“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”
From “Warning,” a poem by Jenny Joseph
“If you’re trying for eccentric, you’re well on your way,” my husband says, when I tell him I may just use a parasol today, a funky electric blue umbrella I bought in China to keep the glaring sun off in the Forbidden City.
What he sees as eccentric I see as practical. The sun is out and I am walking quite a distance, but rain is forecast. I want to protect my skin, but I know a heavy rain will ruin most of my hats. So, a parasol seems the perfect solution. At the last minute, reluctantly, I stow the parasol on the off chance that the Charleston Fashion Police are patrolling.
For a minute, I forgot Iris Apfel.
I have always adored Iris Apfel, the 94-year-old style icon who dresses like nobody else. I’ve never met her, but I feel like she’s a friend.
“If you put something together and it doesn’t look so good, the fashion police are not going to come take you away,” Iris has said. “And if they do, you might have some fun in jail.”
I have had many style ideals, whether or not I actually achieved them. Hot and sexy when I was younger, professional but still sexy when I was in my 30s. Classy when I was in my 40s. And now, in retirement? I think I’m heading for eccentric. I’m transitioning from Hot Mama to Earth Mother. My shoes are flat so I can walk. My purses are small and cross-body so I can have my hands free for coffee or dogwalking. And my hats are big. Bright color makes me happy. I dress not for my husband, not for other women, but at long last, for me.
“When you don’t dress like everyone else, you don’t have to think like everyone else,” Iris says.
Iris would have worn the parasol.