15 Iris Apfel Quotes About Personal Style & Finding Yourself Through It

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 16: Iris Apfel attends Anna Sui Spring 2016 during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at The Arc, Skylight at Moynihan Station on September 16, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)
Source: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

I'm going to go ahead and say it: Iris Apfel is a demi-god. With Coke bottle glasses, jewelry that weighs more than she does, and an overall flee-market-slash-desert-bazaar-chic look, it's easy to acknowledge that the woman is brimming with style wisdom. A bible could be written with Iris Apfel quotes, what with her determination to enjoy life and to stay true to the person you are, no matter how odd that may be.  

The 94-year-old has an attitude that is contagious. It's hard for that positivity not to rub off on you when she seemingly has such a wildly happy outlook on what our style reflects. For instance, when asked — in a slightly poking way — why she wears such large framed glasses, she likes to cheekily reply, "The bigger to see you." Or when asked why she dresses in flamboyant feathers and in colors as intense as a Moroccan summer, she responds that the goal isn't to be pretty. It never is. The goal is to look in the mirror and enjoy what you see. Considering she's had 94 years to figure that out, my money is on her being right. 

As a woman who concerns herself with style, I feel that it's helpful, if not essential, to have a few strong role models to look up to. Role models who show us that the goal isn't to be magazine cover-ready, but to glance in the reflection of a store window and enjoy the person staring back at you. So without further ado, here are 15 inspirational Iris Apfel quotes that'll get you excited about your relationship with style. 

1. "I'm not pretty, and I'll never be pretty, but it doesn't matter. I have something much better. I have style."

In the 2015 documentary Iris, Ms. Apfel showed us that looking pretty shouldn't be the ultimate goal — looking like you have character, however, arguably should be.

2. "Life is gray and dull; you might as well have a little fun when you dress."

Wisely said in her documentary Iris, Apfel showed us that you can fall into a simple uniform that looks like everyone else's, or you can live out loud and have a little fun while you're here.

3. "There is really no substitute for experience. You must have experience and be open to experience — that helps. That helps a lot. Most importantly, you have to be yourself, be who you are and take time to be open and honest with yourself. That is what it's all about. If you don't know yourself, you'll never have great style. You'll never really live. To me, the worst fashion faux pas is to look in the mirror, and not see yourself."

In a 2015 interview with Let's Do More, Apfel taught us that sharing pieces of yourself with others can be a vulnerable thing, but it's better to show your eccentricities than hide them. Just image if Apfel decided against the first ever statement necklace she was about to buy. We'd never know how amazing she was on the inside.

4. “What’s my style is not your style, and I don’t see how you can define it. It’s something that expresses who you are in your own way.”

In an interview with One Kings Lane, Apfel delved into her rare-bird style. Are you worried someone will judge you based on your taste? It doesn't matter: That's a feeling you can teach yourself to overcome. Your clothes express a part of you, so you shouldn't dilute yourself to make others feel more comfortable. 

5. "I'm a hopeless romantic. I buy things because I fall in love with them. I never buy anything just because it's valuable. My husband used to say I took a piece of fabric and listen to the threads. It tells me a story... I have to get a physical reaction when I buy something. A coup de foudre — a bolt of lightning. It's fun to get knocked out that way!"

In the documentary IrisApfel reminded us that clothes are more than just the things we put on our backs. The best pieces are the ones our hearts do somersaults over. 

6. "You have to look in the mirror and see yourself. If it feels good, then I know it’s for me. I don’t dress to be stared at, I dress for myself.”

In an interview with One Kings Lane, Iris taught us that while it can feel nice to own something trendy or rake in the compliments, the most important part of your style should be that it makes you happy. 

7. "If it’s going to stress you out to have a sense of style, don’t do it. The important thing is to be comfortable so you can get on with your life. But I do feel — people miss a lot, if that’s how they approach style. They miss out on this whole creative experience."

In a 2015 interview with Vogue, Apfel showed us that style isn't something that should stress you out, but something that you can play with and have fun through. Don't get too bogged down with fashion rules and just try your best to live out loud.

8. "I am inspired by everything around me. It's not like I stand out on the moors or any of that romantic crap they throw around. I'm just inspired by being alive and breathing and meeting people and talking to people and doing things and absorbing what's happening. I think if more people did that, there would be better fashion. "

In a 2015 interview Let's Do More, Apfel shared how she gets the inspiration for her bold, live-out-loud look. And she simply replies that she gets her ideas from living. She urges us to get out there and experience, interact and share ideas, feelings, and impressions. Only from learning and giving can we cultivate a strong sense of style that we're proud of and secure in.

9. "I don't have any rules, because I'd only be breaking them."

In the documentary Iris, the icon proved that fashion rules don't mean a thing, even if they're our own. Just do what feels good!

10. "To find out who you are is like putting yourself on a psychiatric couch, but you have nobody to help you. Really it isn’t easy. I was talking with my nephew this morning and he gave me one of the best quotes I’ve heard in years, ‘Personal style is curiosity about oneself.'"

At a lecture in the The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2012, Apfel shared that the more you let yourself experiment and play, the more you'll find out about yourself. 

11. "I love to dig and search and find. And if I’m shopping…You know, if it’s a piece of fabric, I listen to the threads. It’s not intellectual at all. The price is nothing. It’s the emotional content: I have to feel it in my gut. I don’t know how to explain it other than that."

In a 2015 interview with Vogue, Apfel explained that style and shopping are emotional things. Don't think about rules and fads, but focus on how you react to the piece in question. 

12. "I never felt pretty, I don’t feel pretty now; I’m not a pretty person. I don’t like pretty, so I don’t feel badly. And I think it worked out well, because… when you’re somebody like myself, in order to get around and be attractive, you have to develop something, you have to learn something, and have to do something, so you become a bit more interesting. And when you get older, you get by on that. Anyway, I don’t happen to like pretty. Most of the world is not with me, but I don’t care."

Ms. Apfel urged us not to treat our style as a means to be pretty in the 2015 documentary Iris, but to focus on being full of character and interesting instead. A great style is full of personality and that's what attracts us. 

13. "Fashion you can buy, but style you possess. The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. There's no how-to road map to style. It's about self expression and, above all, attitude."

In a 2013 Elle interview, Apfel reminded us to be patient when trying to figure out who we are and how we should look. Remember: If you're having a hard time figuring out your style, it might be because you're trying to copy what's already out there. Try going inward and see what happens then.

14. "Downtown, they think they're stylish, but they all wear black. That's not really style. That's a uniform."

Ms. Apfel pointed out in the documentary Iris that if you follow what everyone else is wearing, it's hard to say that it's your own personal style.

15. "When the fun goes out of dressing, you might as well be dead. You need to pursue your own fancy."

At that same lecture in the The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2012, Apfel put style into perspective. Amen, you rare bird, amen. Treat dressing up like how it is: One of life's simple pleasures.

Above all else, don't forget to enjoy it.

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