10 Things You Can Learn From a 93-Year-Old Style Icon

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Iris Apfel may be older than your grandmother, but don't think that keeps this rare bird of fashion from looking fresher than you. (Not that Iris sees style as a competition — though if it were, she boldly blazed across that finish line decades ago.)

The celebrated interior designer, respected businesswoman and venerated style icon gives the world a peek behind her circular specs in latest Albert Maysles film, Iris. It's filled with weekly accessory hunts through Harlem, candid interviews with designer buds, Palm Beach getaways and two-story closets packed with jaw-dropping outfits. Her sharp wit and whimsical wardrobe weren't the only takeaways the film had to offer — you'll want to pin these life lessons from Iris to every inspo board you have.


A photo posted by Iris (@irisapfelmovie) on

1. More is more.

A small plaque sits on a table in one of Iris's homes that reads, "Playing dress up starts at age 5 and never really ends." Iris lives by it, having more fun wrapping herself up in multicolored turbans and fabulous printed silks than attending whatever event she was headed to in the first place. Fashion, for her, is about the process of getting dressed, and getting glamorous is worth taking extra time.

2. Pretty isn't interesting. Cultivate yourself.

Being pretty can work in your 20s, but if that's all you've got, you'll burn out when your looks do. Learn how to have a conversation, notice things other people don't, and pay attention to the world around you — it'll make you a better person to have around, Iris says. An engaging personality will be more loyal to you in the long run than looks, anyway.


A photo posted by Iris (@irisapfelmovie) on

3. Accessories can change your life.

Just as the right painting can transform a room, the right necklace and stack of bangles can bring your look from mediocre to magical. Layer different pieces like Apfel to make 'em look like they were "born that way."

4. Color can wake the dead.

The right dose of color can turn a dead dud of an outfit into the most mesmerizing ensemble in the room. Don't be afraid to show you know what to do with a swipe of red lipstick or twinkling handful of rings. Iris wouldn't be caught in head-to-toe black — it's much too boring, which brings us to our next life lesson.

5. All-black outfits aren't a style — they're a uniform.

Iris says people downtown think they're stylish draped in the darkest of shades, but really, they're just wearing a uniform. Break away from the pack of sameness by curating a unique sense of style that makes you smile. You don't need to wear the loudest thing in the room for your fashion to make fireworks; you just need to be yourself.

#IrisApfel for @dazedmagazine #advancedstyle

A photo posted by Iris (@irisapfelmovie) on

6. Always be curious, or at least have a healthy sense of humor.

All the best people Iris knows have one of the two, and if they are extremely amazing, both! The trick is to view the world with an open mind and to seek out answers to your questions, whatever they may be. You'll educate yourself and keep your passions well-fed in the process. If you simply don't care to explore the world around you, then at least leave the room a warmer place by always having a few good-natured laughs to spare.

7. Having a sense of style is more important than looks.

According to Iris, physical beauty was never part of her package. And that was fine by her — looks don't last. Knowing how to express yourself in a way that shows you look at the world differently, that you have a voice and aren't afraid to sing, is what counts at the end of the day.

8. You should know how (and when) to haggle.

Show you understand what things are worth by looking beyond surface value. Iris takes movie-goers on quite a few market trips, where she smartly barters with artisans for their baubles. She observes that knowing how to haggle makes the artisans' day — if you barter them down, they'll know the piece is going to someone who understands its value, as opposed to an unknowledgeable newbie just paying the listed price. (Don't try this at a department store.)


A photo posted by Iris (@irisapfelmovie) on

9. Sometimes you need really cool glasses to gain a new perspective.

Iris's oversize frames are pretty much a part of the style icon at this point. So why not take a well-accessorized leaf from Iris's book and grab a pair that pays homage to her? The more planet-sized your glasses are, the better. We've always had stars in our eyes.

10. You can't do it all. And that's OK.

The perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect career woman — Iris points out that nobody can really do it all. And there's nothing wrong with not wanting all those things. Being happy with yourself at the end of the day is what truly matters, so make decisions that will lead you down the path to self-fulfillment. If your road wavers from the world's preconceived notions of who Superwoman is, don't let your cape whip them on your way out the door.

Don't forget to check out Iris in theaters to pick up a few (well-layered) pearls of wisdom yourself.


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