What does it mean to be chic in the 21st century? This was my first time attending one of these "conversations" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. The place was pretty crowded considering it was Father's Day and as gorgeous as heck outside. The crowd was very mixed of all ages, which shows the depth these 2 style icons display, at ages 90 and 16 respectively.
For those who need a little history of these two, in a brief summary:
Tavi Gevinson: American fashion blogger who rose to "fame" at age 13 with the blog "The Style Rookie" being invited to New York Fashion Week as a special guest. At age 15 she founded "Rookie Magazine".
Iris Apfel: born August 29, 1921. Ran a textile firm with her husband, Carl, Old World Weavers from 1948 to 1992. Interior designer, fashion icon to all ages and leading lady of style.
The way these two were connected is quite interesting. Iris was 16 (Tavi's age now) when Schiaparelli designed some of her best work, such as the famous lobster dress.
Both of these ladies transcend time with their style. The first question was how they put themselves together today for the event. What does personal style mean? Tavi said "it really is about how I feel that day. " Tavi showed so much poise and maturity for a girl of 16, I am sure with her father (and mother) sitting in the audience, it made them very proud. “What’s sad to me is when fashion can become a source of stress. The idea of it ever becoming something that is stressful or a burden is terrifying to me,” she said. “It can be a really nice outlet.” Iris, was quite a dynamo at the young age of 90. "There are no rules or regulations. You should pursue your own fancy". “I think the really important thing is to not give a damn about what anyone else thinks,” she quipped. “If someone else didn’t like how I put myself together, it was their problem, not mine.” "You should relax and have fun with fashion".
The conversation then turned to Prada & Schiaparelli themselves. The moderator, Judith Thurman, called them the mothers of surrealist fashion and the ugly/beautiful aesthetic that is the hallmark of so many fashion houses today. Tavi spoke about Prada’s point of view versus the points of view of other designers. “So many of Prada’s clothes feel like they exist in a vacuum that’s sort of outside of cultural references,” . “So many of her ideas are just very basically about human nature, and that’s interesting to me, too…She’s interested in the back because that’s a part where a person is sort of like an animal, or she talks about power, and I guess very much the way things feel.”
The next discussion was about whether there is revelance of taste good or bad. Tavi stated "It is irrivelant, as what appeals to someone, may not to another, everyone is different". "A sense of humor about style is needed, and you should be too busy to not care what people are thinking if they feel you are dressed in bad taste". Iris stated there is so much more freedom now for young people. There were no "vintage" shops in her day. Personal style is not easy to find. Iris said her nephew told her that morning a great quote, she wasn't sure where it came from, "Personal style is a curiosity about one's self". "You cannot be trendy and have personal style". " I do not live to be trendy." Iris was one of the first women to wear jeans in the 1940's in Wisconsin and had to purchase them from the local Army and Navy store!! "Personal style is a way to create your own fantasty", Tavi stated. Fantasy is powerful, so try little bits at a time instead of all at once.
They were asked who their favorite designers were and Tavi stated Meadham Kirchoff, Rodarte, Creatures of the Wind, and Prada. Iris mentioned Ralph Rucci "I wish I could afford to wear more of his clothes" & Dries Van Noten who once said he doesn't have a specific woman in mind because that would be too limiting. And because she is an avowed accessory "nut", she prefers architectural clothes with "good lines and good fabric" "I keep and wear my things for years. I am very loyal to my clothes".
The topic of “mutant fashion” came up — clothing that essentially changes the shape of the body — and the “mad scientists of couture” such as McQueen and Martin Margiela, Apfel had no problem saying exactly how she felt. “Schiaperelli worked on clothes, she worked on a woman’s body. I think some of these other things are absolutely insane,” she said. ”I see no sense to pay a fortune and end up looking like a freak…Basically, no matter how far out you want to be I think a woman still wants to look attractive.” She then added, “I can look ugly on my own and it won’t cost me a penny!”
Tavi said she is in her pj's by 3pm after school at home and Iris loves wearing jeans around the house. It sounds like they both have a fondness for comfort when being at home which we all can relate to.
Good fashion is good performance art. You assume a persona depending on the outfit you choose. Tavi stated " it is a way to escape who I am".
The subject then turned to feminism and beauty. Tavi stated feminism is about freedom, She stated their is more freedom in fashion than in beauty. Iris talked about how it is very hard as you age due to the make-up ads showing all young people. Someone over a certain age cannot look like those models. Iris did touch on the new ads with Ellen DeGeneres and Diane Keaton, showing how beautiful women of any age can be. There should be more of those in the industry.
A wonderful thought mentioned was women should be dressing to be desirable to one's self.
The last question was "What type of show would you like to see at the Met?" "How would you curate a show here"? Ageism is a terrible thing. Tavi stated she and Iris were fans of the "Advanced Style" blog and now book by Ari Seth Cohen and would like to see something of that theme. Iris also stated it would be great to show fashion as healing. At the end, the audience was allowed to come to the stage and ask questions of these lovely ladies, and many of them took the fabulous opportunity.
What I took away from this amazing conversation is that you have to be your own person. You cannot worry about what others think, you have to be original. You cannot be afraid of doing what you feel will make you happy. If you want to paint your fingernails all different colors, do so. If you want to wear 2 different shoes, (Schiaparelli did this), go right ahead. I think you can apply this to everyday life as well as fashion. If you pursue your passions, you will be a content person.
I would like to thank Tavi, Iris and the Met for this confidence building event. They are hoping to have the talk on video on their website, so be on the lookout when you are visiting the site.
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