Iris Apfel, Eye-Catcher With a Kaleidoscopic Wardrobe, Dies at 102

Iris Apfel, a New York society matron and interior designer who late in life knocked the socks off the straight fashion world with a brash bohemian style that mixed hippie vintage and haute couture, found treasures in flea markets and reveled in contradictions, died on Friday in her home in Palm Beach, Fla. She was 102.

Stu Loeser, a spokesman for her estate, confirmed her death.

Calling herself a “geriatric starlet,” Ms. Apfel in her 80s and 90s set trends with clamorous, irreverent ensembles: a boxy, multicolored Bill Blass jacket with tinted Hopi dancing skirt and hairy goatskin boots; a fluffy evening coat of red and green rooster feathers with suede pants slashed to the knees; a rose angora sweater set and 19th-century Chinese brocade panel skirt.

Her willfully disjunctive accessories might be a jeweled mask or a necklace of jade beads swinging to the knees, a tin handbag shaped like a terrier, furry scarves wrapped around her neck like a pile of pythons and, nearly always, her signature armloads of bangles and owlish spectacles, big as saucers.

She was tallish and thin, with a short crop of silver hair and scarlet gashes on lips and fingernails, a little old lady among the models at Fashion Week and an authentic Noo Yawk haggler at a shop in Harlem or a souk in Tunisia. Many called her gaudy, kooky, bizarre, even vulgar in get-ups like a cape of gold-tipped duck feathers and thigh-high fuchsia satin Yves Saint Laurent boots.

But she had a point.

“When you don’t dress like everybody else, you don’t have to think like everybody else,” Ms. Apfel told Ruth La Ferla of The New York Times in 2011 as she was about to go on national television, selling scarves, bangles and beads of her own design on the Home Shopping Network.

Some of the outfits from Ms. Apfel’s wardrobe on display at the Museum of Modern Art in 2005.Credit…Bill Cunningham/The New York Times
The Met exhibition “Rara Avis: Selections From the Iris Apfel Collection” was a hit.Credit…Bill Cunningham/The New York Times

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