17 Inspiring Iris Apfel Quotes from Accidental icon on Fashion, Style, & Life

I find it a little odd that I can have more in common with a 102-year-old woman than most people my age.  But, Iris Apfel, author of Accidental Icon, wouldn't find that odd in the least, so why should I? 

I find it a little odd that I can have more in common with a 102-year-old woman than most people my age.  But, Iris Apfel, author of Accidental Icon, wouldn’t find that odd in the least, so why should I? 

Iris Apfel became a world-renowned fashion and design icon in her 80s and 90s, a time of life when most people believe their chance for fame and celebrity is at an end. But rather than let fear, age, or societal expectations hold her back, she embraced the opportunity and kept wearing the unique and colorful clothes that made her feel good.

Iris apfel quotes

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While the book tells her life story, Iris Apfel also discusses her love of travel, the value of self-discovery, the cultivation of creativity, but most of all, Accidental Icon explores her views on fashion and what it means to truly be an individual.

While my style and fashion choices are nowhere near the avant-garde level of Apfel’s, I have been known to raise an eyebrow or two. The choice to dress for yourself and not for the sake of others resonated with me.

Growing up, my mother either sewed my clothes or bought most of them at thrift stores. But I distinctly remember the first time she bought me a brand-new dress. I was 12 years old, and the dress featured a red plaid skirt with an attached white, ribbed long-sleeved top with a jean jacket vest. Looking in the mirror, I had never felt more beautiful.

But I realized, once I had worn the brand new dress, it was no different from the outfits that were pieced together from thrift and consignment stores. Initially, I wanted to wear that “new with tags” outfit every day because I knew it was new, but quickly I craved variety and realized I could never get it if I only ever bought my wardrobe brand new. 

I no longer felt ashamed of thrift store clothing. Instead, I viewed digging through the racks of those second-hand retailers as treasure hunts. 

Early on, my thrift store outfit combos might not have been exactly winners. I recall one vividly purple vest with layers of black fringe and wooden toggles for buttons. I think hidden away in some drawer is a picture of me wearing it, sitting on the living room floor, playing solitaire at the coffee table. It’s a photo that I hope remains lost to history.

But, those clothes made me feel good. I remember that distinctly. 

What I wore was unique, but not just for the sake of being unique. It was an expression of me. My mother or sister would ask: “Where will you ever wear that? How do you even wear that? Is that the top or bottom?” Or, “What in the world will that skirt even go with?” And there were times, I really didn’t even know. Didn’t even care.

I just knew I liked it and would find a way to make it work, even if it was years down the road. At $3.99, I could afford the wait.   

I still buy the vast majority of my clothes used. They’re just more interesting, and I still feel a thrill whenever I find something truly beautiful or unique to wear and it costs me less than a tank of gas.

Iris Apfel wrote that “if your hair is done properly and you’re wearing good shoes, you can get away with ANYTHING.” I’m not sure about getting away with ANYTHING, but being fearless in how you dress can make you fearless, or at least seem that way. Ultimately, it’s not about the clothes themselves, but how you feel when you wear them.  

17 Iris Apfel Quotes from Accidental Icon

1. “I never expect ANYTHING. I just feel things in my gut and I do them. If something sounds exciting and interesting, I do it—and then I worry about it later.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

2. Doing new things takes a lot of energy and strength. It’s very tiring to make things happen, to learn how to master a skill, to push fears aside. Most people would rather just go with the flow; it’s much easier. But it’s not very interesting. And as I always say, “You have to be INTERESTED to be interesting.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

3. “You don’t find out who you are unless you work at it.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

Accidental icon iris apfel quotes

4. “I don’t dress to be stared at; I dress for myself. When you don’t dress like everyone else, you don’t have to think like everyone else.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

5. “It’s not what you wear but HOW YOU WEAR IT.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

6. “I haven’t done everything properly. No one has or does. While I may have a few REGRETS, I don’t dwell on them. If I did, I’d be in a booby hatch. If your hair is done properly and you’re wearing good shoes, you can get away with ANYTHING.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

7. “I never think about my age. Maybe that’s the ticket. I never think about it—it’s a passing thought. It’s just a number.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

8. “You only have one trip, and the present is all you’ve got…There is definitely no road map. Embrace its glamour. Enjoy its mystery. Be open to the unexpected. Stop asking why. And remember that…in wonder it ends…” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

9. “Red lipstick is minimal in its simplicity and elegance, but maximal in its impact, power, and glamour. If Minimal and Maximal had a baby, it would be the perfect red lipstick.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

10. “Whatever happened to the cultivation of an inner self? It’s painful and it’s work, but it always pays off.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

11. “Traveling makes life rich. And I like a good adventure.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

12. “If you’re happy, have found love, are surrounded by good people, doing what you like, and giving back to others, that’s SUCCESS. Selling your soul for a buck is not worth the real price you pay—not to me, anyway.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

13. “People are not getting dressed anymore. Everybody looks like a mess, like they’re on their way to a shower bath or who knows where.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

14. “When style and good manners go away, the whole culture seems to disintegrate. Good hair and shoes count for a lot, but they don’t give you license for a sartorial free-for-all in between.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

15. “CREATIVITY IS A great emotional release; it keeps you happy and healthy. You don’t have to be an artist to be a creator, because creativity comes in a lot of forms like cooking or keeping a house or dressing well. What you need is imagination to make things up for yourself.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

16. “The greatest luxury is peace of mind.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

17. “If an experience was wonderful, don’t try to recreate it. It will never be as beautiful as it was the first time.” Iris Apfel, Accidental Icon

Accidental icon iris apfel quotes

Enjoyed these Iris Apfel quotes? Be sure to check out: 25 Inspiring Julia Child Quotes from ‘My Life In France’: on Food, France, Writing, & Life (With Page Numbers)

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