Okay, not so long ago, I didn’t know who Iris Apfel was either. Then I watched a Netflix documentary on the 95-year-old businesswoman, interior designer and fashion icon, and now I can’t stop thinking about her.

It wasn’t just Iris’ unique fashion sense that inspired me, it was her unabashed and authentic joy for life. “The worst fashion faux pas,” says Ms. Apfel “Is to look in the mirror and not see yourself!”

I was totally taken by Iris’s life story. In her mid-90s she is the woman we all dream of becoming as we age – engaged, vibrant and an inspiring force. I may not be a fashionista, but it’s hard not to adore this woman whose fashion message is one of creative self-expression and individuality.

 
 

Passion Defines Your Style

The first thing I learned from Apfel’s life philosophy is that passion and appreciation for life make up your style. I believe that most people see what you radiate from the inside before they notice your shoes.

Color Adds Personality

Color and interesting print goes with everything. When I worked in an office, I wore a lot of subdued colors, blacks and grays, crisp white blouses. Now I am starting to let myself enjoy more colorful clothing, whether it’s a flannel shirt or a pair of flowing pants.

According to Iris, “When you don’t dress like everyone else, you don’t have to think like everyone else.” Who knew so much freedom could be found in how we dress?

Add a Touch of Whimsy to Your Style

Keep your whimsy close by. I’ll probably never wear as many bangles or ropes of beads as Iris Apfel does, but I do seem to have a touch of whimsy in my style. For instance, I like pearls paired with blue jeans and high tops, or jean jackets worn over lacy blouses. I’ve been known to hike sporting a pair of sparkly tear-drop earrings.

Iris Apfel Appreciates Common Sense Fashion

While rules are meant to be broken as far as fashion goes, a little common sense at this stage of life should apply. I think most of us would agree that it’s past the time to retire short skirts, high heels and cropped tops. It’s definitely time to develop a minimalist sensibility about make up.

Embrace Your Unique Fashion Style

According to Iris, “People with a lot of money don’t dress as well as people who have to make do, who have to be inventive.” Iris is a woman who frequents off the beaten path second-hand stores for accessories.

A lot of her unique look comes from the costume jewelry, scarves and hats that she finds in such places, a reminder that style doesn’t translate into amount spent: Style translates into an eye for those things that speak to your heart and make you happy. And treasure hunting through a thrift shop can be immensely satisfying.

Here’s the conclusion that I came to about my personal fashion style: For me, it’s all about an attitude of gratitude and a good pair of jeans. Gratitude is my life practice and I love my jeans as much today as I did when I was 19. Nothing makes me feel so myself and comfortable in the world as a good pair of jeans and a good attitude.

What’s your personal style? Are you wild and bold? Traditional but colorful? Do you like flowing or fitted? What do you think of Iris Apfel? Do you have any other favorite fashion icons? Please share some of your thoughts with me about style in the comments section.

Stephanie RaffelockStephanie Raffelock is a novelist and a blogger. In her Sixty and Me column, she explores writing, living fully and loving well. She enjoys literary representation by Dystel, Goderich and Bouret in New York. You can find Stephanie at StephanieRaffelock.com or Tweet her @Sraffelock.

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