Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Good Taste/Bad Taste - Iris & Tavi Chew the Fat

We attended a "Sunday at the Met" event at the Metropolitan Museum called Good Taste/Bad Taste - The Evolution of Contemporary Chic featuring a panel with nonagenarian fashion icon Iris Apfel and teen blogger and online magazine impresario (empressario?) Tavi Gevinson, moderated by Judith Thurman of The New Yorker.  We've liberally sprinkled a selection of their comments throughout this posting.

Although Jean can sometimes seem to be pathologically late for events such as this, given the right bait, she can show up early, as was the case last week. We engaged in our usual museum hijinks, albeit in more subtle fashion than usual. Valerie did her best Egyptian goddess imitation (although you'll notice she has her sun disc on at quite the wrong angle) while we killed time waiting for the doors to the auditorium to open. We made friends with the ladies in line around us, some of whose photos appear below.

The event was planned in conjunction with the Met's current Costume Exhibition:  Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversation (about which we posted on June 10th.) 


As we waited for the doors to open, we spied a fabulous Couple of a Certain Age, Joanna Mastroianni and Gideon Lewin. She looked fabulous in spite of her crutches, and handled them with aplomb.

We have to show you the bracelets she made herself. And that's a vintage Fendi bag under them, she said.

By the time the program began, the auditorium was about almost full.


Judith Thurman of The New Yorker served as moderator and devil's advocate, raising issues and drawing both ladies into a dialogue. Last week, when we reported on the Schiaparelli / Prada show, we included a link to a New Yorker article, Radical Chic: Schiaparelli, Prada, and clothes on the cutting edge, little realizing that only a week later we would see the author, Judith Thurman, on stage at the Metropolitan moderating this program. For those of you who missed it the first time, in the link above is another bite at the apple. Enjoy! (We did!)  


Iris Apfel wore a leather coat, mongolian lamb fur bag, turquoise beads and jeans and commented on the relatively cool temperature that day, saying the Gods smiled on her. (We had been expecting far higher temperatures.) She dresses according to her whim and appears to be oblivious to the season. (It was mid-June.) Iris was in rare form, full of hilarious sound bites, and it's hard to say, without knowing Iris personally, whether it's just that she's had more time to think about the subject, has had more practice at working her audience, or simply takes her fashion more lightly. 

Here are some bons mots from Iris:

On dressing: “I do everything in a gigantic rush.” [When I put an outfit together, I think]“this might go with that.”

I’m the world’s oldest living teenager.” (an expression she credits Dick Clark with originating)

On packing a wardobe too far in advance:

“That’s always a drag. You don’t know how you’re going to feel when you get there.” (Notice she's not considering weather, or the kind of event - only how she might feel.)

“When the fun goes out of it [dressing], you might as well be dead.”


Albert Maysles is making a documentary on Iris Apfel. We wondered if he might have been the gentleman seated in the front row, with a carefully balanced camera enthroned on a large pillow on his lap who was photographing Iris before the program began.

Some more Irisisms:

“The fashion police aren’t going to come and take you away, and if they do you might have some fun in jail.”

"The first object is that it’s practical. I see no [reason] to pay a fortune and wind up looking like a freak. I can look ugly on my own and it won’t cost me a penny.”

And to the suggestion that the Metropolitan Museum of Art do an exhibition featuring older women’s fashions: “I think that would be a very healing show”, for which she received a huge round of applause.

Tavi wore one of Prada's white pleated skirts emblazoned with black lips from the 2000 collection and topped it with a 1970's shirt printed with pictures of Italian churches. The red and black Prada skirt is featured in the show. Tavi brought its twin along in her suitcase her as backup. She was very serious and measured in what she said, giving everything consideration before speaking, and doing her best to articulate her personal philosophies on dressing. Tavi differs from Iris not only in age, but also in the kind of look she is trying to achieve, so her remarks and her focus were quite different from Iris'.

On her earlier style: [It was about]“trying to make a really bleak day in middle school more interesting.”

On holding to your principles when uncomprehending friends make remarks: “You have to have a kind of force field around you.”

On Prada: “Prada clothes exist in a vacuum outside cultural references.”

On the interaction that takes place between her clothes and her personality: “I don’t really care about looking attractive.” and [I wear these clothes to] “escape who I am”, but "You eventually come back to yourself.”

And, intriguingly for someone who writes about fashion: “I get into pajamas the second I get home.”


After the talk, the film crew gets close-ups during an informal Q&A session.

We both found it fascinating that all 3 of the panelists said they didn't dress at home. As noted, Tavi said she changed into PJs as soon as she got home from school; Iris said she can't work when she's dressed up; and Judith said she works at home and wears pajamas or yoga clothes. What's up with that? What about us poor working schlubs who actually have to work while wearing our good clothes who don't have wardrobes just for public appearances?

When Iris extolled the virtues of a good bathrobe, Judith stopped for a moment and asked "who was that gangster who wore the bathrobe?" We both exchanged knowing glances and Valerie piped up  "Vincent Gigante". We posted a blog early on about men's bathrobes and dressing gowns in which we talked about "Vinny the Chin Gigante" who used to wear his bathrobe and wandered around in Jean's old neighborhood on Sullivan Street. The feds thought it was a ploy to bolster his insanity defense. At the conclusion of the panel, audience members were invited to come to the edge of the stage to talk to the three panelists. Ari Seth Cohen saw his opening and took it, moving in to take photographs.


Debra Rapoport (right) and friends.

Elke showed us her souvenier from her recent trip to Japan - a wonderful, bright red confetti-like Nuno scarf.


Ellen Cohn (holding our card) and Priya, a designer.

Artist Carole Anne Randall appears in Advanced Style. Her business card is one of her small original paintings.  Jean loved her vintage Romeo Gigli coat.


Designer Carin Goldberg hung out with us in line. She stopped with her husband and son Julian for a photo after the event and was kind enough to take the picture of us at the top of our blog.


All ages were represented in the audience. Here's a part of the youth contingent.


The audience was almost exclusively female and ranged in age. This young lovely with the interesting tattoos was in the younger portion of the age spectrum.

After the event, we headed to one of our favorite East Side haunts for a grilled cheese sandwich on whole wheat toast (Jean) and a BLT with extra crispy bacon (Valerie).


  1. With "extra" crispy bacon, or extra "crispy" bacon? I always get double bacon on my BLT plus a generous swipe of avocado; the good fat balances out the bad fat, yes?
    Again, another great and interesting post. At the age of 51 and my youngest recently graduated from High School your blog is fun, inspirational and falls in line with my own dressing philosophy which is: have fun and feel good!
    I thought Iris had gone to the great trunk-show in the sky, but I'm thinking of another stylish dame who passed away at a fashion show in the not too distant past.

  2. Hi, Red. Are you thinking of Zelda Kaplan who died in the front row of Joanna Mastroianni's runway show during NYC Fashion Week (2/15/12)? Zelda and Iris ARE inextricably linked: Zelda had inked a MAC cosmetics contract but due to her untimely death at age 95, Iris Apfel (at age 90) was selected as her replacement.

  3. I love intergenerational energy, so this was so much fun to read, along with viewing your photos. I had to laugh out loud at the two of you knowing the gangster/bathrobe detail.

  4. Do you not consider your fellow work mates and business clientele an audience as well? I'm sure they appreciate your clothes too. Or if they don't they will surely appreciate you making an effort for them.

    You've earlier posted something about Valerie's workplace, making this very point.

    I'll bet you have lifted the dress standard for where you work for women if not for the men too.

    What do you wear both at home? Do tell please.