Tziporah Salamon’s The Art of Dressing

Alan Rosenberg | April 5, 2017

Followers of the late Bill Cunningham’s long-running “On The Street” page in The New York Times may be familiar with Tziporah Salamon. The latter, an elegantly and eccentrically dressed 60-something New Yorker, was a favorite subject of the great photographer. Salamon’s new book is a reply to anyone who ever saw the well and exotically dressed woman in streetstyle photos or riding around Manhattan on her bicycle and wondered: “who is she and what does she do?” The Art of Dressing, published by Rizzoli, is part memoir, part fashion advice manual and part documentation, in interviews and images, of some of the best-dressed women of our time, all of them over 50. Salamon happens to teach seminars with the same title as the book, but what she “does” daily is teach by example. Every day she creates a new work of art by selecting from her extensive wardrobe of vintage, ethnic and designer clothes, accessories, shoes, jewelry, gloves and hats, especially hats.

Salamon established her own look in her 30s but it was a long road of self-discovery that led back to her roots as the daughter of a tailor and a dressmaker, both Holocaust survivors. The first part of the book tells of Salamon’s journey, a spiritual quest in the material world that took her from Brooklyn to Berkley and beyond, from fashion-obsessed teen and college years as a hippie to long periods of self-doubt and searching for a calling. Salamon finally heard the voice of the spirit and realized that her love of fine clothes and putting together the perfect outfit was a calling from her god to adorn and heal the world. The book is deeply spiritual but fun is had along the way. Visual delight jumps off every page, with Salamon’s fine writing combined with photographs by Janice Wilkins, Ike Ude and others, and with the whimsical note of delightful illustrations by Mokshini.

Salamon profiles ten other women, each of whom has endured her own quest and emerged with her own very personal style and passion. For these women way they dress is one with how they live, devoting their energies to art, social justice, child welfare and just plain old beautification — of themselves, their homes and the world. Some are devoted to one way of dressing or a personal uniform but they are all constantly evolving within the framework of their own very individual “look.” Each has her own rules of style: Amy Fine Collins only wears clothes by designers she knows personally, studies and admires; Michele Oka Doner’s natural beauty is best displayed in a minimalist frame; Terri Wong collects the Chinese robes and hats that reflect her heritage; Marjorie Stern dresses astonishingly for herself and for the people she sees (and who see her) on her daily walk to work. They are each living examples of Salamon’s credo: “wear what you love and the world will love what you wear.”

The third part of Salamon’s book is a practical how-to for those whose personal style is still in the development stage. She analogizes the visual elements of dress to those of painting: composition requires harmony, balance and proportion. The materials she uses are texture, color and pattern. Finally there must be a theme or story, always suitable to the occasion and always a delight to the mind as well as the eye. Closing with a dedication to Bill Cunningham, Tziporah Salamon reminds us that the streets of the world are the greatest art gallery. You never know when you may bump into the next Bill Cunningham, and any fashion fan knows that you want to look your best for the photographer. As Salamon writes:

No matter what, always dress as well as you can, and in a becoming and thought-out outfit. Dress well so that you can look down at your body and it will give you joy. Dress well so that you can have the confidence to take on whatever challenge life may throw you. In return you are likely to get smiles and compliments from perfect strangers, to meet people who you would not otherwise meet, perhaps even get invited to events and parties. Most importantly, you will feel good about yourself knowing that you are doing your small part in making this a more beautiful world.

The Art of Dressing: Ageless, Timeless, Original Style, published by Rizzoli New York, 2017.

Tziporah Salamon will be signing books at the Rizzoli bookstore on Wednesday 5 April, 6:00-7:00pm, 1133 Broadway at 26th Street, Manhattan. Thursday April 6 at Sarajo, 31 Howard Street, Manhattan, 6-8pm.