It was hard to get a good look at Tavi Gevinson and Iris Apfel through the hoard of admirers that swarmed them after their talk at The Met.
Photo: Maud Deitch
"Personal style is curiosity about yourself," was the motto at Sunday's "Good Taste/Bad Taste: The Evolution of Contemporary Chic" discussion at the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Fashion icon Iris Apfel was the first to use the quote, but once it had been said it was like the other participants, Rookie Mag's Tavi Gevinson and The New Yorker's Judith Thurman, couldn't help but keep coming back to it. It was fascinating to watch these two women- the 16 year old website editor and the 90 year old style star- going back and forth about what it means to be stylish, what it means to put together an outfit, and what the roll of clothing can and should play in a woman's life. While Tavi likens good fashion to good performance art, Iris insists that clothing should fit well, be practical, and not create too many barriers between a person and the world. Apfel was insistent that "clothing shouldn't be the most important part of your life," and both women admitted that when they're at home working, they change into more comfy garb. "The second I get home from school at 3 PM I put on Pajamas," Tavi said, and laughed, maybe a little bashful. Apfel agreed, saying that she can only work when she's in blue jeans.
Oh, of course, what am I thinking- the clothes. While we tried to push our way through the scrum of bloggers, editors, and fashion fans pushing towards the stage after the talk, we couldn't get close enough to ask Tavi and Iris what exactly they were wearing, but let us say, they both looked FABULOUS. Tavi had her blonde hair pulled back in a sock-hop appropriate high pony, with offset the buttoned up primness of her collared shirt, which was buttoned all the way up. We think the print on the shirt was of buildings, but can't be totally sure. Her skirt, white with black lips printed all over it, matched her dramatic black lip to a T. Iris, meanwhile, had on her signature glasses, a pewter embellished jacket dripping in turquoise accessories, matching turquoise driving shoes and the most amazing furry stole/bag we have ever seen. We really did just think it was some kind of scarf thing until we saw Apfel unzip the top of it and take out her lipstick. We died. DIED. Seriously, this post is being written by a ghost because we were killed by an accessory yesterday afternoon.
Besides being slayed by Iris Apfel, she also told a story that we knew immediately we had to share with you. She had just been asked when she discovered her personal style, and after making the crowd erupt in laughter by saying that she didn't- it always came naturally to her- she said that she had never been a sartorial rebel, she had just always been willing and curious to explore her fashion fantasies. This balance of fantasy and convention is key, Apfel said, as a little bit of fantasy, expressed through clothing, can completely transport an outfit (see also: Never Ending Story fur bag/stole, again). This can be through outrageous accoutrements, of course, but it can also be something as simple as a pair of blue jeans. Back in the 1940's, when Iris had just transferred from NYU to The University of Wisconsin, she got the crazy idea to buy a pair of jeans. "I had this vision," Apfel said, "of a gingham turban, big hoop earrings and a nice shirt, worn with a pair of jeans." At that point, however, the only people who wore jeans were, apparently, "Paul Bunyan and some lumberjacks," so for awhile it seemed an impossible dream. Finding the local army navy store, however, Apfel found what she was looking for. The only catch, though, was that there was no way any of the jeans she found would fit.
After begging the store clerks to cut down a pair for her, Apfel was kicked out of the store. "I'm like a dog with a bone," she says, however, and so she kept going back. She ended up going back so many times that finally the store's owner ordered her a pair of boys jeans. "They fit perfectly, and the outfit was wonderful," Apfel said with a proud smile. The audience clapped. So there you have it- dedication and perseverance are key to fashion success (we would definitely agree with that), and you should never be afraid to try new things. We're looking forward to seeing where Tavi evolves from here, as the precocious teen is clearly just at the beginning of her own fashion journey.