You might call 92-year-old Iris Apfel somewhat of an expert on personal style; the former interior designer and now-icon got her start collecting knick-knacks and building her accessories collection as a small child in New York’s Astoria neighborhood, where she would frequent thrift shops and home décor stores on the hunt for little items that excited her.
“I used to cut classes every Thursday afternoon and get on the subway and go some place else in the city,” Apfel told us. “I fell in love with the Village. In those days it was really interesting and very Bohemian. I’d look in all the shops.”
As such a longtime adamant collector of pieces she uses to embolden her wardrobe and express herself, Apfel is the perfect person to speak on how to inject your personality into your style. Below, find her tips for going for the gold every time you get dressed, and how to find your personal style.
1. First and foremost, know thyself.
“If you know who you are, and what you can carry off, and what you’re going to be comfortable with, you do it. Go for it. Don’t be afraid. The fashion police won’t haul you off if you’re doing something that doesn’t turn out so well. But if you’re happy with it and it’s not totally freaky, just do it.”
2. Go with your gut, and be open to new and different things.
“Everything with me is very, how shall I say, visceral. I look at things, even if I don’t know much about them, and if I like them, I learn about them later. I like things that speak to me. I don’t have to know everything about it before I [wear] it—I think that makes things a little bit uptight. I’m always open to something new.”
3. Pick pieces that excite you.
“People have told me how much happier they feel having pieces to express themselves. Clothing and how you dress can be a creative form of self-expression. I’m not a person who lives by plan. It takes time and it takes effort and experimentation; it doesn’t come all at once. You really have to do it yourself, because everybody’s style is individual. That’s what makes it style. You have to live with yourself and go to bed with yourself every night. And you have to do things that you feel comfortable with. If you want to please everybody, you’ll end up pleasing nobody.”
4. Know what you can pull off—and what you can’t.
“A normal Chanel suit is very nice, but it doesn’t do anything for me. There are just certain beautiful things that just don’t look well on me. You have to know how much color you can carry off, and so forth. Otherwise you can end up looking like a Christmas tree or very dowdy. I think you have to be true to yourself, and not try to be six different people because that’s the look that’s on-trend now. I mean if something is in-trend and it looks good on you, by all means—but just because it’s a fashionable designer, if he doesn’t suit you, or something is very “in,” don’t wear it if it’s not you.”