In this second installment of the ‘I’ve just turned 35’ celebration on the blog, I wanted to talk about a style icon who is relatively new to my world. Last week, I imagined making a cake for Helen Mirren, someone who has been on my radar for many years. Today, I bake for a woman who I discovered only in recent years due to the wonder that is Netflix and the many documentaries lurking there.
Iris Apfel is a businesswoman, interior designer and much beloved style icon who, at the age of 96, is still turning heads and making us all question the ‘rules’ of fashion. I’ve never been one for ‘rules’ and I don’t get the sense that Iris has been either. Fashion is a fickle mistress; she blows like the breeze from one direction to the other. Style is undeniable and eternal.
Iris has style to spare.
She mixes clashing prints and colours, always accessorising with so many brightly coloured bits of plastic that Coco Chanel would probably have had palpitations to look at her. Those old mantras of ‘take off the last thing that you put on’, or ‘take off the first thing that you see’ seem woefully inadequate as Iris sashays through Manhattan, creating a multi-coloured hurricane.
Whilst I am more of a ‘matchy matchy’ type, I cannot help but gag on Iris’ thrift store meets couture eleganza. I can only dream of being so interesting.
Now that I am the wise old age of 35, I feel like I have some credible thoughts to add on the issues surrounding style and ageing. Fuck the rules; wear what makes you happy.
Life is too short for boring trousers.
How good did Jane Fonda look at the Emmys last night? Long hair on a woman of nearly 80? Hell yes.
In fact, how incredible were Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, AND Jane Fonda at the Emmys last night? This generation of women are not going to quietly retire into their old age and remove themselves from the public gaze – this generation protested the Vietnam War and survived the so-called sexual revolution of the 196os, came out stronger for it and seem resolved to call out bullshit wherever they see it.
“In 1980, we refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot boss,”
“And in 2017 we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot boss.”
I know how lucky I am to have the freedom to wear whatever I want, free from the constraints of a corporate environment. Yesterday, I finally put my collection of ‘office’ shirts and shifts in the charity shop bag after 6yrs of self-employment – I’m not going to need them. I feel even more lucky to have women in the generations ahead of me to look up to – I feel like I need them more than ever.
The hair from Jane Fonda’s head may garner more column inches than the words from her mouth but there are those of us who are listening, observing, learning.
And, as for Iris Apfel, I look upon her with envious eyes – a life well-lived, yet still very much alive and loving life. In the documentary that bears her name (Iris, 2014) Iris recalls being told, “You’re not pretty, you’ll never be pretty. But, it doesn’t matter. You have something much better. You have style.” I love the idea that style develops with time, offering the potential for us to become more stylish as we age, rather than fighting against the inevitable winds of change.
For my generation of women, I wish nothing more than that we become the first generation to not lie about our age or apologise for it. Maybe we will be the first generation to refuse the pressure to have anti-ageing surgical procedures that, let’s be honest, don’t make us look younger but stranger (unless you have one seriously top dollar surgeon, in which case, go for it… I’m not going to lie and say I wouldn’t if you could 100% guarantee I won’t end up looking like those weird reality TV celebs or Tony Curtis, and you can’t). I don’t think ours will be the generation to smash the glass ceiling but maybe we could raise up the generations beneath us to do so. Our generation can lay the foundations by continuing to call out the bullshit.
I would love to sit down over a slice of cake with Iris Apfel. I would love to go shopping with Iris Apfel! Maybe she could teach me how to accessorise and we could breeze through Manhattan together like two swirling rebellious not-one-single-fuck-giving tornadoes. From spending even just this morning looking at pictures of Iris and reading her words, I find myself resolved to go into this week as my own self, refusing to be boxed-in, packaged-up, or labelled as anything other than the stone-cold weirdo that I am. Join me?