Reader Inspired Style: Creative and Fun with a touch of Iris Apfel

Pamela Lutrell models creative style

Few of us dress like Iris Apfel, the queen of creative fashion styling over 50. I believe she is someone who looks in the mirror before she leaves the house and adds another accessory, rather than to remove one as Coco Chanel suggested.    Yet, when I saw our reader, Susan B’s, style adjectives I thought of Iris.  Susan wants to communicate that she is confident, comfortable, creative, chic and fun. 

Pamela Lutrell emulates Iris Apfel

But, yesterday, it was a lot easier to walk into my closet and find Audrey Hepburn than it was to find Iris, for purposes of illustration. I tried to take things and put them together in such a way as Iris might to show you that sometimes creative, fun styling can work together well…or at least I think it does.  There are different patterns here, but everything is in the same color family.  I would love to have a red necklace of big beads that Iris is famous for wearing.  I am not entirely pleased with the necklace here and before I wore this out, I would probably play with the accessories longer.  I also could have piled on the bracelets as Iris does.

Pamela Lutrell in Natori top

I wanted you to see all of the different colors in this top.  Because of the brown and black in it, I can wear this brown jacket and black pants and it all seems to work.  But you see red, purple, a little orange…I know there is a lot going on.  But, one of the reasons I wanted to show this, is because louder, artistic, creative prints will be on trend this year and there is much more to come in the stores.  For me, I like to wear prints…especially artistic ones.

Pamela Lutrell's Iris Apfel inspired styling


In Iris’s Own Words

I love to read Iris Apfel’s interviews or watch her being interviewed.  I always learn so much.  In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, Iris said: 

“Do you think our attitude about age has changed? Not fast enough. Designers have completely ignored the over-65-year-old market. We have plenty of time and expendable income, and we can’t find anything to buy, because everything is designed for 15-year-olds. I mean, the youth market has to be served, but not with $5,000 dresses.

You’re celebrated by designers for your eccentric style, but many of those same people tend to dress in low-profile ways. Why do you think that is? I mean, lots of people pay lip service to it, but they won’t wear it. They’re afraid. You gotta know yourself very well, and you have to be honest with what you can pull off. If you’re not comfortable with it, no matter how marvelous the outfit is, you’re gonna look like a jerk, because you’re gonna be so uncomfortable. I think, given a choice, it’s better to be unstylish but happy.”

Then on, she offered this advice:

  1. First and foremost, know thyself.
    “If you know who you are, and what you can carry off, and what you’re going to be comfortable with, you do it. Go for it. Don’t be afraid. The fashion police won’t haul you off if you’re doing something that doesn’t turn out so well.But if you’re happy with it and it’s not totally freaky, just do it.”
  2. Go with your gut, and be open to new and different things.
    “Everything with me is very, how shall I say, visceral. I look at things, even if I don’t know much about them, and if I like them, I learn about them later. I like things that speak to me.I don’t have to know everything about it before I [wear] it—I think that makes things a little bit uptight. I’m always open to something new.”
  3. Pick pieces that excite you.
    “People have told me how much happier they feel having pieces to express themselves. Clothing and how you dress can be a creative form of self-expression. I’m not a person who lives by plan. It takes time and it takes effort and experimentation; it doesn’t come all at once. You really have to do it yourself, because everybody’s style is individual. That’s what makes it style. You have to live with yourself and go to bed with yourself every night.And you have to do things that you feel comfortable with. If you want to please everybody, you’ll end up pleasing nobody.”

Over 50 Feeling 40 in artistic prints

This outfit definitely needs some “tweaking” but it is worth it to me to keep working with it.  I am going to be experimenting with some artistic prints, just because I really like the looks.  I will let you know how it turns out. (I think I just realized it needs some bling, something shiny!  Oh, yeah!)

For more inspiration, watch last week’s episode of Project Runway Here...they were to design a look with artistic prints (maybe a couple were a little in appropriate!) but that is what tipped me off about the trend, so I did some research…and we will see more.  So, what do you think about wearing loud artistic prints…are you in or out?

Now, let’s look for ways to inspire Susan

As I said, Susan wants to communicate that she is confident, comfortable, creative, chic and fun.   Pretty much what I like as well.  So, here is a slideshow for Susan and women like her!  Thanks for participating.


By Pamela Lutrell


  1. Prints/patterns are pretty much out for me. I’ve read that leopard is a neutral, but it is a print to me. I wear it in small doses because I feel it draws attention. I do not like the feeling of being looked at and criticized. So my closet is basically solid clothing, with prints coming from a scarf I might throw on. Boring, but comfortable for me.

  2. Pam, I think the outfit is off to a great start! I like brown & black together too! With this very pretty colorful scarf, I might choose a navy or even white blazer/topper to let that scarf and red necklace showcase even more! I like the look of shiny finish gold jewelry next to bright colors! Reminds me of sunshine! ??

  3. Thanks Betty! I love to play with fashion like this…it’s fun. I will let everyone know when I hit that perfect Iris balance!

  4. Loud prints are out for me. I will admire them on a mannequin. I might even try a beautiful top on. As a quiet, fair, petite woman I feel like me in ombe, tonal or soft watercolor-y prints.

  5. I have a red coral necklace very similar to yours. I wear it at least once a week and always travel with it and pearls. Wearing solids or prints with that necklace adds interest to a solid color and then can also tone down a jacket or printed blouse. I often wear a statement necklace that draws interest and, surprisingly, actually makes a print seem toned down and more classic. Multi strands of pearls or beads all the SAME size and color are a great way to look stylish and sophisticated. Necklaces of various colors of beads and sizes don’t have the same effect and I less frequently wear them and only with solids. I love Iris Apfel too!

  6. While her style is what feels like completely opposite to mine, I agree with her comment about “know thyself.” This is very important. I don’t want to copy anyone, per se, but take a look and make it my own. I just don’t care for her style, but see where it is fun and true to someone else. I’m glad that as women, we are different from each other, and we need to respect that regardless of our own personal style. I’m noticing that in these groups of style adjectives, a lot of ladies are going with ‘comfortable.’ It’s interesting because I think we all want that, regardless of our style. For me, comfortable comes not only in fabrics and styles, but in how I feel in something. Confidence. To me, confidence is being comfortable with who we are and how we present ourselves.

  7. I absolutely agree with Karen Anderson. I can admire someone else’s style even if it is different from mine. There is a lady that goes to my church that always looks fabulous. I would feel like I was wearing a costume if I dressed as she does, but it totally suits her. It all comes down to knowing yourself.

  8. I get a kick out of Iris. She is witty and entertaining. I like her accessories and clothing but not on me. I do not like to be the center of attention. It takes a certain person to pull off her style.

  9. I often enjoy being the center of attention, but I don’t care for Iris’s style in general. I think true creativity for me comes in curating and displaying single or small groupings of really special accessories (often made by me!). As in, I like each of Iris’s bangles, but I would wear maybe 3 of them, not twenty. As for the artistic prints, I’m intrigued by them but likely will pass on most of them, as I wouldn’t get enough wear out of them with retirement looming. I’m dressing very simply and adding bold accessories instead of loud prints or unusual cuts and fabrics. It’s not just about who we are inside, it’s also about our lifestyles and any anticipated changes.

  10. Thank you, Pam for featuring my style objectives! ? Of course, I admire Iris, too. Saying she dresses outside the box is an understatement. I think the reason her style works for her is because she is confident in her choices. Just look at what fun she is having!
    Being painfully shy as a child and young adult, I dressed to fade into the background and was understandably ignored. But I loved clothes and how I felt dressing in things that were a bit unusual. I gradually got more comfortable wearing an unusual scarf, unusual jewelry or something with a bit different cut. It was a good way to start a conversation, as someone usually commented on what I was wearing. It really helped me to come out of my shell. Now that I’ve gained much more confidence, life is so much more fun and enjoyable!
    I love how you’ve mixed patterns and textures in your outfit today. I would so wear this, but like you said, add some bling. I’d add a gold necklace and a few gold bracelets. I love the bold splashes of color in the scarf with the more subtle top. This would be a great start to a travel capsule as all the pieces could be split up and worn in different combinations. I think the secret is that the tone is the same. There’s a lot going on, but I works!
    Love the slide show, too, especially the bold striped tunic and the flowy toppers!

  11. Thanks for sharing this, Susan. I am sure your story is one others have experienced. It is always good to hear a little bit of background. You have a good eye to see a travel capsule in an outfit! Thanks for being here and sharing your adjectives with us.

  12. I love the idea of loud artist prints however for myself, they will be minimal. As for Iris Apfel I feel she is not so much eccentric as she is flamboyant and admire her for being true to her herself. -Brenda-

  13. Lot’s of great comments here! I think most of us love Iris, but few of us would feel comfortable dressing as she does. That’s why knowing our own style is so important and choosing our style adjectives has been such a good exercise. I understand what you’re trying to do with your outfit, Pam, but like you, I don’t think it quite works. I find the red necklace particularly jarring and I’d like to be able to see more of the beautiful patterned top.

  14. Suggest the term painterly rather han artistic which scares some people. Love IRIs AND HeR STYLE. bUT NOT necessarily on me. “know yourself is so true>

  15. Yes it is Susan! I will need to think about the word painterly…have not considered using it before…thanks for the suggestion.

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