15 Iris Apfel Quotes That'll Change The Way You Think About Fashion

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
When Iris Apfel, now 93, was younger, she was shopping at the now-closed Loehmann's when its owner, Frieda Loehmann, stopped her. "Young lady, I've been watching you," Mrs. Loehmann told Apfel. "You're not pretty, and you'll never be pretty. But, it doesn't matter. You have something much better. You have style."

It's a story Iris Apfel tells proudly in the new documentary IRIS, fimed by the legendary Albert Maysles. Unlike her society counterparts, who were conventionally attractive, had buckets to spend on department store threads, and strived to look "pretty," Apfel chose to do things her own way. And, in the pursuit of personal style, she and her signature look have become an iconic symbol of rebellion for anyone who doesn't get dressed the morning with the goal to look "pretty."

The film follows Apfel around town as she haggles for deals at thrift shops, works with high-fashion magazines to tell stories, and even holds a styling session at Loehmann's for fans and admirers. Through it all, she spouts a whole tome of aphorisms, some of which we documented in the following slideshow (along with some classic Irisisms we couldn't leave out). 
Advertisement
1 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Iris doesn't have to think through her outfits too much. If it feels right, it is right.
2 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Improvisation is key. So is riffing off your past hits.
Advertisement
3 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Probably the best backhanded compliment anyone has ever received.
4 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
When Iris was putting together one of her outfits in the opening scenes, she ended her explanation of all the strands of beads and layers of fabric with these three words.
5 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Amen.
6 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
She continues, "If you look at a dress, it's affected by all of those things. You can almost tell what was going on during that period [from a dress]."
7 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Priorities.
Advertisement
8 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Apfel came of age in a time when shoes had to match your handbag, and everything had to "go."
9 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Clothes don't make the woman, but they do reflect what's going on inside.
10 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Burn.
11 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Apfel's archives are extensive, and she routinely lends her own clothes to museums for exhibitions.
12 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Also known as "bookending."
Advertisement
13 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Instead of taking one thing off, it might do us all well to put one more thing on.
14 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
You'll never see Apfel in an all-black outfit.
15 of 15
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Journalists are always asking Apfel for her "style rules," and this is her classic response.
Advertisement