The Ultimate in Personal Expression

January 14, 2010

As of last month, I have a new appreciation of what it means to honor one’s personal style.  Why?  A friend and I went to see the Iris Apfel exhibit at the Peabody-Essex Museum.  Over the top doesn’t begin to describe her style.  Not even close!  If you ever worry that your outfit is bordering on flamboyant, just take a peek at her style and you will relax.  At 88, she has just now become a celebrated fashionista!

Iris Apfel is clearly no shrinking violet.  She has been known to wear bracelets the size of bowling balls – oh, sorry, they are bowling balls!  And, given the size and weight of the necklaces she wears, she must have neck and shoulder muscles that rival a professional athlete’s!  Thigh high boots were her trademark – often in outrageous fabrics and colors.  All in all, her outfits were more costumes than typical daily uniforms.

One look at her style, and it’s no surprise that she’s a big believer in self-expression.  I honor that belief myself and applaud her for bringing it to the forefront and walking her talk.  It is also impressive to note that she is not a walking mannequin.  She creates her own personal style and mixes and matches her outfits herself.  She loves exploring unusual sources for special “finds, ” and is known to pair haute couture with flea market treasures on a regular basis.

(One word of caution: Many of her outfits resembled a walking animal mortuary.  Sadly, she clearly has zero consciousness about animal exploitation and suffering as one outfit outdid the other when it came to exotic animal skins and fur.  Truly horrific!  The only saving grace is that she is nearly 90 now and many of these outfits date back decades.  We can only hope that she has more awareness and compassion now when she dresses.  I can tell you from personal experience that self-expression can run the gamut from quietly elegant to outrageous and flamboyant (and be cruelty free at the same time!))

The point here is that when you are deeply and thoroughly in touch with who you are your clothing becomes an extension of this.  While you do not have to wear 1970’s used flashcube bulbs as your earrings or ten necklaces at one time to make a statement, you can still use your wardrobe to express your own personal beauty and uniqueness. As Iris herself would say “Never take yourself or an outfit too seriously. ” And, my personal favorite, “Never fret about your age.”

And, let me add one a word of wisdom of my own — don’t ever let anyone impose their impression of who you are on you.  Personal exploration is great, coercion is not.  Stand out in your own delightful way. Own it!

The exhibit “Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel ” will be at the Peabody-Essex Museum ( through February 7.

Don’t know where to begin?  Check out my personal style home study program “Who Taught You How To Dress?” –

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