Iris Apfel — Fashion Icon

So this is wild, in a major way. I am currently sitting in the train on my to work, cutting it close to my deadline writing for the Sewcialists. When they asked through an Instagram post who would like to write about a fashion icon, I volunteered right away. The first person who sprung to mind was Iris Apfel. When I was in my early 20’s and living in Aruba, I would get the American version of Vogue Magazine every single month.

Iris Apfel for Dazed

It was within these pages I first learned about her. Young me, wearing a uniform to school or work everyday, was instantly mesmerized by this woman’s attitude towards fashion and life. Everything she wore and said taught me she had zero interest in adjusting herself to suit other people’s opinions.

These days I live in Belgium and one of the best expressions used here is “je m’en fous.” It’s French for “I don’t care,” in a less teenage way. This past year I have been trying to adapt more of this Je m’en fous-ism into my life. I want to kind of worry less and less about what people might think of the way I look or the way I am.

I am a pretty straight forward person and when it comes to the way I look…. My heritage is so mixed you can’t really tell where I’m from. I am tall, chubby and have dark short curly hair and very dark eyes. Walking around in a European city as me attracts attention all the time.

So it was very liberating to draw inspiration from Iris.  I first thought about which direction to steer towards. It could go so many ways. Wearing all the accessories? Putting on a Jacquard caftan covered with a bright bird print? Putting on large dark rimmed glasses?       Refinery 29 3
Iris Apfel for                     Quotes by Iris Apfel via Refinery 29

Not that fast, Melissa. Iris does whatever she wants and specifically doesn’t follow the rules. And I already have a knack for “forgetting” the rules… Now to choose which rule I wanted to break. I have started wearing color more but I had never worn a red outfit. Never even a red dress or red top. Just the one pair of red Chucks I had worn out.
I went to my emergency sewing stash, noticed nothing red in it, and since it was a Sunday, set out to the nearest flea market. They have really good ones around here and man did I get lucky! I found a few different fabrics (read: sheets) and went to work.

I did not have much time at all, so I reached for my tried and true patterns. First up was the top by Paper Theory, and the other was trousers by Named Clothing. As an aside: it might be a bit surprising, or not, but I have only ever sewn Indie patterns. As an artist, I really appreciate the grind one goes through to set up a creative business and to put oneself out there. I also just really love and enjoy the images created with their patterns and the diversity of bodies and backgrounds that they let me see. They make me feel like I can sew this thing. Like it was meant for me too!

Oggi Moda Italia
Iris Apfel for Oggi Moda Italia

Today I wore an all-red outfit, all day long. Bringing a back-up dress did cross my mind, but I decided to just go for it. I had full day of work at a doctor’s office, went to dinner at a friends’ house, and ran an errand after. Right now I am waiting for the train to take me home. A little tipsy and tired. But wearing this color was like having an extra energy boost. I felt beautiful, unique and proud to wear whatever I wanted. It felt empowering to practice and preach some Iris Apfel Je m’en fous-ism, and it felt the best ever(rrrr!!!) knowing I can make myself this outfit.  I have the ability to make my own clothes and can decide what I look like. And really, who cares? Who cares if I look silly or weird or whatever, I am having FUN trying out all of these things and I have a blast not caring about others’ opinions of that for once.

Want to learn more about this Iris? I highly recommend watching this documentary film about her. You can watch it on Netflix!

In what way would you embody Iris? Please comment below, I would love to hear  from and learn about you.

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Top pattern: Kabuki Tee by @papertheory
Pant pattern: Alexandria peg trousers by @Named