Iris Apfel became world famous for her vivid, colourful dress sense and trademark oversized glasses. A successful businesswoman in the textiles and interior design sector who served the White House for over nine presidencies, Iris was well known for being outspoken, her daring style and embarking on a modelling career at 97 years old. Becky Hunter-Kelm shares how Iris’s attitude has encouraged her.


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When Iris passed away at her home in Florida on 1 March 2024, at the age of 102, the world paid tribute to her creativity, devotion to living with passion, and authenticity. Her code for life was to be yourself, think about others, and live with passion—which Apfel undoubtedly did until the day she died.

She is quoted as saying, ‘Clothes are not frippery. Properly done, they can be an art form.’ I love clothes and style, and Iris is right - clothes can be an art form we can enjoy and use to express ourselves.

For me, wanting to buy more clothes than I need or to look a certain way can sometimes be because I want to be liked or accepted. But God already completely loves us and accepts us as his daughters. We are all made in God’s image - Iris included. This is why creativity is inherent to who we are as human beings. Iris, using clothes as an art form, can remind us that we can express our creativity through clothes to honour our creator.

Iris, using clothes as an art form, can remind us that we can express our creativity through clothes to honour our creator.

Iris said: ‘You can’t try to be somebody you’re not; that’s not style. If someone says, ‘Buy this - you’ll be stylish,’ you won’t be stylish because you won’t be you. You have to learn who you are first, and that’s painful.’

I love that she wasn’t afraid to be exactly who God made her to be. What a great reminder that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made by Him. It’s so easy to follow the crowd with how we dress, so I love that Iris points us away from that. By first and foremost knowing that we’re deeply loved as daughters of God, we can be free to dress how we want in a way that honours God instead of following trends or trying to be just like everybody else!

She said: ‘Being an individual takes effort. Most people are pretty lazy. And that’s OK! I mean, there are more important things than fashion. If it’s going to stress you out to have a sense of style, don’t do it. The important thing is to be comfortable so you can get on with your life.’

Iris has a great perspective here - she reminds us that it’s fine to throw on a pair of jeans and t-shirt most days because we have lives to live! Iris acknowledges that there are more important things in life than clothes. Yes, we can express ourselves through our style, but it shouldn’t consume our thinking, nor should it get in the way of serving God and doing what He has placed us on earth to do.

We only have to open our Instagram feeds or look at the magazine shelf in the newsagent to see how obsessed the world is with youth - and staying young. I love that Iris embraced aging - she didn’t succumb to the pressure of the 62 billion U.S. dollar global anti-aging industry. In fact, Iris acknowledged ageing but didn’t let it stop her from dressing how she wanted and living life to the full.

She said: ‘Coco Chanel once said that what makes a woman look old is trying desperately to look young. Why should one be ashamed to be 84? Why do you have to say that you’re 52? Nobody’s going to believe you anyway, so why be such a fool? It’s nice that you got to be so old. It’s a blessing.’

Iris is right, ageing is a blessing, in fact the Bible honours ageing and unlike the world, God doesn’t suddenly rule us out when we start to get grey hair and wrinkles.

Finally, Iris is a beautiful reminder to us as Christian women, that we don’t ever ‘retire’ from serving him in whatever capacity he has called us: ‘Just because you get to a certain number doesn’t mean you have to roll up into a ball and wait for the Grim Reaper. We were put on this earth to do something! If you stop using your brain at any age, it is going to stop working. It’s like if you stop using your hand, it will atrophy. I think doing nothing is a curse’.

From what we know of Iris, she didn’t know Jesus as her Lord and saviour. I pray that everyone who knew her or was inspired by her colourful style and vivacious love for life will turn their hearts to the creator of all colour, all art, and all things, and with whom we can truly live life in all fullness.