Around the Style.com offices and among most fashion circles, being described as “chic” might be the ultimate compliment. But what does the term really mean these days? As part of the Met’s ongoing “Good Taste/Bad Taste: The Evolution of Contemporary Chic” discussion series, 16-year-old blogger Tavi Gevinson (pictured, left) and 90-year-old style icon Iris Apfel (pictured, right) took a stab at defining it in their own terms yesterday afternoon. The word itself was used sparsely during the hour-long conversation, which was moderated by New York writer Judith Thurman. Instead the teen wunderkind blogger and the self-described “geriatric starlet” approached the concept by offering their thoughts on personal style, fashion as performance art, and fashion’s evolving concept of beauty.
Step number one to becoming fashion’s latest pop star: “It’s important not to give a damn about what anyone else thinks,” offered Apfel. “Personal style is something you have to evolve for yourself, and trying to find out who you are is like putting yourself on a psychiatric couch.” And sometimes, as Gevinson pointed out, fashion is about creating a persona because you don’t always want to be yourself. “It’s true, good fashion is good performance art,” said Apfel. And oftentimes, those characters they assume aren’t about being aesthetically pleasing. “Sometimes, I don’t care about being attractive,” said Gevinson, referring to the Rei Kawakubo or the Alexander McQueen school of fashion, where the unconventional silhouettes aren’t often intended to make their wearers look beautiful in the standard sense of the word. To that point, Apfel disagreed: “The first object is that it’s practical. I see no sense to pay a fortune and end up looming like a freak,” she said. “Having bumps all over is not the loveliest look. I can look ugly on my own and it won’t cost me a penny.”
Both of them, with perhaps equally quirky styles of dressing, were eager to discuss alternative beauty and defining it for oneself. “I was probably the oldest living broad that was allowed to be the face of a cosmetic company [with MAC]. I think things are changing and there is an undercover revolution that will break out pretty soon,” said Apfel. “Why be stopped because of number?” At that, the audience showed its approval with a big round of applause. Although the two speakers have decades separating them, it was certainly a cry that Gevinson could understand from the opposite end of the age spectrum. At 16, she hasn’t let her young age stop her from catching the attention of some fashion’s highest powers. “Iris has been the subject of many exhibition and you are a little young for a retrospective just yet, but it appears you are certainly on your way,” said Thurman. “If you were asked to do a Costume Institute exhibit, what would it be?” Gevinson’s response: “I am a big fan of the blog Advanced Style and I would like to do something celebrating getting older—women are so upset about that these days.” For her part, Apfel was ready to sign on the dotted line. Is 90 the new 20?