Iris Apfel: The Geriatric Starlet

By Ruby Cemental

Iris Apfel is known in the fashion world as the "geriatric starlet." At the impressive age of 94, Apfel, a retired businesswoman and fashion icon, continues to define the idea of aging with grace, confidence, and zest for life, while also maintaining her eccentricity and chic. In short, Iris Apfel is a model for living creatively and contentedly as a senior citizen.

Early Life

Iris Apfel was born in 1921 and was the only child of a father who was a glass and mirror business owner and a mother who, as an early inspiration to Iris, owned a fashion boutique. She was interested in creativity early, working as an assistant for various interior designers. As a young woman, she was told by Frieda Loehmann, founder of the famed Loehmann's department store, that she was "not pretty and [would] never be pretty, but that it didn't matter, because she had something much better. She had style.” That style allowed for her to meet and marry her husband in 1948.

Becoming a Fashion Icon

Among the most inspiring things about Iris Apfel is the number of things that she has accomplished, and the fact that many of these things were experienced upon moving into her senior years. Apfel once said that she doesn't see anything wrong with a wrinkle, as it is "kind of a badge of courage." This says a lot about how Apfel views her importance as an inspiring member of the senior community.

According to The Washington Post, her fame wasn't truly recognized until 2005, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art had an exhibition celebrating her ability to transform herself into something almost magical through clothes and accessories. The exhibition featured selections from her personal collection of fashion, and it was collected and presented entirely by Iris herself. Visitors were captivated by the "pleasure and confidence that a woman of a certain age displayed in the sometimes off-putting realm of fashion".

Living Life to the Fullest

Apfel's zest for life is captured in the 2015 documentary Iris, which follows her (and her 100 year-old husband!) as she attends fashion events and teaches a group of college students. What is most interesting about the film, though, is how Apfel views her golden years.

She continues to live her life, even after her husband's recent death in August, with determination and confidence, and apparently doesn't know the meaning of slowing down. She makes it clear that doing things like getting out of bed in the morning are not without their difficulties at her age, but she does them nonetheless, believing that the moment she stops engaging the world with her aesthetics, wit and honesty, is the moment life ends.

It is difficult to not be inspired by a woman like Iris Apfel, who embraces her aging with the strength and vigor of a woman much younger. If we can all take life into such a passionate grip no matter how young or old we might be, our lives will be much richer and more meaningful.

For more information on seniors, their care, and those among them who have inspired and continue to, please contact us.

Refer Care for Patients and Family ButtonRuby Cemental Blog Author

Tags: Golden Inspirations

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