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Legendary Fashion Icon Holds Court at Peabody Essex Museum
Iris Apfel ensembles. Photo: C J Walker Photography.
SALEM, MA.- Any woman who has ever worn a pair of jeans has Iris Apfel to thank.

In the 1940s, when only lumberjacks and field hands wore blue cotton denim, a persistent young girl hounded the owner of a Wisconsin Army & Navy store until he finally ordered her a pair of boy-sized denims.

Her intent: to wear them with a turban and large hoop earrings.

Such was an early milestone in the career of a fashion visionary and muse who quite possibly launched a trend in women’s fashion — jeans — that now represents a 10 billion dollar industry yearly in the U.S. alone.

And that was just the beginning. Inspired by the music of Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and other jazz musicians, Iris Apfel was already synthesizing high and low, classical and ethnic elements in her manner of dress and aesthetic outlook. The result is a life and career of remarkable creativity and verve proving that it’s not only what you wear, but how you wear it.

Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel will be on view at the Peabody Essex Museum October 17, 2009 through February 7, 2010 featuring more than 80 dramatic ensembles from the personal collection of legendary tastemaker and style icon Iris Apfel. Known for her eclectic permutations of designer clothing and exotic baubles, Apfel has inspired bold developments in the clothing and design industries through her spirited irreverence and pitch-perfect taste.

Now in her 88th year, she continues to challenge visual culture with radical juxtapositions of far-flung influences. These spectacular and unexpected wardrobe combinations are exhibited with inventive staging and playful displays that underscore Apfel’s inexhaustible creative spirit.

“Not only does Iris Apfel possess a finely-tuned sense of personal taste, but her ability to combine diverse fashions — from haute couture to flea market finds, street style to tribal dress — is astonishing and endlessly inventive. Her use of fashion as an artistic medium is revealed in her sophisticated handling of color, line, pattern, texture, and ornament,” said Paula Richter, Curator for Exhibitions and Research at the Peabody Essex Museum.

With a personal style the New York Times described as “controlled flamboyance,” this fashion maven, New York society figure, and co-founder of the legendary textile design company, Old World Weavers, has counted among her friends and clients the legends of international art, culture, and fashion. For decades she has traveled the world, building her business and inspiring fashion designers such as Ralph Rucci, Jason Wu and Isaac Mizrahi (slated to join Ms. Apfel in conversation at PEM -- see Exhibition Events below). All the while she has scoured souks and boutiques worldwide as a connoisseur of all things wearable and wonderful. She recently appeared at the top of Vanity Fair’s international best-dressed list and is featured in print advertising for Coach. On the street, Iris Apfel is easily recognizable for her out-sized spectacles and head-turning accessories.

Iris Apfel is part interior designer and part performance artist. She can deftly change a room by appointing a space with objects and textiles, as well as by simply appearing in an outfit with its own stylistic center of gravity. Anyone who has ever given an especially elegant drapery pull a long look when accessorizing an evening dress would find a kindred spirit in Iris Apfel.

While few are as fearless as Apfel in assembling daily attire, all can find inspiration to take risks and regard apparel and the wide world of accessories as a means of creative self-expression and a source of joy. Couture and flea market finds, haute and — not — all have their place in the imagination and closets of the divine Iris Apfel.

Elements of Style According to Iris Apfel:
1. Never take yourself or an outfit too seriously.
2. Visit the animal kingdom.
3. Consider the clergy.
4. Travel widely.
5. Go high and low.
6. Don’t fret about your age.
7. Don’t be afraid to stop traffic.

Peabody Essex Museum | Rare Bird of Fashion | Iris Apfel |


Last Week News

October 18, 2009

Warhol/Icon: The Creation of Image on View at The Byzantine & Christian Museum

Shepard Fairey Admits Using Key AP Photo for 'HOPE' Poster

Exhibition at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston to Unlock the Secrets of Tomb 10A

Exhibition Commemorates 10th Anniversary of the National Design Awards

Indianapolis Museum of Art Announced Staffers will Face Furloughs

SOFA Chicago Returns to Navy Pier's Festival Hall for Its 16th Year

Exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts Explores Concepts of "Masterpiece"

Dornier Museum Friedrichshafen Presents James Turrell's Light Installation

First Major Exhibition in Yerevan of Original Work by Artist Arshile Gorky

First Comprehensive Retrospective of Elizabeth Peyton's Oeuvre in Maastricht

Museum Celebrates 25th Anniversary with Arnaldo Roche Rabell Exhibition

LACMA Presents First Major Museum Showing of Indian Comics

MFAH Presents Most Comprehensive US Exhibition of Korean Photography

Brett Weston: Out of the Shadow at the Currier Museum of Art

Photography Installation at the Columbia Museum of Art Features Larry Clark's Gritty Images

Acquisition Enhances Gilcrease Museum's C.M. Russell Collection

Fundación Mapfre Presents Three Major Exhibitions to Mark the Start of the Season

Mirror, Mirror on the Gallery Wall: Contemporary Art Exhibition at BYU

Rare Works from the Masters Lead Christie's Fall Chinese Paintings Sale

New Berkeley Art Space Offers Eclectic Art Event on the Eve of the Day of the Dead

October 17, 2009

Museum of Fine Arts in Seville Shows Duchess of Alba's Private Art Collection

Major Retrospective of Ed Ruscha's Paintings at the Hayward Gallery

Celebrated Works by Warhol and Johns Lead Sale of Prints and Multiples

Man Who Reported Stolen Warhols Waives Insurance

Exhibition at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to Offer Rare Show of Paintings

Shepard Fairey and Steve Shames Partner to Benefit Orphans in Uganda

Erwin Wurm Turns Real Objects into Sculptures at the Lenbachhaus

Steven Charles Holds His Second Solo Exhibition at Marlborough

Kunsthaus Zürich to Show 'Van Gogh, Cézanne, Monet - The Bührle Collection'

City of Dallas to Dazzle with New Performing Arts District

The Great Inca Road, A Spectacular Photography Exhibition

Rarity and Beauty of Asian Art at Christie's London this November

Sotheby's Sales of 20th Century Italian Art and Contemporary Art Realize $32,799,234

National Gallery of Canada Pays Tribute to Kinngait Studio Artists

Internationally-Acclaimed Artist Makes U.S. Solo Debut at Peabody-Essex Museum

Museum in St.Louis Announces New Exhibition by Stephen Prina

Sotheby's Four-Day Romano Sale Achieves $15,435,780

Aboriginal Artwork for Vancouver Olympics Medals

21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, KY Voted #1 Hotel in U.S.

October 16, 2009

Leopold Museum Explores Love, Fear and Death in Edvard Munch's Work

Berlin's Neues Museum will be Inaugurated Friday by German Chancellor

Christie's to Auction Restituted Painting by Camille Pissarro in November

Frieze Art Fair: Stand Prize Winner Announced, Tate Acquires New Work

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Gives Major Gift to Smithsonian Museum

Swiss Curator Tops Art Power List, Damien Hirst Slumps

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum to Host Susan Rothenberg Exhibition

A New Wave of Vauxhall Collective Commissions are Announced

Monumental Sculptures by Red Grooms on View at Marlborough Chelsea

Donald Kaufman, K-B Toys Co-Founder, Revered Antique Toy Collector Dies

The Courtauld Opens Exhibition Exploring Post-War London Building Sites

Seattle Art Museum is the Only U.S. Venue for Michelangelo Drawings from Florence

Internationally Renowned Australian Artist Ricky Swallow Exhibits in Australia

High will Premiere New Exhibition of Digital Portraits by Photographer Robert Weingarten

Exhibition Presents Variety of Fresh Perspectives on the Irish Museum of Modern Art

SMU's Meadows School of the Arts Announces Recipients of Inaugural Meadows Prize

Young Tate Presents a Halloween Homage to Destruction at Tate Liverpool

Experts Find Rare Crusader-Era Murals in Syria

British Sculptor Involved in Tragic Accident Dies

October 15, 2009

Frieze Art Fair: Magnet for the Art World's Most Important Players Opens in London

First Major Exhibition of Works by Edward Hopper Opens at Palazzo Reale in Milan

Christie's to Unveil Major Works by Basquiat, Doig and Warhol

Leonardo Fingerprint Reveals Painting May be Worth $150 Million

Taubman Museum of Art Awarded 2009 International Architecture Award

Seattle Art Museum Exhibition Traces 50 Years of Alexander Calder's Career

Museum Honors the Life and Work of Its Co-Founder, Serge Sabarsky

London Three-Month Art Project that Put People on Plinth Ends

Tate Modern Replaces Nude Image of 10-Year-Old Brooke Shields

First Time Kunsthalle Wurth Shows All Paintings by Max Ernst in Its Collection

Beatles to Bowie: The 60s Exposed at the National Portrait Gallery

Discover a New Face of Contemporary Art Using Glass as a Medium

Historic Judaica from West Country Set to Make 60,000 Pounds at Bonhams

MCA Presents First Solo Exhibition in Australia of Danish-Icelandic Artist Olafur Eliasson

Scope Art Fair/Perpetual Art Machine's Lee Wells Joins Judging Panel

Museum Acquires Monumental Early Renaissance Horse and Man Armors

William Smith Pledges Second Major Gift to Detroit Institute of Arts

Smithsonian Plans to Open Human Evolution Hall

First Solo Exhibition in a Major European Institution for Jim Hodges

New Amon Carter Museum Galleries, Web Site Spotlight Remington and Russell

October 14, 2009

British Artist Damien Hirst Presents New Paintings at the Wallace Collection

Pompidou Celebrates Pierre Soulages, Indisputably the Greatest Living French Painter

Picasso and Degas Highlight Christie's Impressionist & Modern Art Sale

Denver Art Museum Appoints Christoph Heinrich as New Director

Museum To Present Two Bruce Nauman Installations from the Venice Biennale

Museum in Basel Shows Rauschenberg's Sculptural Oeuvre of the Late Eighties

Comprehensive Exhibition of Works by Anselm Reyle at Kunsthalle Tübingen

Helly Nahmad Gallery Opens Claude Monet Retrospective Exhibition

First Session of the Romano: A Century as Antique Dealers Sale Totals $6,941,785

Rudimentary Telescopes, Galileo Texts on View at Vatican Museums

Exhibition Featuring the Work by Artist Matthew Buckingham Opens

Metropolitan Opens American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915

Bonhams Specialsts Uncover Rare Imperial Roman Glass Vase

Oliver Beer is the Winner of this Year's New Sensations Prize

Tobias Tovera's Stunning Repertoire of Work on View in San Francisco

National Museum of Women in the Arts Launches Web 2.0 Initiative

Tel Aviv Museum of Art Opens Exhibition of Alex Kremer's Oil Paintings

'Impossible Exchange', a Project Commissioned for Frieze Projects

HKIAAF 09: Robust Sales Indicates Signs of Recovery in the Asian Art Market

Amon Carter Museum Announces New Public Programs Manager

October 13, 2009

Tate Modern Presents Tenth Commission for Turbine Hall by Miroslaw Balka

Christie's Presents Important Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Paintings

Iran Said on Monday that British Museum Broke Pledge on Artifact

Gagosian Announces Exhibition of Two Recent Sculptures by Richard Serra

Scottish National Portrait Gallery Invites Supporters to Join Its Gallery of Stars

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Abrams Publishes Altermodern by Leading Critical Theorist Nicholas Bourriaud

Sotheby's London To Offer Property From Carlton Towers

Tate Modern Opens Most Extensive John Baldessari Retrospective in the UK

Singapore Art Museum Announced Chun Kaifeng as Winner of SAE 2009 Prize

New Georg Baselitz Exhibition Deals with the Subject of Dresden and its History

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Tensta Konsthall in Sweden Shows Exhibition by Tris Vonna-Michell

Green Walls Taking Root in Green Building Design

Marc Quinn and Jake and Dinos Chapman in Conversation with Tim Marlow

Delaware Art Museum Presents Two Maxfield Parrish Exhibitions

Tacita Dean Installations Honoring Merce Cunningham on View in Montreal

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