At age 84, Iris Apfel had the distinction of being the first living person whose clothing was exhibited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s renowned Costume Institute. Ever since I stumbled upon the show Rara Avis: Selections from the Iris Apfel Collection at the Met in 2005, I became an ardent fan of Apfel. Walking through the galleries, I was captivated by her highly original way of mixing high-low fashion, as well as her knack for building an outfit with the depth, complexity and wit of an accomplished visual artist.
I bought the accompanying book and kept Apfel on my radar—and so did the media. There were the various sightings and snapshots by the late Bill Cunningham, a 2015 Emmy-nominated documentary by the late Albert Maysles, a costume jewelry line sold on the Home Shopping Network and a partnership with MAC Cosmetics. But it was the most recent addition to the Apfel canon, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon—Musings of a Geriatric Starlet (HarperDesign) that made me understand her place in the tapestry (pun intended!) of Jewish history.