The nonagenarian fashion icon is cleaning out her closet to sell personal items at an eponymous pop-up shop at Bergdorf Goodman.
At the age of 96, style icon Iris Apfel has concluded that the best way to organize her legendary fashion and jewelry collection is, basically, to not organize it. Apfel, who has homes on Park Avenueand in Palm Beach, says that she simply hangs her clothing in various closets and tries to “keep everything clean and tidy as we go along. Being clean and being organized are different things.”
Apfel, despite declaring herself “the antithesis of an organized housewife,” does seem to follow a few basic constants: She divides her clothing by occasion, maintaining separate closets for formalwear, cocktail and dressy wear, and more casual outfits (she’s a big fan of tights, jeans and “big, old sweaters” when she works). Her sweaters are all kept together, while her jewelry is stored in special bins. And she does rotate some pieces by season.
When it comes to cleaning out her closets, Apfel says she has “no tricks. I just use common sense, which is no longer very common.” Thus, she donates clothing to thrift shops, schools, and, in particular, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, to which she has bequeathed hundreds of items of clothing as well as accessories. (The collection was originally featured in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2005 show, Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel, before moving onto the Salem museum, which Apfel selected due to liking the staff.)
What may come as a surprise for a woman her age: Apfel doesn’t get any professional help maintaining her wardrobe, though she respects others who do. “My system is organized for me; it’s not as bad as I make it out to be. I joke about it,” she says.
One reason Apfel recently cleaned out her closets is to sell some items at Bergdorf Goodman: Through March 27, the department store will have an Iris Apfel pop-up shop on its third floor, offering both exclusive merchandise—created in collaboration among Bergdorf Goodman, Apfel and designers like Naeem Khan and Alain Mikli—as well as Apfel’s personal items pulled straight from her own wardrobe, including an embroidered Chinese silk robe; Lucite, Bakelite, and Berber jewelry; and a bejeweled owl pendant necklace, of her own design.
As of March 15, Bergdorf Goodman’s Fifth Avenue windows will pay homage to Apfel’s legacy, featuring clothing and accessories she has donated to the Peabody Essex Museum. They and the pop-up shop are also celebrating Apfel’s newly published book, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon, which contains maxims, anecdotes, personal photographs, Disney cartoons, and vintage postcards, among many colorful visuals.