Most avid cyclists would recommend donning a bright accessory or two before hitting the road, but for 66-year-old New Yorker Tziporah Salamon, a reflector strip just wasn’t going to cut it. “The thing I love about biking is that the whole city sees my outfit,” says Tziporah, who has been showcasing vivid ensembles on her Bianchi Milano bicycle since the 1980s.
“The garbage collectors honk their horns, and I even met a dear friend when I was stopped at a light and she shouted, ‘I want to be you when I grow up!’ ”
Tziporah may have always been a traffic stopper, but in more recent years she’s become something of a street-style star, too, attracting more than 25,000 followers on Instagram.
She’s modelled in a 2012 advertising campaign for Lanvin, starred in the 2014 documentary Advanced Style, and has recorded her unique approach to getting ready in a new book, The Art of Dressing: Ageless, Timeless, Original Style, in which she also interviews 10 other women over 50 whom she admires.
“Women over a certain age are often ignored by the fashion industry and when they don’t see themselves reflected in the magazines, they can think that style is frivolous, or something that they shouldn’t be interested in any more,” she says of the reason she wanted to write the book.
“We think we should only be making time for the ‘grown-up’ things in our lives: children, grandchildren, partners, career, the house. What I hope you will see from the women in this book is that, for them, great style is the least of it. They are all so much more than their style, but having a personal look is an important part of who they are, too.”
Salamon has 25,000 Instagram followers. Photo: Instagram/@tziporahsala
A teacher at styling seminars since 2000, Tziporah encourages her fashion-curious audiences to start enjoying their clothes again. Her main goal is to instruct women on how to define what is “so them” and to take the stress out of shopping.
“We begin with the fact that you must know your body,” Tziporah explains. “I’ll start the class dressed in three black outfits, to show what I’ve learnt about my own silhouette. Why do these black pants not go with this black top if they’re both black? It’s about proportion.”
In the book, Tziporah gives practical guidance on how to work out what your own signature styles should be. “Go into a store and try things on, even if you don’t buy anything,” she says. “Start from the bottom with the simple question of whether you’re more comfortable in a skirt or pants. Say it’s pants, what kind of pants: slim, cigarette, Capri, wide-leg? High-waisted or low-waisted?
Then you add a top. Every woman needs a white blouse and a black turtleneck to start her off . Once you have your version of these staples in place, you can build up your character from there.”
She wants her pupils to find their own style. Photo: Instagram/@tziporahsala
Tziporah’s own image may be a rainbow of Chinese embroideries, bold jewellery and a variety of hats, but she is quick to point out that she’s not trying to encourage everyone to dress as she does. Rather, she wants her pupils to find their own style. “I always encourage them to take it up at least one notch,” she says. “If you’re afraid of colour, mix in one new shade, then slowly build it up if you enjoy it. For some women, just adding a pair of decorative earrings is a big accessories statement. Have things that reflect your heritage. It’s great to wear designer, vintage, whatever – just make it yours.”
Tziporah’s look is influenced by many factors, honed since she returned to New York City in 1979 after trying life as a hippie and studying for a PhD in psychology in California.
New York has impacted greatly on her style. Photo: Instagram/@tziporahsala
She was born in Hadera, Israel, to a seamstress mother and a tailor father, both Jewish Hungarians who survived the concentration camps. Although her parents were not well off when they arrived in Brooklyn, Tziporah says she was always surrounded by beautiful clothes and since a young age has loved embroidery.
She had two eureka moments when it came to finding her own style: the fi rst being when a rabbi described her joyous look as “Hod” (representing splendour in the Jewish Kabbalah Tree of Life); the other when she first met late New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham in the 1980s. “Bill was posted in front of Bergdorf’s department store three times a week and I worked nearby. He would always take my picture because he loved how I dressed, and he became a dear friend. He helped me to see my worth.”
Pattern play is very much part of her wardrobe. Photo: instagram/@tziporahsala
What the other 10 women in Tziporah’s book have in common is that their style principles are also their own.
Michele Oka Doner, a 72-year-old artist, has been wearing the same column dress shape for 20 years. “She’s had it copied by a tailor in diff erent fabrics and colours,” Tziporah says. “It works because it suits her and she knows she’s always going to look elegant.”
Carmen de Lavallade, 86, a former principal dancer at the Metropolitan Opera, has a more dramatic look. “She likes to wear top-to-toe black or red,” Tziporah says, “and it gives her such a theatrical presence, which makes sense.”
But having great style is not about shopping or worrying about trends, Tziporah explains. “A lot of people, by the time they reach my age, have a wardrobe that already works – they might just need to rethink how they’re putting it all together.”
The Art of Dressing: Ageless, Timeless, Original Style by Tziporah Salamon (Rizzoli, $85) will be available from June 1.