The Story of “Geriatric Starlet,” Iris Apfel, Who Signed Her First Modeling Contract at 97

5 months ago

Huge glasses with black frames and bracelets strung up to her elbows has become her trademark. Style icon Iris Apfel celebrated her 100th birthday last month. The holder of a “black belt in shopping” became known at the age of 84 thanks to her collection of fashionable clothing and accessories. Later, she became the face of a cosmetics brand, starred in a biographical film, created a collection of glasses, and signed her first contract as a model. Here’s the story of a gorgeous woman that has 2 million followers on Instagram.

  • Iris was born in 1921. Her father was a glazier-decorator and her mom was the owner of a fashion boutique. From her father she inherited the love for interior design, and from her mother she learned the importance of accessories.
  • Her mother dressed like “the Duchess of Windsor” and always looked perfect. Iris once had a screaming fit when her mother put a ribbon in her hair that didn’t match her outfit.
  • It is her mom’s advice that Iris still follows: it’s better to buy the simplest black dress. This way, you will always have something to wear because you can turn it into something you wear every day or on a special occasion. It all depends on the accessories.
  • As a teenager, Apfel gained extra weight due to a health condition. It drove her mom crazy. She herself was very elegant, and wanted her daughter to be like her.
  • The first thing Iris bought was a brooch. At the age of 11, she found it at a store, and she saved every penny until she had enough for the brooch. Who would have thought this thing would be the beginning of her great collection.
  • This fashion-loving girl attended art school and studied art history at New York University. She started her career as an editor at a major fashion magazine. Over time, Iris realized that she had no chance for career advancement in the editorial department, and went to work as an assistant to the fashion illustrator, Robert Goodman.
  • Once, young Iris was shopping. The store owner came up to her and said, “Young lady, you’re not pretty, and you’ll never be pretty. But, it doesn’t matter. You have something much better. You have style.
  • And indeed, Iris always dressed boldly, ignoring all the rules and combining seemingly incompatible things. In 1940, she felt the urge to buy jeans, which at that time were only worn by lumberjacks and farmers. She was immediately escorted out of the store with the words, “Girls don’t wear jeans.” Apfel didn’t give up and continued to go there until an employee took pity on her and ordered a boys’ model for her.
  • When Carl, Iris’ future husband, first saw her, he told a mutual friend that she’d be very attractive if she fixed her nose. The friend told Iris about that, and she said, “Well, you can tell him what to do.”
  • Several weeks later, Carl saw her through a bus window and called her to compliment her on her outfit and hat. They met after that, and 6 months later, they got married.
  • Iris never wanted a big wedding, but she had to give in to her parents and grandparents. She wore a dress made of pink lace that could be worn after the wedding. And she still has her satin shoes because they become fashionable from time to time.
  • In 1950, the Apfel spouses founded their own company for fabric production. For more than 40 years, they worked side by side on interiors for the country’s most influential people and traveled the world in search of vintage fabrics. Iris even earned the nickname “First Lady of Fabric.”
  • Carl remembered that living with Iris was always a surprise. She was interested in fashion, so she made sure that his clothes weren’t dull, either. She bought him bright pants, caps, and funny glasses.
Magnolia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection / East News
  • The “Geriatric Starlet,” as Apfel calls herself, jokes that Carl was very lucky because she wasn’t chasing after diamonds. She prefers costume jewelry, and in huge quantities. Iris skillfully combines couture outfits with goods from flea markets. Bright colors, bold prints, fur and feathers, ethnic clothing — you can find anything in her collection.
  • In 1992, Iris and Carl retired from the textile business. However, they couldn’t live a slow-paced life, and in 2005, the whole world learned about the eccentric fashionista. It was then that the Metropolitan Museum hosted an exhibition of Iris’s colorful wardrobe. The exhibition caused a sensation, and its 84-year-old muse became a true style icon.
McMullan / Sipa USA / East News
  • At the age of 90, Apfel became the face of the cosmetics brand MAC. This was her first major job in the fashion and beauty industry. Additionally, in 2011, she made her debut as a jewelry designer, launching her own collection of large accessories.
  • In 2014 the documentary film Iris was released, which told the story of the fashion icon to the world. The film was nominated for an Emmy Award in the news and documentary category.
  • After her husband’s death in 2015, Apfel continued to conquer the fashion world. At the age of 97, she signed her first modeling contract. Now she is a colleague of the Hadid sisters.
Isabelle Vautier / Starface / STARFACE PHOTO / East News, Al Pastor / Everett Collection / East News
  • Iris proves it’s never too late to dress up. For older fans of her accessories, she designed certain pieces that can check the wearer’s health and warn doctors in case of an emergency.
  • Iris’s unparalleled style has become an inspiration for Barbie creators. They have introduced 3 mini versions of Apfel, each of which features an abundance of necklaces and bracelets as indispensable accessories.
  • Iris doesn’t always look like she’s stepped off the cover of a glossy magazine. She says that she loves wearing a simple robe at home.
  • Even at the age of 100, she still goes to flea markets, because spending several hours shopping is the best medicine for her.
  • In addition to shopping, a healthy diet helps maintain this collector’s vitality. She avoids unhealthy food, does not overuse salt, and does not drink carbonated drinks. “I think the best diet is to push yourself away from the table,” Iris says, sharing her secret to staying slim.
Robin Platzer / Twin Images / Sipa USA / East News, Robin Platzer / Twin Images / Sipa USA / East News
  • Fashion lovers of all ages admire Apfel’s ability to combine clothes, and some would like to take a couple of lessons from her. Once, Lindsay Lohan asked Iris to become her fashion guru, but Iris refused, believing that a sense of style is something instinctive.
  • Now, as a 100-year-old fashion icon, she is trying herself in new areas. In her recent collaboration with an optical company, she created a collection of glasses. Now, fans of large frames can have an accessory just like their favorite influencer.
  • Extravagant Iris is fighting age. She says, “I hold the self-proclaimed record for being the World’s Oldest Living Teenager, and I intend to keep it that way.” Her curiosity and sense of humor allow her to stay young.

Colleen Heidemann is another model who’s making a breakthrough in her fight against beauty stereotypes. This woman inspires many with the way she treats her gray hair and wrinkles as a beautiful accessory.

Preview photo credit McMullan / Sipa USA / East News


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