fashion At 102, Iris Apfel was a global fashion icon. She never tried to fit in. Isabella Ross

Reflecting on the decision to accept his proposal, Apfel said: “Aww, my little pussycat… I figured he was cool and he was cuddly, and he cooked Chinese, so I couldn’t do any better. 

“The [wedding] dress was pink lace, and I’m really very practical, so I wanted a dress that I could wear after the wedding and not just put in a box. I still have the shoes. They were pale pink satin. They’re back in style. If you hang around long enough, everything comes back,” she said in her documentary, Iris.

By 1950, the couple had started their own company called Old World Weavers, which specialised in restoration furnishings. Their success continued for decades to come.

Their greatest textiles contract was with the White House, where they served nine presidents — running from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton. Over the years she earned the nickname ‘First Lady of Fabric’ and ‘Our Lady of the Cloth’. 

The couple chose to not have children, with Apfel saying to The Guardian, that she didn’t want to have kids just because that was the norm. She wanted to live life on her own terms.

“I don’t believe in a child having a nanny, so it wasn’t what we were going to do, but also having children is like protocol. You’re expected to. And I don’t like to be pigeonholed.”

By 2005, Apfel and her husband were enjoying the fruits of their labour, now over a decade into their retirement. They weren’t overtly famous, but were very well known among New York’s elite and interior-design circles. But in this same year, Apfel received a phone call from a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, where the Met Gala is held.