Soon after flying into New York on Sunday, I headed to the Met for a talk featuring Iris Apfel – Good Taste/Bad Taste: The evolution of contemporary chic. This was very well attended, with Park Avenue matrons rubbing shoulders with minimally clad artists.
How does this woman do it? She is 90. She was recently the face of MAC lipstick. Her style has been the subject of an exhibition at the Costume Institute. She is certainly one of those women who inspire us to welcome the prospect of aging, gracefully, of course.
The talk also featured teenage blogger Tavi Gevinson. The discussion was wide-ranging and touched on how contemporary women experience fashion, beauty and style. Iris talked about how women have become fearful and desperate in their quest to look great. Some suffer from too much good taste and end up looking uptight (Kate Middleton was cited as one such character). At the other end of the spectrum are designers such as Prada, who made ugly cool, or Gaultier, with his 1993 collection of ‘rabbinic chic’, or Marc Jacobs with his grunge collection.
Personal style is curiosity about oneself, Iris quoted an unknown source. For Tavi, fashion is fantasy or building a force-field around oneself. Good fashion is good performance art. And yet, sadly, beauty has become a burdensome responsibility for a certain kind of woman, whereas style should be about freedom.
The old feminist debates endure (though Iris thinks most feminism was bunk). Perhaps the difference is that nowadays women pay for their own bondage.
Personal style is curiosity about oneself. I will hold on that.