Edit: Iris Apfel passed away on March 1, 2024. Thank you for leaving a legacy of maximalist fabulosity.


At 102 years old, Iris Apfel has done it all. She even has not one but two Barbie dolls.

Apfel was born on August 29, 1921, and began her career as an art student and interior decorator. Apfel and her husband set up Old World Weavers, an interior decoration company, and their clientele ranged from the White House to the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. In retirement, she drew acclaim for a 2005 show at the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring her collection of costume jewelry and styled with clothes on mannequins as she would wear it.

Apfel is known for her unique sense of style, characterized by bold, bright fashion choices. A documentary about her life, Iris, was made in 2014, produced by the famed documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles. It was nominated for an Emmy award in 2017.

It was through this documentary that I first learned about her. In a world where hoarders get a bad rep thanks to the eponymous TV show while Marie Kondo and her cult followers teach us that downsizing is in and two-thirds of your closet is out, Apfel is literally a sight for sore eyes.

Three years prior, in 2011, I’d begun accumulating vintage textiles and jewelry pieces through my own foray into dance. I’ve also experimented with creating my own pieces using antique beads and pendants, taking cues from dancers such as Masha Archer, Carolena Nericcio and FatChanceBellyDance, Rachel Brice, and Mardi Love.

And so, maximalist, statement pieces that are pure antique or incorporate antique elements became part of my daily aesthetics.

In a world obsessed with garnering accolades and achievements at a young age (I’m looking at you, Forbes “30 Before 30”), Apfel is also a refreshing anomaly.

At age 90, she took on advisory and academic roles, becoming a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Austin in its Division of Textiles and Apparel. In 2016, she performed in a television commercial for the French car DS 3, and was the face of Australian brand Blue Illusion. In March 2016, Apfel announced a collaboration with technology startup WiseWear on an upcoming line of Smart Jewellery. In 2018 she published a biography with HarperCollins entitled Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon.

As a queer man, it’s hard not to fall in love with Apfel. Most of us love strong women, and Apfel is one of them.

On a more personal note, Apfel’s aesthetics, namely her penchant for statement jewelry and bold fashion choice, is my preferred aesthetics too. I find them handy to distract others from my inadequacies.

In this photo essay with Chrissy, Dollsexposed’s main character, I’m using various antique pieces, including century-old Egyptian tulle-bi-telli shawls, silver Gokhru cuffs from South Asia, vintage DeLizza & Elster (Juliana) pieces, and an amethyst brooch my parents bought me from a Smithsonian mail-order catalog some thirty-odd years ago.

Chrissy wears hand-made jewelry pieces, except for the twin spike bracelets in bronze. Chrissy’s gold heels are modified Deadpool’s heels from Hot Toys.

Jewelry, textile, & collectible list (Dollsexposed’s tribute to Iris Apfel)

Jewelry, textile, & collectible list (Dollsexposed’s tribute to Iris Apfel)
Black tulle-bi-telli Copper tulle-bi-telli Carnelian Turkoman ring Tuareg open ring Tuareg spike ring Rajasthani woven silver bracelet Kohistani gokhru cuffs Wonder Woman golden armor eagle helmet Fashion Royalty gold train case Amethyst cat ring Egyptian Revival falcon ring Dangle brooch Tuareg pyramid ring Black tulle-bi-telli Kate Spade Full Plume peacock ring Amethyst brooch Rarity wallet Burst brooch Carnelian Talhakimt pendant Rajasthani woven silver bracelet Kohistani gokhru cuffs

Black tulle-bi-telli

Also known as: assuit, assiut, or asyut
Material: cotton, silver
Origin: Assuit, Egypt
Year: 1920s
Purchased: 2017

Copper tulle-bi-telli

Also known as: assuit, assiut, or asyut
Material: cotton, silver
Origin: Assuit, Egypt
Year: 1920s
Purchased: 2014

Carnelian Turkoman ring

Origin: Turkey
Stone: cabochon
Metal: sterling silver, gold plated
Year: unknown
Acquired: 2011

Tuareg open ring

Origin: Mali, West Africa
Metal: sterling silver
Year: modern
Acquired: 2012

Tuareg spike ring

Origin: Mali, West Africa
Metal: sterling silver
Year: modern
Acquired: 2012

Rajasthani woven silver bracelet

Origin: Rajasthan, India
Metal: sterling silver
Year: vintage (unknown)
Acquired: 2012

Kohistani gokhru cuffs

Origin: Pakistan
Metal: mixed silver
Year: modern
Acquired: 2013

Wonder Woman golden armor eagle helmet

Brand: Hot Toys
Collection: Wonder Woman 1984
Material: plastic
Year: 2022
Acquired: 2022

Fashion Royalty gold train case

Brand: Fashion Royalty/Integrity Toys
Collection: Gold Snap Poppy Parker™ Dressed Doll Convention: Luxe Life
Material: vinyl, mixed metal
Year: 2018
Acquired: 2019

Amethyst cat ring

Brand: Carol Felley
Origin: USA
Metal: sterling silver, glass
Year: 1986
Acquired: 2011

Egyptian Revival falcon ring

Brand: Elizabeth Taylor x Avon
Origin: USA
Metal: alloy (gold tone), glass
Year: 1993
Acquired: 2013

Dangle brooch

Maker: DeLizza & Elster (Juliana)
Material: glass, mixed metal
Year: unknown (modern)
Acquired: 2016

Tuareg pyramid ring

Origin: Mali, West Africa
Metal: sterling silver
Year: modern
Acquired: 2012

Black tulle-bi-telli

Also known as: assuit, assiut, or asyut
Material: cotton, silver
Origin: Assuit, Egypt.
Year: 1920s
Purchased: 2018

Kate Spade Full Plume peacock ring

Brand: Kate Spade New York
Material: gold-plated metal, glass
Year: modern
Acquired: 2018

Amethyst brooch

Brand: Smithsonian institute
Material: mixed metal, glass
Year: modern
Acquired: circa 1990s

Rarity wallet

Brand: Integrity Toys
Collection: My Little Pony/Rarity
Material: plastic, paper
Year: 2016
Acquired: 2017

Burst brooch

Maker: DeLizza & Elster (Juliana)
Material: glass, mixed metal
Year: unknown (modern)
Acquired: 2016

Carnelian Talhakimt pendant

Origin: Mali, Africa
Material: carnelian stone
Year: unknown
Acquired: 2012

Rajasthani woven silver bracelet

Origin: Rajasthan, India
Metal: sterling silver
Year: vintage (unknown)
Acquired: 2012

Kohistani gokhru cuffs

Origin: Pakistan
Metal: high-grade silver
Year: modern
Acquired: 2013



Dollsexposed showcases queer erotica, kink, fetish, and activism through twelve-inch doll photography.

Their adventures in the doll world began in 2011 before establishing a home on dollsexposed.com eleven years later.

Skip to content