistakes. Does she make any of those? “The worst fashion faux pas is to look in the mirror, and not see yourself.”

Style for Iris Apfel boils down to this: knowing yourself. Which she believes takes time, openness, honesty with that person you look at in the mirror. “If you don’t know yourself, you’ll never have great style,” she warns. And, “you’ll never really live.”

New York loves her. She is fêted in Paris. Maverick! Legend! Icon! cry the fashion magazines. Of course there are critics. When you don’t dress like everybody else, some everybody elses get threatened or take offense.

But what they think doesn’t concern Ms. Apfel. I dress for myself, she’s always said. And “I am not going to spend my life living in somebody’s image of what a certain person of a certain class of a certain age is supposed to do,” Ms. Apfel informed Marie Claire.

So, Iris Apfel dresses to please nobody else but herself, with English muffin-sized glasses and orange costume jewelry and hot pepper red lipstick.

And “when you don’t dress like everybody else,” she told the New York Times, “you don’t have to think like everybody else.

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