“what is art?” Post #6 – What You Wear

Oh, fashion. How could we do without?


Last Spring, I came across a documentary about a wonderful woman named Iris Apfel. Interior and textile designer by day and accessorizer by night, Apfel is known to have the largest couture wardrobe collection in the United States. Starting at a young age, she began collecting accessories and clothes as she traveled the globe with her husband, leading to the infamous wardrobe she has today. In 2005, an exhibition was hosted by none other than the Costume Institute at the MET(!!!), showcasing her style. She was the first non-designer individual to have a show dedicated to her clothes and accessories at the Met. This exhibition was so successful it went on a little tour, and currently, a museum in Florida is designing a building that will have a dedicated gallery of Iris’ clothes, accessories, and other collectibles representing her artistic style. At the age of 98, she continues to wear show-stopping outfits and share her hobby and love for a variety of unique fashion. 

Reflecting on Iris, one can consider how someone’s creative expression as a hobby can be culturally seen as art and was art before anyone brought attention to it. The art side of fashion is frequently seen as exclusive or elite so it is fascinating when we get to see people come into the fashion art world although they were not designers themselves. 


We constantly consume information and express our feelings through what we do and I believe in what we wear as well. It is not just the clothes or accessories we put on and how they look but it is more about how they make the person who is wearing them feel. My clothes have a wide array of styles but that is because this reflects my many different moods and creative ideas/outlets. My favorite way to style my outfit is to layer. This allows me to wear a multitude of colors, patterns, graphics, etc. which allows me to show off my personality even more than my extroverted self already does. Additionally, I have personal items in my wardrobe that have sentimental value to me and I wear them for security, strength, and confidence. 

Comparatively looking at Iris’ and me I can see why her vibrant and culturally dense wardrobe got an exhibition at the Met and mine didn’t but that doesn’t mean mine is of any less value. Although my collection is not valuable expense wise, it is representative (so far) of my identity and what I make of it. Who knows, if I live until I’m 90 maybe someone will come to take a look at all the weird goodies I have and put it on display. I imagine in the future they will have a large exhibition about 21st Century style so maybe I as well as other “ordinary” folk could be in apart of that. The possibilities are endless in what the future has in store for all of us. 


Last year, Iris released a book with the symbolic title, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon. The title represents how she has never intended to showcase her style but rather collected these treasures for herself. Considering Iris, I want people to consider how there are many different types of fashion and how all can be considered art if you look at it from the right perspective. On-campus if one were to look around they could see that everyone may look like they dress the same but if you take a deeper look no one is identically dressed alike and this revolves back to their identity. Iris showed the world what can become of wearing who you are and without realizing, we do this every day too. Art consumes our lives and we often forget that we can be the art ourselves. Fashion doesn’t have to be a restrictive category but rather something everyone embraces with displaying who they are.


And with that, I would like to close with three arguments to contemplate. 

#1 How you wear something is art. 

#2 Why you wear something is art. 

#3 What YOU wear is ART.



sophomore studying Art & Design looking to start a conversation this semester about what art is, what it may be, what it can be, etc., in hopes to expand people's knowledge on how art consumes our lives

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